When Our Time Comes
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In the book, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Cassius Weathersby III wrote a touching story about a friend.
Cassius had a medical condition called rare anemia. Every four weeks he had to go to the hospital for treatment of his condition. While there, he met another young man, Greg. Immediately the two teenagers hit it off.
Cassius learned that Greg spent much of his time in the hospital, battling leukemia. His room was filled with silver balloons and sports drinks. Greg, like most teens enjoyed video games. He had his system set up in his hospital room. The two boys hit it off, spending their days together. Before long, the two became inseparable, the best of friends.
Every time Cassius came for his treatments, he would ask if Greg was there. Greg’s foster mom eventually suggested that the two extend their friendship beyond the hospital walls, so Greg started coming to Cassius’ house and the friendship the two young men shared grew even stronger.
Cassius recalls how, as Greg’s illness progressed, his appearance began to change. First, his hair began to fall out when he began chemotherapy. He also began to lose weight. But, in spite of all Greg had to endure, Cassius was always amazed how it never affected his character. He always had an upbeat character and never showed any signs of fear or sadness.
Greg continued to lose weight until finally his frail body was under one hundred pounds. But, after some strong antibiotics and other medications his condition began to improve. He was able to go to the movies again. Then, just as things seemed to be at their best, Greg suddenly came down with a severe infection due to his weakened immune system. He was eventually hospitalized and became bedridden.
Cassius wrote about the last time he saw his friend. He was lying in a small bed, covered in pink blankets with machines all around him. He took his friend’s hand and prayed for divine intervention. He said his goodbyes and headed home. The next morning, he received a call. Greg had passed just shortly after Cassius left.
Cassius wrote how knowing and losing Greg taught him many things. His life would never be the same.
How often have you thought about what it will be like when your time comes? (Title Slide)
The setting of Acts 20 occurs during Paul’s third missionary journey. On that journey, Paul spends time with the Ephesian church. They knew Paul. They knew him well. Paul had not only taught the Ephesians, but they witnessed, first-hand, that he lived by the ideals he taught. By this point in his life, Paul has gone through a lot. His conversion to Christianity would change his life forever. He has been beaten, imprisoned, stoned, robbed, maligned, he has had to suffer homelessness, hunger, thirst and lacked adequate clothing in freezing temperatures among other things. But none of those things ever caused him to waiver. His love for Christ and the message of the gospel were so important to important to him he refused to stop spreading the good news to anyone and everyone in the hopes that some might listen.
Because of his position and the message he carried, his life was constantly in danger. The threat against Christianity was on the rise. People were frequently killed for their faith and, as a leader of this new movement, Paul knew that eventually his time would come. So, as Paul spoke to the Ephesians, he looked back on His life and their time together and he makes several statements about his conduct while he labored among them – words that should make every one of us reflect on our own lives and think about how we (and others) will look back on the lives we’ve lived and consider whether or not we’ve tried to live lives worthy of the honor of calling ourselves disciples of Jesus.
The first question Paul wants us to think about is…
When your time comes…what example will you have set for others?
"18 And when they had come to him, he said to them: “You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you,"
- Acts 20:18 (NKJV)
When you leave this earth, what example will you have set? When members of the church look back on how you lived, will they look at your example and say to themselves, “Now, that’s how a Christian should live their life”?
Paul was able to look back on the life he lived…the decisions he made…the examples he set and he was not ashamed. In fact, he lived in a way where he could look back with confidence and he almost challenges anyone who could be truthfully and claim he lived anything less than an exemplary life.
When your time to leave this earth, will you be able to say that you lived your life like that?
When your time comes…will you have served the Lord, in spite of the cost?
"19 serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews;"
- Acts 20:19 (NKJV)
"22 And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, "23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. "24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."
- Acts 20:22–24 (NKJV)
What cost are you willing to pay to see that the message of the gospel is spread? In Acts 20 we see Paul preaching all night while people listened. We know they were tired because a man named Eutychus was so tired he fell asleep and fell out of the window he had been sitting in. Are you willing to give the extra push to work for the Lord, even when you are tired?
Paul complained about his thorn in the flesh. Paul appears to have worked, even though physical challenges. Will you work for the Lord, even if it means having to work through pain and discomfort?
Early Christians sold lands and houses to finance the spreading of the gospel. Are you willing to sacrifice your possessions or finances in order to help accomplish the Lord’s work?
Jesus warned that being a disciple might sometimes mean that members of our own families might become our enemies and even warned that we would be hated by everyone for His sake. Are you willing to take a stand for and do things that will make you unpopular?
Because Paul did so:
"25 “And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. "26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. "27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God."
- Acts 20:25–27 (NKJV)
Paul indicated that imprisonment was in his future (which turned out to be true). Would you even give up your freedom or your life for the Lord?
Will you look back on your life, knowing in your heart that you served the Lord, regardless of the cost?
Which leads me to my next point…
When your time comes…will you be able to say you’ve shared your faith with others?
"20 how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, "21 testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."
- Acts 20:20–21 (NKJV)
There are a few things I want to point out here…
First, Paul kept back nothing that was helpful. These verses say that he “proclaimed” it to them. The word “proclaimed” in the Greek comes from a word that means to announce; to teach; to announce or declare or report something. It means to give evidence; to provide an explanation; to be informed about something. Paul wasn’t there to offer his opinion, he was there to deliver facts.
What Paul didn’t say is that he refrained from stepping on some toes. He didn’t try to be politically correct. He didn’t bow to the masses and do what the majority of society wanted him to say and teach. He didn’t avoid subjects that called sin, sin. In other words, if it was what people needed to hear, Paul told them. He certainly told them out of a position of love and concern, but he told them nonetheless.
There are far too many Christians who want to avoid uncomfortable or unpopular subjects today and a generation of Christians are weaker as a result.
Secondly, Paul took every opportunity he could to tell people about these things. He taught them publically (openly, in the marketplaces and in crowds) but he also conducted what we might call in-home Bible studies. He spoke to people whenever and wherever he could. He didn’t let an opportunity to slip by.
Thirdly, he also taught repentance toward God. Now, if you’re going to tell someone to repent, you are pointing out sin in their lives. Of course, again, from a position of love and concern. This is something some of us need to be reminded of in an age when a lot of Christians think that it’s our goal to be careful never to say anything people might disagree with or be offended by.
"29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. "30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. "31 Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears."
- Acts 20:29–31 (NKJV)
How important is the doctrine taught here important to you? More and more I hear Christians rejecting the notion that it matters which group a person worships with or what they teach or practice. If that were true, the Bible wouldn’t warn us about false teachers who, as some versions put it, to attack or destroy the flock. Notice that these men aren’t trying to scatter the church…to get its members to stop meeting. They are trying to create their own version of the church…to draw away the disciples after themselves. Who we follow and what they teach and practice matters. It mattered so much so, that Paul says that he stayed there for three years to warn people. (This is the longest recorded time we have about Paul staying to preach in any one place, so it must have been very important to him. So much so that he warned them “with tears”.
When your time comes…will you be able to say with confidence that you have ministered to others who were in need?
"35 I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”"
- Acts 20:35 (NKJV)
The Lexham English Bible (LEB) translates it this way:
“I have shown you with respect to all things that by working hard in this way it is necessary to help those who are in need, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus that he himself said, “’It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Paul lived his life as an example that others could look to as someone who was willing to help others who were “weak” or who were “in need”. The word “need” here is translated from a Greek word that means “low; to be tired; to fall sick or be ill; to feel pain”. Paul uses the word abstractly. In other words, these are people who are spiritually weak. Spiritually weak people have symptoms. The most common is lack of participation in spiritual things. They tend to choose other ways to spend their time over spiritual opportunities. Some compromise in areas of their lives. They tend to think more about themselves and be less concerned about the welfare of other people. Some give in to temptation to sin.
I want you to think about your response to the weak. If someone is not regularly involved in spiritual opportunities, do you show your concern? If they demonstrate their willingness to compromise or take a strong stand for things do you encourage them to reconsider? Do you show, by your example, that you are just as concerned about others (if not more so) than you are about yourself? Do you abstain from sin?
It might be natural for us to jump to strong reactions toward the weak…to become critical or look down upon them but Paul encourages us to “support” them and “help” them. Jesus, the most giving individual of all said Himself, that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
I hope our look at the twentieth chapter of Acts and Paul’s statement to the Ephesians will cause us to pause for a moment and look forward into the future. When your time comes for you to leave this world, how will your life and the examples you set be remembered, when your time comes?