Acts Devotionals

The Marathon

When running the grueling Comrades Marathon and you are about 5 kilometers away from entering the stadium, crowds line the sidewalks urging runners on. One of their favorite shout outs is … “You can do it! You’re almost there!” The race is long … roughly 90 kilometers long … but that’s not the problem. The problem is the hills, the long up hills, the very long down hills and the lengthy flat sections. Mostly the hills and the down hills kill your legs and you want to give up thousands of times. And even though thousands encourage you with shout outs throughout the race, that final few kilometers is where their encouragement and motivation counts. You are literally dead on your feet. Your muscles ache. Your head is dizzy. Your energy is depleted. You’re thinking why you ever signed up for this torture … and then the repeated chorus by hundreds of voices … “You can do it! You’re almost there!” Mostly this sees you through! Maybe going through the Notes on Biblical Male Headship or Leadership felt like the Comrades Marathon to you … well … “You can do it! You’re almost there!” Our reading once again is:

Ac 14:21 Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. 23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders.

You’ll recall the question we started with days ago is … “Why is leadership important?” Now I would like us to move into the New Testament and consider some of Paul’s Holy Spirit inspired teaching.

1) The leadership example of Paul. Although I am using material from the Book of Acts that we will get to in time, I would like that we consider some teaching about Paul’s leadership style and about the leadership of elders. The section under consideration is Acts 20:17-38. Read it if you have time please.

(1) Leadership needs to be with “great humility and tears.”

Ac 20:19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews.

The reason for humility and tears is that he served the Lord! If an elder (or any Christian Leader) misses this, he has lost the plot! The Church belongs to Jesus and leaders serve Him. He commissions the leader, He empowers the leader and He deploys the leader. He does this so that the leader may do His bidding, His way. Not only did Jesus give His all for the Church (souls), He served the Church with humility and in tears. Should a leader be boastful, arrogant or dictatorial, he is either disobedient or not Jesus’ appointee!

(2) The preaching example of Paul. By now you ought to know that “the most important ingredient in any Church is the main product on offer.” It is the Bible and the Bible taught properly!

Ac 20:20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house.

Notice that preaching is not reserved exclusively for the pulpit! When a pastor visits, he needs to teach the Bible. Sometimes the greatest conviction and application of a Bible passage is done in the home. Then, the home could also be a home group study. These are so helpful because the tension of “Church” and “Formalism” is removed.

(3) The Gospel example of Paul. Even if a pastor teacher is great at exposition, he still needs to have evangelism in his heart because that is the heart of God. He came to save! For a pastor to say his task is teaching the Bible only, he misses the mark! If our Lord came to save, pastors need to show the way of salvation all the time.

Ac 20:21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.

(4) The indwelt Holy Spirit in Paul. No servant of Jesus may venture out without being in tune to and directed by the Holy Spirit.

Ac 20:22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.

Here we are not referring to being born again and the Holy Spirit being resident. Here we are saying that a pastor needs to be, and remain in step with the Spirit.

Gal 5:25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

This is all about living in God’s presence to draw wisdom from God to lead His people. The pastor not living in prayer and Scripture ought not to be in the ministry!

(5) The perseverance example of Paul. Ministry is hard! Let me say it again … ministry is hard! It does not matter how hard anyone works. It does not matter the weight of being the head of a nation might be. Pastoring a folk, even a small one carries eternal consequences for souls. This is the reason a pastor teacher needs to work hard, be diligent and sacrifice greatly. The man who thinks pastoral ministry is a seasonal thing ought not to enter it in the first place. When Paul says—

Ac 20:24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace

—he is not speaking about his personal salvation! He is speaking about living his whole life out to the end by preaching the gospel! That is the “race” and the “task” Jesus gives the pastor. It’s not for a few years and then return to the business world to catch up on lost income or to improve the pension payout. Money security is God’s responsibility! The pastor’s responsibility is faithful, lifelong ministry! For 43 years, we as a family and today Jenny and I are totally dependent upon God’s provision. We served faithfully and still try to do this … but He is even more faithful than we are. He provides more than we deserve. Consider our little secret: “Its glorious waiting upon the Lord and to see how He surprises us time and again.”

(6) The “innocent” example of Paul. Here we are not referring to “sinlessness”. Rather we are speaking of fulfilling His God given mandate.

Ac 20:26 I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men.

He is about to explain what he means … but think this through. No man or woman who crossed his pathway or sat under his ministry can ever declare to God on Judgment Day that they did not know the Gospel or the requirements of the Gospel. See the high calling of a spiritual leader?

Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

In this verse there is at least a three point sermon with a strong application … but look at the center sentence. A pastor’s role is to keep watch over your soul! When he does this properly and effectively he is innocent of your blood at the Throne of Judgment. When the Great High Judge of all the world calls for an account of your souls, he will be able to declare he “watched over” (care for, nurtured, taught, prayed for) your soul properly leaving him innocent of your blood!

Our Father, Your Word is so amazing for therein we find all things necessary for Church Leaders to model against. Mercifully encourage Your appointed leaders. Grant them grace without measure. Empower them to serve and for those struggling under the pressure and hardship of service, lift them up with a double portion of blessing. Amen.

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