Text: Acts 20:13-38
“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.” —Acts 20:24
Last week we had to say goodbye to our 13-year old Doberman. Samson lived a relatively long life for his breed, and even though we were prepared for the loss of a family pet that our children have known their entire lives, it still wasn’t easy.
The longer we live on this earth, the more seasons of goodbyes we will experience—it’s an unavoidable part of the journey. Some goodbyes might be temporary, others permanent. Whether it’s moving to another town, graduating and heading off to college, a job change, a church or ministry transition, a deployment for a military or missional assignment, or the grief of laying a dear loved one to rest, goodbyes are rarely easy.
Winnie The Pooh seems to be quite the optimist when he says:
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
In Acts 20, we find Paul saying goodbye to his friends and church leaders in Ephesus. Compelled by the Spirit, he was on his way to Jerusalem not knowing what would happen to him when he got there. Yet he was certain it would involve prison and hardships. He was also convinced that this would be the last time his friends would ever see him, making this farewell even more sentimental. But this didn’t deter him from following the Lord’s lead. His “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.” (Acts 20:24 NIV)
Though Paul’s noble goal in life was to spread the gospel as far and wide as the Lord commissioned him, getting on that boat and waving goodbye must’ve been painful. He did it because, in the words of Charles Spurgeon, he preached a gospel worth dying for, but not before warning them to be on guard for “savage wolves” and false prophets. He charged them to remain brave in their journey and faithful to the Lord.
Paul’s key to being able to move forward in such a hard transition and emotional moment is found in verse 32: “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace.”
This is our comfort in any season of farewell. It may not make the moment easier, but it does sanctify the moment. Entrusting our loved ones and the circumstances to God in the goodbye times is a way of bringing Jesus and his sustaining grace into the very center of our lives. This is the faith demonstration of trusting God as the Keeper and Guardian over everything, especially in those times of separation.
The next time you are faced with a difficult farewell, think about how Paul entrusted this deeply emotional moment to God’s safekeeping, and the grace that flows from that place of surrender.
Heavenly Father, it is often hard to say goodbye. Transitions are not easy. Separation and loss are painful. But you are a loving Father who can be trusted in seasons of farewell. Help me to lean into your grace in those difficult seasons—trusting you as the Keeper of this life and entrusting to you every circumstance and every dear loved one. You are faithful. Help me to be faithful when it is time to say goodbye. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Questions for Reflection and/or Family Discussion:
- What has been one of your most difficult “goodbye” seasons?
- If you knew that this would be your last day with your loved ones, what would you want to say to them?
- How does Paul’s life and mission challenge you?
- What does it mean to commit someone else to God?
- Is the gospel you live and proclaim worth dying for? How does that directly affect the way you live?
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