Paul went by land to Assos, where he had arranged for us to join him, while we traveled by ship. He joined us there, and we sailed together to Mitylene. The next day we sailed past the island of Kios. The following day we crossed to the island of Samos, and a day later we arrived at Miletus. Paul had decided to sail on past Ephesus, for he didn’t want to spend any more time in the province of Asia. He was hurrying to get to Jerusalem, if possible, in time for the Festival of Pentecost. But when we landed at Miletus, he sent a message to the elders of the church at Ephesus, asking them to come and meet him. When they arrived he declared, “You know that from the day I set foot in the province of Asia until now I have done the Lord’s work humbly and with many tears. I have endured the trials that came to me from the plots of the Jews. I never shrank back from telling you what you needed to hear, either publicly or in your homes. I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike—the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus. “And now I am bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.
(Acts of the Apostles 20:13-24 NLT)
Things take a distinct turn in this passage. Paul has spent his life, since being sent out from Antioch of Syria, telling the good news of Jesus to as many places as God would allow him. As he travels from Troas, he makes his way, by land, down to Assos. There, he met his comrades who had travelled with him. They had sailed by ship. He had travelled by land. Paul joined his comrades aboard ship and they sailed to Mitylene, past the island of Kios (Chios in that time) to the island of Samos, and then to Miletus. All of this travel was along the the Western coast of Asia Minor (Turkey) in the Aegean Sea. Miletus was just south of Ephesus. Paul was trying to reach Jerusalem for the Pentecost Feast so, instead of stopping at Ephesus, he sent messengers to call the Ephesus church elders to meet him in Miletus. When they arrived, he declared how he had withheld nothing in proclaiming the gospel to them and all of Asia Minor. He recounted how he had endured the plots from the Jews who tried to kill him, how he had preached faithfully in pubic and in their homes, and how he preached to both the Jews and Gentiles. Now he knows that the Holy Spirit is speaking to him that jail time and suffering await him in city after city. He lets none of these things affect his resolve about carrying the gospel wherever God leads him. He recognizes that his life is worthless if he doesn't finish what God has anointed and appointed him to do. He must testify to the world about the grace of God through Jesus Christ.
I am certainly grateful for the gospel of the grace of God. Jesus has made it possible to be saved from Hell and to be restored to God. Heaven awaits the child of God. When we look at what lies beyond this current, temporary life, we can see what life is supposed to be about - a right relationship with God. He created us for so much more then this sinful world could ever afford. May we, too, like Paul, give what we can't keep to gain what we cannot lose!
Jim Elliott, a missionary to the Huaoroni (Auca) Indians, a remote "unreached" tribe in Ecuador (Northwestern South America) once made a similar statement. He became famously quoted as saying "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." He, and four of his fellow male missionary comrades were speared to death by this tribe on January 8th, 1956. He was only 29 years old. His wife, and little girl, along with Rachel Saint, Nate Saint's sister, (Nate was the pilot of the small aircraft they were using to reach the tribe) returned to the tribe and taught the gospel to them. They lead some of them to Jesus.
These, and others, have blazed the trail before us. You and I can only imagine the devotion and commitment that it takes to surrender ones life in such a way. May Jesus help us to be willing to do the same!! I leave us with this verse today -
Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. (Luke 17:33 KJV)
Rev. Curtis Norris