Pastor Chuck DeVane
Special to The Sentinel-Record
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
-- Acts 20:24
Approximately seven years before his death, the Apostle Paul took stock of his life and ministry. Highlights include his conversion on the Damascus Road, three missionary journeys, two pastorates, and writings that would constitute half of the New Testament.
It was a life well lived, because it focused on the things that matter most. They are transformational truths that serve as touchstones to those whose hearts have been touched and transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul preached and practiced each one of these things, judging from his testimony in the 20th chapter of Acts.
Be a servant of God. "It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you gonna have to serve somebody," said the prophet Bob Dylan. Paul made his choice known by always "serving the Lord" (Acts 20:19). We serve God by serving others. All of the Christian life should be seen in this context. We cannot make this world a perfect place, but we can make it a better place. What matters most in this life is not who you are, but whom you serve.
Share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you truly know God by grace through "repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21), then you want others to know Him and be saved, too. Paul did this "from house to house," as we should from person to person. What matters most in this life is not how many sales you have made, or how many likes you have on social media, but how many people have you told about Jesus Christ.
Be filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul was "constrained by the Spirit" (Acts 20:22). This means controlled, led, or guided. What fills you controls you. It could be drugs or alcohol, anger or rage, greed or lust. Or, it could be "love, joy, peace ... " and other fruit from the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). What matters most in this life is not what you control, but who controls you.
Have a high view of Holy Scripture. Paul spoke of "the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27) and "the word of His grace" (Acts 20:32). Christianity is not bibliolatry; but, little or no regard for the Bible is not Christianity. The Bible leads us to Christ, and faith in Christ makes sense of the whole Bible. What matters most in this life is not how many books you have read, but how you have studies and obeyed "the good book."
Be a part of the Church. You don't die for someone unless you totally love them and want them to live on. This is the truth behind the relationship with Christ and "the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood" (Acts 20:28). Paul, too, gave his life for Christ's church, and Christ's church should consume a major part of your life, too. Jesus' church still gathers every Sunday and you should assemble with her regularly. What matters most in this life is not what company or club you belonged to, but to what church, one that honors and glorifies God.
Give yourself away. The only quotation Paul uses in this passage ascribed directly to Jesus is found near the end. "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). Though not a misquotation by any means, what Jesus actually said was, "You received without paying; give without pay" (ref. Matthew 10:8). What Christians should be constantly giving to God are our time, our talents, and our treasure. It takes all three to truly worship the Lord and spread the Gospel. What matters most in this life is not what you've accumulated, but what you've given away.
Pray always. The last thing Paul did was "he knelt down and prayed with them all" (Acts 20:36). This last act was a first priority with Paul, and all of the early Christians. So should be for us today. Prayer is constant communication with God. It can be private or participatory, mournful or joyful, penitent or opportunistic. Prayer helps us practice the things that matter most.
Our world is unraveling around us. Our country is trillions in debt. Prisons are piled to the rafters. People are shot daily in what used to be safe places. What are we going to do? Let's do the things that matter most.
Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected].