“And now I know that none of you to whom I have preached the Kingdom will ever see me again. I declare today that I have been faithful. If anyone suffers eternal death, it’s not my fault, for I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know. “So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood —over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders. I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock. Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following. Watch out! Remember the three years I was with you—my constant watch and care over you night and day, and my many tears for you. “And now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself. “I have never coveted anyone’s silver or gold or fine clothes. You know that these hands of mine have worked to supply my own needs and even the needs of those who were with me. And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” When he had finished speaking, he knelt and prayed with them. They all cried as they embraced and kissed him good-bye. They were sad most of all because he had said that they would never see him again. Then they escorted him down to the ship.
(Acts of the Apostles 20:25-38 NLT)
This is one of the most tender passages of scripture in the bible. Paul is concluding his third missionary journey and is headed to Jerusalem. He has stopped at Miletus (a coastal city just below Ephesus) and wants to meet one last time with the church elders from Ephesus. He has called them together to affirm their faith, restate his complete obedience in teaching and preaching the whole truth to them, and to warn them of false teachers that will arise like wolves to try to devour them. He knows that he will, most likely, never see them again. He makes this known to them. He had spent three years in Ephesus, longer than any other city. His heart was fond of these people. Theirs was, of him, as well. He commends them into the hands of God. At last, they knelt with him, where they were, and prayed with him. Tears were shed and affections shared. They escorted him down to the ship and we can imagine the scene as they watched the ship leave the harbor. Tremendous emotion must have gripped the Ephesian and local believers as Paul and his comrades sailed out sight.
It is always hard to say good-bye. Often, over the years, I have experienced the emotion of having to say farewell to a friend, loved one, or a brother in Christ not knowing when we may see each other again. Death has even invaded our lives and left deep voids. Yet, in the midst of this sadness, there arises a beacon of hope. His name is Jesus. Knowing Him as Savior and Lord gives us the absolute confidence that if our friends, loved ones, and fellow church family truly know Him, we don't have to say "good-bye", only "see ya later".
This is why we must preach and teach the truth of the gospel of Jesus to the whole world. The life we now live is not the eternal life that is ahead. We need to prepare for eternity. I'm ready! Are you? Jesus awaits your response. What will you do with His offer of eternal life? I pray that you accept Him, if you haven't already, and that we can gather on the shore where no one says "good-bye"! I look forward to the reunion and celebration of the ages. (See I Thessalonians 4:13-18 and Revelation 19). Saints, the best is yet to come! Cheer up my brothers and sisters! If we could only see what awaits us, we would be at peace. Don't look back. Look ahead!
Rev. Curtis Norris