I remember sitting in a wooden chair at my grandfather’s feet. He lay stretched out in his recliner, covered with soft blankets, the pillows behind him carefully arranged. A plastic cup with a lid and a straw stood on the small table beside him. We spoke quietly, but I did not have much to say.
I was hearing his final words of exhortation to me. He knew his end was near, and it gave weight to his every syllable. Time slowed down. I remember listening very carefully, treasuring up each word in my heart. I remember, too, how confidently and peacefully he faced eternity.
As Paul journeys toward his own final trials, everything seems to slow down. Luke records the names of each friend that fellowshipped with them along the way: Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Timothy, Tychichus, Trophimus, and the elders of Ephesus (Acts 20:4). This was a time of final goodbyes, and we read that “there was much weeping on the part of all” (Acts 20:37).
Luke records each stopping place: Greece, Macedonia, Troas, Assos, Mitylene, Chios, Samos, and Miletus. He also counts the months and days. Each detail of that final voyage is stretched out. Even Paul’s sermon one evening at Troas extends well into the night, until young Eutychus fell asleep and “fell down from the third story and was taken up dead” (Acts 20:9).
But, as the story of Eutychus reveals, this lengthening of months, weeks, days, and hours is marked by God’s favor and direction. From the healing of Eutychus to the Spirit filled confidence of Paul, we see God at work. And it is precisely this which God desires us to see: Christ is at work, and His grace abounds.
Upon arriving at Miletus, Paul summons the Ephesian elders to give them his final exhortations and instructions.
What would you say if it was your final word?
Paul’s declaration is simple: “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).
In the face of impending death, in the face of sorrowful and final goodbyes, Paul had set his heart upon Christ alone, and His kingdom. Paul’s hope, his confidence, his purpose, and his joy were fixed in Christ. As he declared in his letter to the Philippians, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (1:21).
This too must be our eager hope and expectation.
And, as Paul warns, we will face many obstacles. Wolves will come in among us, seeking to harm the flock of God. From our own midst will arise some who will deceive and seek to draw us away. How will we remain alert?
Paul declares: “I commend you to God… remember the words of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:32, 35).
These two truths are our security:
- Whether in life or in death, our lives are in God’s hands, and there is no better place to be, and,
- In this world full of trouble, we have a sure source of comfort, purpose, confidence, peace, and life in the words of our Lord.
Thanks be to God!
Written By Caleb Faires