Acts 20:17, 20, 27, 31, 33-35
And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.
It has been truly said that our whole life is divisible into the past and the future. The present is a mere point which separates the two. And there is a certain time which must come, if it have not already arrived, when, instead of finding our satisfaction in looking forward to the earthly good which we are to partake of, we shall seek our comfort and our joy in looking back on the path we have trodden and the results we have achieved. Ill indeed will it be for those who will then have no future for which to hope, and no past which they can survey with grateful pleasure. It was well with Paul, for when he had to turn his eye backward on a ministry which had been fulfilled, he could regard it with pure and devout gratification. That we may stand in that enviable position in which he now stood, we must be able to remember -
I. LOWLY-MENDED CONSECRATION TO THE SERVICE OF GOD. "From the first day that I came in into Asia... I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind" (vers. 18, 19). The man who spends his days in spiritual pride, or godless unconcern, or arrogant infidelity, will, if not in the later years of this life, from the other side of the grave, look back on his earthly course with bitterest shame, with fearful pangs of remorse. He who in old age can survey an entire life yielded, with a deep sense of dependence and obligation, to the living God and the loving Savior will have a cheering ray to light up his shaded path. Well may youthful lips take up the strain-
"'Twill please us to look back to see
That our whole lives were thine."
II. FIDELITY IN OUR SPECIAL SPHERE. Paul could feel that, as a minister of Jesus Christ, he had done his work thoroughly, conscientiously, faithfully, as in the eye of Christ himself. "I kept back nothing,... I have taught you publicly, and from house to house" (ver. 20); "I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God" (ver. 27); "I ceased not to warn every one... with tears" (ver. 31). He had thrown the utmost energy of his soul into his work; he had wrought good "with both hands earnestly." Whatever our vocation may be, it will be a sorry thing to have to recall to our memory duties hardly and punctiliously discharged, just gone through decently and creditably; still worse to have to remember duty left undone or miserably mismanaged. Pleasant and gratifying, on the other hand, to feel that we went to our work with agile step and eager spirit, went through it with conscientious care, and threw into it our utmost strength. Heartiness and zest today mean a harvest of refreshing memories for to-morrow.
III. ENDURANCE OF TRIAL. Paul reflected that he had served the Lord "with many tears and temptations [trials]" (ver. 19). These trials unto tears were hard to bear patiently at the hour of endurance, but it was a comfort and satisfaction to his spirit afterwards to think that they had never withdrawn him from his confidence in Christ or from his post of active service. The secure and strong position of manhood is all the more satisfactory for the yoke that was borne in youth; the quietude of age is the more acceptable and enjoyable for the struggle or burden of middle life; the rest and rejoicing of the future will be the sweeter and the keener for the toils and. the troubles of this present time. The evils that have been left behind, when taken meekly and acquiesced in nobly, materially enhance the blessedness of the hour of freedom and felicity.
IV. THE DILIGENCE THAT MEANS HONESTY AND THAT INCLUDES BENEFICENCE. (Vers. 33-35.) It is not only that
(1) we should pay the debts which we have formally and deliberately incurred; but that
(2) in a world where we are daily receiving the benefit of the toils and sufferings of past ages and of our contemporaries, we are bound, in all honesty, to do something in return - something by which our fellows and, if possible, the future shall be enriched;
(3) where self-support is not positively demanded, it may be wisely rendered, in order (as with Paul) that there may be no reason for injurious suspicion; and
(4) we should strive to gain enough that we may spare something for the strengthless and dependent - so laboring that we "may support the weak," and know the greater blessedness of giving, according to the Word of our Lord (ver. 35; see Ephesians 4:28; Hebrews 13:16). - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.