There's little doubt of the love Paul had for the leaders in Ephesus. On his journey to Jerusalem—knowing he'd never see these brothers again—the apostle requested they meet with him one final time in Miletus. Paul's heart must have been heavy with so much to impart.
Acts 20 records Paul's moving farewell. He reflected upon the integrity of his life and ministry and then addressed them directly. Paul cared about his brothers as much as he cared about the future of the church. He was vigilant about their souls—not just the ministry results they would produce.
Paul's first call to action wasn't, "Develop a five-year strategic plan for spreading the gospel." Rather, in startling contrast, he counsels, "Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock" (v. 28). A heart that is right with God is what matters first and foremost in His servants.
Tend to Yourself First
It's a word for leaders to heed today: There's danger in tending to the flock without first tending to yourself. I'm not advocating our culture's fascination with "me-time" which promotes indulging oneself with rewards. It's about walking in right relationship with God the Father while being able to say, "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Cor 11:1). The day a leader shifts her priority from seeking God to seeking ministry for God, relationships suffer and fruitful impact shrivels. You've seen it. I've seen it. We've all been there.
What are the telltale signs?
- Getting annoyed with women instead of overflowing with love for your sisters
- Shallow concern for women instead of deep compassion like the Savior
- Irritation when things don't happen the way you planned instead of grace and poise in handling the unexpected
- Teaching truths that aren't real in your own life
- Ministry results are man-powered rather than Spirit-powered
- Concentration on projecting a godly image rather than being honest and transparent before those you lead
- Dry, hurried prayer life over standing in the gap for as long as it takes to intercede for God's people
If seeking ministry over seeking God has gradually overcome you, what's the first step to take?
In the words of the apostle Peter, "Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus" (Acts 3:19–20, emphasis added).
Turn back—you've detoured in the wrong direction. Turn back—repent and start out again. Anchor yourself daily to Christ through His Word. Be filled once more with the Living Water, your source for empowered living, loving, and serving. Next, praise God for His mercy that sought you out, turned you around, and isn't giving up on you.
Does your life exhibit any telltale signs of seeking ministry over seeking God? Admit your need to turn back today. Ask the Lord what changes need to occur in your personal pursuit of Him. Open up with a friend or mentor who will hold you accountable. Then, press on in your calling, beloved servant!