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(Part 19)


June 7, 2011
Today’s reading: Acts 20:17-27

Paul was the servant leader par excellence. We have much to learn from him, as he spoke to the presbyters of the church at Ephesus in his farewell address at Miletus (Acts 20:17).

First, he was a zealous evangelizer. By the witness of his life and words, he brought many people “to repentance before God and to faith in our Lord Jesus.” (Acts 20:21). For us in CFC-FFL, we do person-to-person evangelization, and bring people to our Christian Life Seminar (CLS), where they are brought to repentance and faith. Leaders not only lead others, but are right there at the forefront of evangelization, proclaiming the good news of salvation in Jesus. We are not arm-chair generals, but we plunge into the battle with our soldiers.

Second, Paul “did not shrink from proclaiming to (them) the entire plan of God.” (Acts 20:27). Those of us who are top leaders in the community need to educate and form our people, especially other leaders and most especially seniors (elders), according to the whole plan of God. This includes, nay, necessitates, the hard teachings, such as:

  • the lessons of Lamentations
  • the lessons of Job, especially on redemptive suffering
  • the call to give our all for the cause of Christ
  • the true meaning of servant leadership.

Third, Paul “did not at all shrink from telling (them) what was for (their) benefit” (Acts 20:20a). At times we are reluctant to speak a hard word to our leaders, for fear of hurting them or turning them away. This is a great disservice, for we then keep them from fully maturing in Christ. What is for the benefit of leaders? It is to know the meaning of God’s call to servanthood, especially the very challenging aspects. Consider the following:

  • If we are to be disciples, then we are to deny ourselves and carry our cross.
  • If we are to take territory from the enemy, we are to be formed as warriors, mindful of the suffering and pain that spiritual warfare brings.
  • While encouragement is important, fraternal correction is a must.
  • While care and concern are a staple of community life, so is tough love.
  • While there will be many blessings as we serve the Lord, there will be trials and oppression and persecution as well.

Fourth, servant leaders are to be obedient to the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies us and sends us out on mission. We are not to choose what we prefer to do. We are not to eschew the hard assignments. We are not to be so overly careful (we do need to be prudent) that we are no longer willing to take risks. Paul’s posture was this: “compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem. What will happen to me there I do not know” (Acts 20:22-23a). We are to tread even into the unknown, into uncharted territories, fully trusting in God and His provision.

Fifth, servant leaders must be willing, nay, even eager, to embrace the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the way of discipleship. This is the way of our Master and Lord. The cross is where the path of holiness leads to. The Holy Spirit continually warned Paul that imprisonment and hardships awaited him (Acts 20:23), but he plodded on. In fact, are we not to rejoice when our Lord Jesus gives us the privilege to suffer for him as we pursue his mission?

Sixth, we must be persevering, dogged, zealous, single-minded, persistent, in the pursuit of our mission. Even to the point of giving our very lives. “Yet I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the gospel of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24). Our mission should consume us. We have been given a responsibility, and woe to us if we do not proclaim the gospel. We have been given a great privilege, and we simply rejoice in that. We hold nothing back, we give our all, we endure through the challenges. We want to be found to be good and faithful servants, whom our Master will welcome into his joy.

Finally, in the face of God showing His glory through us as we serve Him (Is 49:3), we are to remain humble. We are mere instruments. The glory belongs only to God. In fact, the sufferings in mission are designed to keep us down-to-earth, to realize that apart from God we can do nothing, to know that we in fact are the obstacles to God’s work, but to be thankful that God still works in spite of us. Like Paul, we must be able to say, “I served the Lord with all humility and with the tears and trials that came to me” (Acts 20:19a).

God formed us as a servant from the womb, tasked to bring back and gather to Him His people (Is 49:5a). Let us apply ourselves to this task, proclaiming the full gospel to the world, including our brethren who are already with us and the leaders who are already serving. And let us look to Paul, who moved in the very strength of God.

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