LIFE OF LOVING SACRIFICE
When I was in college, I met a person that would set a yearly theme for himself. This was strange for me at the time because I am used to seeing ministries or organizations have themes that they want to focus on but for an individual to have one was something that was so natural yet so mind blowing for me. After a prayer meeting, he told me that his theme for that particular year was to be a “drink offering.” I asked him what that meant and he said that for this year that he would pour himself out in love and service to others so that the year was about focusing outward rather than inward.
Today’s passage is all about that! Paul is giving his final instructions to the Ephesian elders and exhorts them in the end to live a sacrificial life by giving examples of how he did it to them. Paul labored hard! Paul did whatever he could to serve and love people to the very end and it is only a testament of the God that is in Him who modeled it for not only Paul but for all mankind to what it truly means to love sacrificially. For a majority of people, the thought that went through their mind when they woke up today was to focus on what they had to get done and what they needed or lacked but can we re-shift our focus to realize the truth that it is “more blessed to give than receive” is powerful beyond the Christmas season.
NOTES ON THE TEXT
28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God,[a] which he obtained with his own blood.[b] 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.
Paul is telling the Elders to be alert to what is going on in the community because the moment Paul leaves, there will be people who will come to disrupt and divide the community. The idea of taking care of the church (not the building) is something that is not just for the elders but for those who are also it’s members. Granted the elders are in charge of leading and the direction of it but the body of Christ doesn’t just sit there as consumers of a product but must be active producers within it. In this context, the way we produce and contribute is by guarding it from those who would try and lead people away from the Lord.
To guard the church, we must first cherish the church for what we cherish is what we will guard with the most ferocity! That is why Paul is reminding them the worth of the church by telling them the fact that Jesus actually died for it! If Jesus, who is the Lord of the universe would die for the church, then why do we so often speak curses over the thing that He cared so much for to the point of death? If we love God and yet hate his people, can we truly say we love God (read 1 John if you don’t know the answer)?
To guard the church and protect it is a call for all and here are some examples of how we can do that:
31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears… 33 I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Paul worked to take care of himself and he labored hard not for the money but for people. Paul lived a life of sacrificial love for people because he wanted to be an example to the people that life is more about self gain or riches but the betterment of others. The greatest pursuit is not about how you can gain but the greatest pursuit revolves around loving God and loving others. It is so easy to walk past the pain of others and ignore it because it has nothing to do with you but when you ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with his heart for people, he will inevitably draw you to a person in need. A helpful day starter would be to remind yourself the truth that,
“IT IS MORE BLESSED TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE.”