- Sermon Notes
Living on Purpose
As we continue our study through the book of Acts, Paul is now on his third missionary journey. Here in these verses he gives a final message to the elders of the church in Ephesus. Paul is intending to go to Jerusalem and afterwards he hopes to go to Rome. But in this farewell message to these leaders, we get an insight into his heart; the motive for all that he does.
Paul’s life becomes an example for us of living life with meaning and purpose. To summarize it all he quotes from the Lord Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
But he’s talking about his life. In other words, Paul was generous with how he spent his life. At one point he wrote, “I am being poured out as a drink offering.”
Have you ever met a cheapskate? There are different types of cheapskates, of course. There is the frugal person who is simply trying to be cautious and not wasteful. I would like to think I’m in that category. I’m not being cheap, I’m trying to be a good steward of God’s resources.
But then there is the cheapskate, the miser, they are cheap because they don’t want any of their money to go to anyone else, everything they have is for themselves. They don’t leave tips when they eat out, they take re-gifting to an art form, they are an Ebenezer Scrooge if there ever was one. A tightwad.
Here’s my point, some people are cheapskates when it comes to their lives; their number one priority is themselves. The idea of blessing others around them would never occur to them. But Paul is pouring out his life as a drink offering. He is generous with his life. “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” he said. God gave you a life so that you would spend it for His glory. It’s about living on purpose; God’s purpose.
That’s what this message from Paul is about. He wants them to be careful how they spend their lives telling them that there is a great inheritance in God. In other words, it’s just like the words of Jesus, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.”
There’s a blessing that comes from spending your life well, pouring out your life as a drink offering to the Lord, blessing those that are around you.
Someone said, “The quantity of your life is up to God, but the quality of your life is yours to choose.” Corrie Ten Boom once said, “The measure of a life is not the duration, but the donation.” In other words, choose to live a life that matters.
Wise is the person who knows this while they are young. Some young people say, “I’ll think about these things when I’m really old – like when I’m 40.” But these are also truths that will save you much heartache later if you take hold of these things when you are young.
Earlier in this journey Paul spent two years at Ephesus and a great lesson unfolded while he was there. Paul found some disciples, but they had never heard about the Holy Spirit, so Paul prayed for them, they receive the Holy Spirit and a revival began to break out. To the point that many who practiced magic brought their books of incantations and magic charms and began burning them in the sight of all, 50,000 pieces of silver in value.
They were choosing to follow the way of God and got rid of those things that would make the soul sick. C.S. Spurgeon, said, “Is there a habit, a practice that is in your life that defiles the soul? If Christ loves you, and you trust Him, you will make short work of it. Have done with it, and done with it forever.” Choose to live a life that matters. The quantity of your life is up to God, but the quality of your life is yours to choose.
I. Finish the Race Set before You
- They understood the analogy of running a race. They didn’t have the NFL or the NBA, they had the games so they understood the analogy.
- Paul wanted to finish the course set before him, to run with endurance, to finish strong. It’s a great analogy for living your life.
- But it’s about how you live, how you run that matters. That’s what Paul wanted to show them.
- This is how Paul runs. This is how we should run. Humility is not thinking less of ourselves, it’s thinking of ourselves less.
- Selfish self-centeredness leaves a person empty; it lacks significance of meaning and has no lasting value. Humility is considering those around you is more important than yourself.
Illus - If you’ve ever met a spoiled, self-centered child, you know that it’s impossible for them to be happy.
- Humility is one of the greatest strengths of character because it allows you to receive wisdom, seek God’s face and be blessed.
2 Chronicles 7:14, “and if My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
- This is such an important quality that you can be sure that God knows how to keep us humble.
- There was hardly a time when Paul did not have troubles. In addition, Paul had a “thorn in the flesh.”
2 Corinthians 12:7-9, To keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me – to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might lead me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
- Fortunately, there are times when God allows us to be humbled and we can laugh about it later.
Illus - Like the pastor who conducted a funeral and was leading the procession to the graveside. However, he became lost in thought and drove around town with 50 cars desperately trying to keep up with him.
B. Don’t let anything cut in on you
- (Verse 22) Paul said, “I am bound in spirit, on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there…”
- What a great example. There is no on again – off again – on again – with Paul!!
James 1:6-8, But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double minded man, unstable in all his ways.
- The picture is of a runner who is running well, but then someone cuts in on him.
Galatians 5:7, You are running well; who cut in on you? Who hindered you from obeying the truth?
- Life is filled with troubles and someone may cut in on you and you may even fall, but the question is what will you do next? You get up and keep running.
Proverbs 24:16, For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, but the wicked stumble in time of calamity.
Illus - One of the most inspiring stories of racing is the 1924 Olympics where Eric Liddell refused to race on Sunday. So instead of running the 100m, he ran the 400m, which he won. But perhaps his greatest race was a quarter-mile sprint in which he tripped over the legs of another runner, falling off the track. But he got up and overtook them all. This was the famous scene of Chariots of Fire.
Hebrews 12:1-2, …let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…
Illus - Laying aside every encumbrance and the sin which entangles is like trying to run with scuba gear on or running through a field of blackberry vines.
C. Don’t look back
- Paul is looking forward. “I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there,” Paul said. From there he intends to go to Rome. Always pressing forward, never looking back.
Philippians 3:13-14, One thing I do; forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
- Some people look back to the world with a longing for the ‘good old days.’ The problem is that when people look back, they often use rose-colored glasses.
- This is what happened to Israel those 40 years in the desert. How many times did they look back to when they were slaves in Egypt and somehow made it look like those were the ‘good old days.’
Illus – When Eric Liddell ran the 400 m race he drew the outside lane which meant he couldn’t see the runners behind him. He ran flat out and set a world record.
II. Finish Strong
- Paul tells them that they will never see his face again and they began to weep aloud embracing and kissing Paul because of those words.
- That’s why these words have such urgency, such importance. He gives an insight in finishing strong and then tells them to be on the alert. Many difficulties are before them and they need to finish strong as well.
A. Hold nothing dear, but God alone
- In order to finish strong, Paul is going to lay it all down. He doesn’t even consider his life as dear to himself. (Verse 24)
Illus - Our oldest son was going through Special Forces training and at one point had to swim an unheard-of distance underwater. Many panicked; he passed. Afterwards he told me the key… I was willing to die.
Matthew 16:24-26, Then Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”
- Twice in these verses Paul said that he did not shrink back, he did not hold back from what God told him to do. He is laying it all down.
- Paul uses the illustration of a runner who lets up, starts coasting, he’s no longer running to win.
2 Timothy 4:6-7, I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course; I have kept the faith;
- Paul did not hold back from declaring the whole counsel of God. He cared about them. He cared about their faith. He wanted them to be victorious and to finish strong and he knew they needed the word of God, the full counsel of God’s word to do it.
- This is one of those powerful versus that helps understand why it’s so important to teach through the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.
- Many people like this verse or that one, and don’t like certain others. Their lives will eventually show that there is some counsel of God lacking in their lives.
- This is why Paul did not hold back. He’s like a watchman on the wall. He’s done what God asked him to do. “I am innocent of the blood of all men, for I did not hold back from declaring God’s word.”
- A watchman on the wall has the responsibility of watching over the horizon and letting people know what’s out there. If an army is approaching, he better say something.
Ezekiel 3:17, “Son of Man, I have pointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me.”
- The truth is that there really is a hell, there really is a day fixed in which God will judge the world in righteousness, and there really is an answer. God has sent His Son with an invitation from the Father that we might have eternal life.
- This is why Paul was generous in giving his life for the good of others; he knew it would make an eternal difference.
Illus – The medical world is abuzz with a new development in cancer treatment. It’s called p100delta. It’s the closest thing to curing to cancer to date. Why are people so committed to this? Lives are at stake. How much more does eternal life matter?
- Invite someone to church that they might hear the full counsel of God’s word. It will make an eternal difference. Be generous with those around you.
Acts 20:17-38 NASB
17 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. 18 And when they had come to him, he said to them, "You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; 20how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, 21 solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.