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ACTS: Finishing the Race?

Recorded on November 17th, 2019

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Paul once said that even though there is hardship in front of you, you must finish the race. This is the race we’ve been called to.

Transcript of Sermon:

[Music] today’s scripture is taken from acts 20 22 through 38 and now compelled by the spirit I’m going to Jerusalem not knowing what will happen to me there I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me however I consider my life worth nothing to me my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again therefore I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you for I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers these shepherds of the Church of God which he bought with his own blood I know that after I leave savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them so be on your guard remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears now commit you to God into the word of His grace which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing you yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions and everything I did I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said it is more blessed to give than to receive when Paul had finished speaking he knelt down with all of them and prayed they all wept as they embraced him and kissed him what grew the most was his statement that they will never see his face again then they accompanied him to the ship the word of God for the people of God I don’t know if any of you have had the opportunity is my my condo there with you to be give a farewell address to an experience of farewell from somebody that you loved dearly there have been a few moments in my life where this has occurred and they’re usually moments that are filled with a lot of feelings whether it’s deep love or deep sadness they usually feel like precipice moments in your life where something is never ever going to be the same again because of what is happening right at that moment where you know that after this happens a lot of things in your life are going to change because this person is going away or because you are going away I’ve had the opportunity because of ministry to say farewell one time well actually a few times but one time really that was filled with all of the feelings that I think I’ve ever felt in my life when we left the Orchard Church I think I was filled to the brim with every feeling a human being can feel it was the church that raised Joe and I I mean really raised us when Joe and I went to the church we met with the pastor before we went to the church because they were just meeting in a High School Auditorium so we didn’t even really know if they were an actual church and the way that we started going to this church is that Joe met a guy at a fish meeting I’m not talking like fish Christian fish I’m talking about fish in a fish tank dorky meeting so I mean it was really skeptical why we were at this church yet the people there were really nice and they seemed like really honest and humble people the pastor had been really neat his sermons were good and so Joe and I met with him because we had decided don’t laugh at me but you’re going to see you can but we had decided that we could not go to a church where Harry Potter was the villain and awful and horrible so we met with the pastor and said what are your feelings about Harry Potter I’m not kidding you this is what we did this is how we interviewed churches and he just kind of smiled at us and I’m sure in his head because we were all so new to the South at the time remember we were Californians and I’m sure in his head he said what bless their hearts right I’m sure that’s what he was thinking when he first met us bless their stinking hearts but he put up with us he not only put up with us but he grew us he and the people of that church every single one of them grew us we were baptized there I was this pregnant when I was baptized with Brennan the tallest one that took your money today he was like not existent but in my belly and I was baptized in a baby pool full of the coldest water you’ve ever experienced in your life because they filled it with the hose right straight from the wall hose freezing cold water both of us baptized there we gave for the first time there we had arguments about giving for the first time we tied we argued about giving $20 to the church and now it’s just a thing we do happily gleefully giving to the church these people grew us I accepted my call to ministry in this church I led my first small group in this church I preached my first sermon at this this church raised us and so when we were called to leave this church to go to another church it was the hardest yes we ever ever had to do and in my last sermon that I gave to the people at the orchard I still remember it I could probably give that whole sermon to you all right now I remember each point clearly as if it was yesterday because it was a farewell moment it was a farewell moment much like you see Paul experiencing here with the people at Ephesus because those moments are a moment in time where you want to make sure that you express everything that you can all of the love all of the gratitude that you have for those people but then you also want to make sure to leave them with your final words like you know this is the last time I have to tell them the things that God has given me to give to them and I got to get it all out now and so that’s what I did I thanked them I cried yeah I cried you know I’m a crier but I cried they cried and then I shared with them the things that I thought most important that God had given me while I was at the orchard and that I thought they had to carry on because they’re the ones that raised me they’re the ones that created this human being I didn’t know this person right here that standing in front of you existed I didn’t know that she listed and she exists because of them and Paul exists because of every community that he did ministry with and because of the work that he said yes to that God called him to and every time he left one community and went to another God grew him again and again and so what we see here in chapter 20 as we near the end of our journey in Acts we have been in acts my friends forever but it has been a beautiful journey and we have learned so much together last week next week is our last week in the book of Acts can’t believe that so what you see happening here with Paul is that he knows that everything is about to change he knows that this is the last time he’s actually going to be doing ministry the way that he’s done it before what we’ve been seeing is him going from church to church as the Spirit wills preaching the Word of God we’ve learned about his preachings in previous weeks we’ve learned what we can learn from him they learn from him but he senses that the Spirit is calling him to a new thing to a new work and he says here that he’s compelled by the Spirit to go even knowing that what’s going to happen to him in every sphere in every city that he’s going to hit in this next part of his journey is hardship and imprisonment so he knows without question that he’s leaving ministry that granted wasn’t perfect anyway right he was alright he’s already been in prison he’s already been facing hardships but he knows that it’s going to be harder than what was but when we see him right now he’s been in Ephesus basically for a few years and he left it for just a little while and he’s come back he’s basically on a boat he couldn’t step off the boat well he couldn’t really go into Ephesus and say goodbye because he knew if he did he’d never leave again so he asked the leaders to come to him so he can give them this farewell address to leave them with his last nugget of wisdom he’s giving him than his last nuggets of wisdom and as it gives it to them he’s also giving it to us and with these last nuggets of wisdom you and I need to pay attention because he’s speaking to you as clearly as he’s speaking to the leaders in Ephesus and what he says is that even though he knows that hardship is in front of him he considers his life worth nothing but his only aim is to finish the race and complete the task that Lord Jesus has given to him the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace Paul has been on a journey from the very beginning when we first met him he was standing watching Stephen gets stoned and happy that a Christian man was being stoned to death because he didn’t believe in Christianity and he didn’t believe in Jesus and now in this moment he is completely transformed he’s the one putting himself on trial time and time again because he believes so much in what the power of Jesus can do in the life of a believer and he says to the people of Ephesus we must continue on I’ve taught you all I can teach you I am never going to see you again so you must remember the things that I’ve taught you in this time that we’ve been together because there are people who are going to come and try and steal that teaching from you here’s where we get in trouble you and I we like to think that Paul and Peter the disciples and all of the Apostles are different than us that they’re more holy than we were are that they’re better people than us and that they have a different calling on their lives than you and I do but it’s not true it’s not true the race that Peter is called – the race that Paul is called – is the same race that you and I should be on Jesus very clearly told every believer as he was walking on earth and he left us as he left this earth with the same directive he left us saying to love God and to love our neighbor and to go and make disciples on this earth not just to the disciples not just to the apostles but to every single one of us and that’s what Paul has been doing but you and I unfortunately the race that we run is one that is filled with all of the things in our world the one that is focused on the walls that surround our families I find myself often getting caught up with the four walls of my house and the people under the roof in my house my kids my husband our retirement College for our kids the right classes for my kids the right sports for my kids am I getting my kids involved enough do we are we saving an are we reducing our debt enough are we doing this this this this enough and that’s the race the how it’s almost like I have blinders on like a racehorse and all I see is the things that have to be done of this world right now and I’m running that race and I’m running that race like a racehorse but that’s not the race that we have been called to and when we run this race we fail it’s not that it’s bad to care about retirement it’s not that it’s bad to care about your grandchildren and what’s happening in their lives it’s not that it’s bad to care about your children’s education it’s like last week when we talked about our idols and how we make an idol of things in this world to fill that hunger in our hearts but the only thing that can fill that hunger is following after God those things that we use to fill that aren’t necessarily bad cakes not necessarily bad it’s pretty good actually but you know it’s not going to fill that desire in your heart only God can but when we make this race this worldly race of ours the priority in our life we will fail we will suffer in a way that we were not meant to suffer in this world Paul suffers and Jesus is with him Paul struggles is it and is imprisoned and Jesus is with him and he is blessed because Paul is running the race that he is called to and the race that we are called to is to love God and to love our neighbor and to make those our priority and to trust that God will work everything else out when we put God and neighbor first we trust that God works everything else out and he does Joe and I have learned oh so the hard way and trust me we’re not perfect because we have to remind ourselves to relearn this about every other day sometimes five date times a day if it’s a really bad day but we have to remind ourselves that our number-one priority is God’s position in our life and when we’re trying to figure out how to help our kids make wise decisions the question isn’t what would make him the most money when he gets older or well if we sign them up for thirteen different coaching things in this different sport then he’s going to be the best in that sport and then we can prove to ourselves that were really good parents because we sacrificed and helped him with that because that really stresses me out sometimes especially than when they get into a sport and then all the other parents are into the sport and if you’re the only parent not paying for the extra training in that sport you can be seen as a really bad parent and it gets really stressful but if you remember to put God first and then your neighbor because if I put God first and I tithe and then still have money left over to pay for that training but I have to forgive my neighbor in order to pay for that training this is just my example I’m not judging your life okay I’m judging my life not your life my life don’t misunderstand me because we’re really good at loving God as Christians we forget about loving our neighbor God didn’t call us to be the best God lovers in the universe he called us to love God and to love our neighbor and they go together they are not separated they go together and that’s why our world is so messed up it’s because we love one and not the other we love one and we never show our neighbor that we care we’re not out there in this world doing good works we’re not out there in this world showing people that we care about them but God chose us to be the instrument of his love so if we’re not out there showing God showing people God’s love how in the world are they gonna know that they’re loved how in the world are they going to know that God cares about them how is that school shooter gonna understand that there is a being out there that cares about them that created them that wants a relationship with them if you and I are not doing the small work of loving our neighbor and the only way we love our neighbor is by putting it right after loving God and when we do those two things first all the rest of it comes into place I promise you it seems scary it seems against everything the world tells you to do every commercial is about retirement every commercial is about saving for college every commercial is about all the things that the ways that you can be responsible in this world there aren’t any commercials about loving God and loving your neighbor first but my experience this tells you that if we love God and if we love our neighbor everything else work out and what Paul is telling the people of Ephesus is that you have to remember that because I can’t come back I’m leaving and when he leaves them he goes to Jerusalem and all of the Jews in Jerusalem are so angry with him because he’s been sharing the world with Gentiles and he gets put in jail and he’s in jail for two years and then he gets sent to Rome where he’s in jail again for two years and his ministry as he knew it was over forever and so what he tells us you and me is that if we want a life that is blessed and that matters is that we have to learn it’s really a learning to love God first and with that love our neighbor and then out of that everything else in your life will fall in line if you simply trust God as we left the orchard I was devastated and it was hard and we went through some stuff that I hated and we were lonely and we didn’t have friends for a long time because we left all of our friends but if we had never left the orchard we wouldn’t be here and I love here let’s pray God you are our Father I pray Lord that we can be bold like Paul and that we can start a race run a race let alone finish a race that is focused solely on loving you and loving our neighbor so that they know that Jesus Christ is Lord and that you are loved and it’s in the name of Jesus Christ that we pray, Amen