Revive Our Hearts Podcast

How to Handle Good-byes

Leslie Basham: As you serve other people you need to ask yourself, “Am I trying to gain their approval or am I truly serving God?” Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: It’s not ultimately your husband or your kids or your boss or your roommate or your fellow students or the people you’re discipling. They’re not the ultimate ones you are serving. When we recognize that we are slaves of Jesus Christ, then that gives us a compulsion to do what He says to do.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, February 25.

“Good-bye.” It can be one of the most painful words that we speak. The apostle Paul had to express good-bye many times in his ministry, and Nancy will look to his example as she begins a series called Farewell.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: As most of you know, since its inception, Revive Our Hearts has been produced by our friends at FamilyLife Ministries in Little Rock with a live audience of usually 40 or 50 women from the area who come to listen to the teaching. We record 8-10 programs in a day.

And I know when I meet people on the road they sometimes wonder how I can be where I am because it’s like, “How are you doing a radio program today?” We don’t’ do those live. We do them in advance, and we have done it for many years here in Little Rock. And those have been such sweet times as those who’ve been with us on occasion know.

We’ve experienced something very rich of the presence of God in those times, even here today. We’ve seen God do such a deep work in the lives of many, many women here in these recordings over the past eight and a half years.

As we’ve shared with you, the decision has now been made to relocate our radio production to Michigan where the rest of our Revive Our Hearts' team and outreaches are located, and they are very happy about this move. For years they have had to sit on the fringe and not be able to participate in the recording sessions and have to run the ministry without the advantage of having that close at hand.

So we have sought the Lord and prayed and believe this is a good decision. But as you might imagine, it’s been an emotional journey for me making this change, not because I don’t love my friends and fellow team members in Michigan—I do and I’m so looking forward to serving more in closer proximity to them. But it also means saying good-bye and some hard good-byes to some people who have become very much a part of my life here in Little Rock.

For some of you women who’ve been a big part of this ministry—you’ve participated in it, you’ve come to the recording sessions, you’ve prayed, you’ve served in different ways, you’ve supported the ministry. Now the ministry is not going away; we should understand that. I hope that you’ll continue to connect through our radio and Internet outreaches and still to be a part of the ministry. But in the in-person way we’ve been able to do this, it’s not going to be the same. And today is particularly difficult as we come here in Little Rock to record our final series together in this place.

One of our staff said to me last week, “What are you going to record next week?” knowing that this was going to be our final session of recording. I told him that I was going to do a series on Acts chapter 20—let me encourage you to turn there in your Bible if you would. Acts 20 is the farewell sermon of the apostle Paul to the believers in Ephesus.

When I said that to our staff member he said, “You’re going to record that for radio?” The point being, the people in radio land are not going away. This is not a farewell. This is only a Little Rock change.

And I said, “Yes, I want to do this passage for two reasons. One, I do want to minister to the flock in Little Rock that has been a part of this ministry over all these years and would like to be a means of grace and encouragement in your hearts today. But also, this passage as I’ve been meditating on it in recent weeks has a lot of principles that apply to women in all seasons and situations of life, particularly seasons of change or loss.

Now let me give you a little bit of background before we actually look at Acts 20. I want to tell you the context; it’ll make a lot more sense. You don’t need to turn there, but in Acts 18 we see Paul on his second missionary journey has a small visit in Ephesus on his way back to his sending church in Antioch. Then on the third missionary journey he returns to Ephesus and spends three years ministering there. You read about that ministry in chapters 19 and 20 of the book of Acts.

Now we know that this was a particularly fruitful season of ministry. FIrst Corinthians 16:8 Paul says, “I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened for me.” Paul said, “There’s a wide door for effective ministry here, so I’m going to stay.”

But that effective, fruitful ministry was not without its challenges and its opposition. In fact, he goes on to say, “Not only is there a wide open door but there are also many adversaries” (verse 9). Isn’t it interesting how those two often go hand in hand? A wide door for effective ministry . . . Having children, that’s a wide door for effective ministry. But with having children come some difficulties right? Some challenges.

And you think, “I thought being a mother was just having fun and joy and bliss.” Well, it was for like the first two minutes, right? And then reality sank in—that’s life. Where there’s effective ministry, there are also adversaries; there are challenges.

Now throughout Paul’s ministry in Ephesus we see the power of God at work in an extraordinary way. But you also see this ongoing tension and conflict between the power of God and the attacks of Satan. Satan uses people to make these attacks. So you see this conflict, this cosmic conflict, that is taking place in Ephesus during Paul’s ministry.

Now we come to chapter 20. Paul has left his season of ministry in Ephesus. He is now en route back to Jerusalem at the end of his third missionary journey. We pick up in chapter 20 at verse 15:

And sailing from there we came the following day opposite Chios; the next day we touched at Samos; and the day after that we went to Miletus. For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia, for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost. Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him (verses 15-17).

I had the privilege recently of visiting in this part of the world, actually being in the ancient city of Ephesus. I didn’t get to stop at Miletus, but we sailed past that area. Paul would have docked there at Miletus and called these Ephesian elders to come to him. Miletus is a coastal town in Asia Minor about 30 miles south of Ephesus.

So Paul and his companions went ashore there. He probably knew that there was no way to have a short visit in Ephesus. But he wanted to reconnect with his friends there and particularly to share his heart with the leaders of the church. So he called the elders, the pastors, the overseers from Ephesus to come and meet with him.

Now as you read the passage, it’s evident that Paul thought that this would be the last time that he would see this group of believers, although it appears from the book of 1 Timothy that Paul may have actually returned at a later point after being released from his first Roman imprisonment.

But at least we know that he thought he was not going to see them again, and they thought the same. In chapter 20 we have recorded a lengthy message that Paul gave to these leaders of the church in Ephesus. Having spent three years there in effective, powerful ministry, seeing the power of God, now knowing or believing he would not see their face again.

This, by the way, is the only sermon recorded in the New Testament that Paul preached to believers. It has a lot of insight into it. In fact, it has many themes that are repeated in the epistles. There are many cross references to Paul’s letters in this message. It’s a message given to a group of elders, that is men who have been entrusted with spiritual leadership of the churches in Ephesus.

So you might wonder, “Why are you Nancy, not being an elder, sharing this message with us women?” Well, Paul’s charge to these elders has application for all believers, and it gives us a lot of insight into the heart and the character of an effective servant of God and also how to go about processing times of change and loss particularly in our relationships.

The message if I could just summarize it is three basic points. Paul reflects on the past, verses 18-21 and a few other verses scattered later throughout the chapter. Then he talks about now, the present, in verses 22-27. And then he talks about where to from here, what happens after this meeting. Verses 28-35 reflect on the future. And then in verses 36-38, the final paragraph, we have a very tender farewell scene.

Over these next days I want to walk through not all but portions of this message and see what application it might have to our hearts. First, Paul talks about the past. He rehearses and reflects on the years they had spent together there in Ephesus. His message about the past has two parts to it. The part we want to look at today, he talks about the life that he had lived among them.

Verses 18 and 19 and then a paragraph later in the message that we’re not going to get to (it’s also rich but because of time limitations we’re not going to get to all of that). But he talks about the life that he has lived among them. The example of Paul’s life. We see this beginning in verse 18, and we see the life of an effective servant or messenger of the Lord.

It’s a reminder, just looking at the sequence of things here, that effective ministry—and God has called all of us to different kinds of ministry—always flows out of the messenger’s life and walk with God. How many times have I prayed over these years, “Lord, let my teaching ministry be the outflow and the overflow of the reality of what You’re doing in my life.” Otherwise what you have is Phariseeism, hypocrisy, preaching further down the road than you’re actually living.

You say, “I’m not a preacher. That doesn’t really matter for me.” Are you a mother? It matters. Are you a wife? It matters. Do you teach a Sunday School class? Do you lead a small group? Are you discipling somebody else? It matters what kind of life you live.

Effective ministry is always the outflow and the overflow of the messenger’s walk with God, the messenger’s life. We see that here in chapter 20 beginning in verse 18.

When they came to him, he said to them: "You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews” (verses 18-19).

Let’s just stop there and reflect on what Paul is saying here. He says, “You know how I lived among you. My life was an open book. I lived with you. You didn’t just hear me in the pulpit. You didn’t just see me when I was teaching there in the hall of Tyrannus. You lived with me! We worked together. We lived together. We had meals together. We did life together. You saw my life. And by God’s grace,” Paul says, “my life was consistent with my message. I lived what I preached.”

It’s the power of a life message. And let me just say to those of you who are moms and grandmoms, nowhere is this more important than in the family. Jesus said in Luke 6, “Everyone when he has been fully trained will be like his teacher” (verse 40). It doesn’t say he’ll know what his teacher knows. He says he’ll be like his teacher, like begets like.

You want to ask yourself, “If my children, if those I’m mentoring, those I’m discipling, if they turn out like me how will they turn out? Not just if they do what I say but if they become like me.

  • If their prayer life is no more effective than mine, what kind of prayer life will they have?
  • If their faith is no greater than mine, what kind of faith will they have?
  • If their moral purity is no greater than mine, will they be morally pure?
  • If their response to circumstances, to adverse circumstances, is like mine, how will they respond to adverse circumstances?
  • If their response to authority is like the way I respond to my husband or our pastor or my boss, how will they respond to authority?”

Like begets like. And Paul realized the power of a life message. He says something similar in 1 Thessalonians chapters 1 and 2. he says,

You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake . . . You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers.

Now I would like to be able to say the same thing about my own life. I can’t say it the same way Paul said it because I do look back with regret at many times when I’ve not honored the Lord in my responses, in my choices, in my private life. But I want to tell you this. I can say this with integrity of heart. It has been my goal to be able to say what Paul said. "You have seen my life, and it’s consistent with my teaching.”

As I’m preparing messages time after time, month after month, year after year here in Little Rock, I can’t tell you how many, many times the Lord has brought conviction to my own heart about something I was getting ready to teach, something I was preparing, something I was studying. And it’s brought conviction. This isn’t true in your own life. You need to repent before you teach this to someone else.

And I say that to challenge you to have a life message, to have it as your goal to be able to say to those who follow you, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”

Now Paul says in verse 19, “[This is the way we lived] serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials.” Serving the Lord—the word literally there is slaving the Lord. Slaving—being a bondservant, a bondslave of the Lord. He didn’t say serving you. Now he did serve the Ephesian believers but first and foremost he was serving the Lord. He was a slave of Jesus Christ.

So there was a compulsion about his ministry and there will be a compulsion about our service when we recognize it’s not ultimately your kids or your husband or your boss or your roommate or your fellow students or the people you’re discipling. They’re not the ultimate ones you’re serving. When we recognize that we are slaves of Jesus Christ, then that gives us a compulsion to do what He says to do, to serve as He served regardless of whether we get any reward or recognition or accolades or payment. We do it because we’re slaves: joyful, glad, willing slaves of Jesus Christ.

And let me say this. If you are serving anything or anyone other than Christ, you will not have staying power when things get tough. But if you are serving Christ, then you will be able to walk through the kinds of things Paul walked through in Ephesus—opposition, rejection, adversity. And you’ll be able to do it with strength and dignity and with your head held high because you know you are a servant of Jesus Christ. It’s the Lord Christ that you serve.

Paul says, “We were serving the Lord with all humility.” That word is a compound Greek word that means “lowliness of mind.” As one Bible dictionary says, “Esteeming of ourselves small in as much as we are.” Thinking small of ourselves because we are small! We are nothing; God is everything.

As we serve we want to serve with humility of mind. Paul says, “We serve not ourselves but Christ Jesus the Lord and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5, AV). This is not now nor has it ever been nor by God’s grace will it ever be Nancy Leigh DeMoss ministries because this ministry isn’t about me. There are times when somebody will say, “We want more of you on the website, in some of the projects that you’re doing.”

I do try to share out of my life when it reflects glory to God and it helps you see the truth of God’s Word. But I’m here to preach God’s Word, not to have you love Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It’s all about Him! And I’ve tried to point you to Him. And as faithful servants if we are faithful servants, there will be that humility of mind.

Then Paul says we serve the Lord with all humility and tears. He goes on to say in verse 31, “For three years I did not cease day or night to admonish everyone with tears.” Two references in this message to Paul’s tears.

As we read the New Testament, we realize that Paul shed tears for the lost, those who were damned apart from Christ, for those who were backslidden or sinning believers. He shed tears over the influence of false teachers, deceivers.

He says in 2 Corinthians 2,

I wrote you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you (verse 4). 

And with the tears came trials. We serve the Lord with humility and with tears and with trials.

We read in chapter 19 about a major trial that took place when a mob was incited to riot because the income, the livelihood of those who sold the goddess Artemis. Their livelihood had been threatened and the riot was instigated. Paul encouraged the believers and left town. He knew about trials. He knew about trials greater than most of us will ever experience.

There is nothing in my life at all including over these last eight years that can compare with what Paul endured, the kinds of trials he endured in ministry. But I will say that there have been some hard things in these past eight years of ministry. I got here to Little Rock eight years ago. I hardly knew anyone. I was lonely. I was scared. I had no clue what I was doing. Radio was new, and teaching was new in this format. It was a massive amount of hard, hard work—the challenge of coming up with 260 programs a year. The new content was just overwhelming.

Late nights, long weekends. We recorded on Mondays and Tuesdays in those first years and the weekends were gone; they were lost. Many tears, many what we came to call “Red Sea moments” where I would come up right to a recording session and would think, “This has not come together. I don’t know how we’re going to pull this together." But God would part the waters. He would meet with us.

There has been over these past eight years a burden for people’s lives. And so I say it’s been a privilege to serve the Lord with any measure of humility and tears and trial, small though that measure is in my case. As God calls you to serve Him with any measure of humility and tears and trials, will you remember that it’s a privilege? It’s a blessing to be able to do that.

In 1883 Charles Spurgeon said these words to his congregation,

I have preached the gospel now these thirty years and more, and some of you will scarcely believe it, but in my vestry behind that door, before I come to address the congregation in this Tabernacle, I tremble like an aspen leaf. [And I relate to these words in some measure.]

And often, in coming down to this pulpit, have I felt my knees knock together—not that I am afraid of any one of my hearers, but I am thinking of that account which I must render to God, whether I speak His Word faithfully or not. On this service may hang the eternal destinies of many.

That’s the spirit with which I have done ministry here over these past eight years. And that’s the spirit with which God calls everyone of us to do ministry realizing that what you do in obeying the Lord today and fulfilling His calling in your life on that may hang the eternal destinies of many.

We want to serve the Lord some of us and naturally with comfort, ease, results, blessing, recognition, applause, success. But serving Him on any front requires humility and is often accompanied by tears and trials, the labors of the ministry, the opposition and the disappointment, the rejection. Some of you have experienced that from your children or from others you’ve tried to serve.

But we’re going to see as we continue in the next session in Paul’s message to these Ephesian elders, that it is well worth serving the Lord and others regardless of what humility, tears, and trials are required because it is for Him and for the sake of His kingdom. And that’s what God is calling us to serve.

Leslie Basham: The apostle Paul had to say many good-byes in his ministry. The way he departed from those he loved has a lot to teach us today. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing us why in a series called Farewell. She recorded that message in front of a live audience, and it was an emotional day. Some of the women gathered had been coming to hear Nancy for eight years as she recorded in Little Rock, Arkansas. Revive Our Hearts was in the process of moving our production to Michigan. So this series is about saying farewell and it literally represented a farewell at the same time.

We didn’t have time to air Nancy’s complete message today. When you order it on CD, you’ll hear additional minutes of content. Just look for the series Farewell when you visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

As we near the end of February, we want to encourage everyone who has joined the Revive Our Hearts' monthly memory plan. Our listeners can join the Master track. They memorize a passage each month. Or listeners can join the Voyager track. They memorize about a verse per week. We’re going to hear from one of those listeners who’s been memorizing with us in February.

Jenny: Hi. My name is Jenny. I’m from Canada. This month I’ve been memorizing Scripture from 1 Corinthians 13.

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal" (verse 1).

Leslie Basham: You can memorize the Bible just like she’s doing. We’re going to tackle new passages in March, and it’s a perfect time to join the Revive Our Hearts monthly memory plan. Visit ReviveOurHearts.com for more details.

If you wanted you could fill up on cotton candy every meal. It would be extremely unhealthy but it would also get boring. You would miss sinking your teeth into something more substantial. So when it comes to filling up your mind with messages, stories and books are you settling for “cotton candy” when there’s biblical teaching far more fulfilling? Nancy will address that tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

1 C. H. Spurgeon. Sermons on Soul Winning, p. 18
http://books.google.com/books?id=yYBGGD6Xa98C&lpg=PA118&ots=mu1zkhBvA2&dq=%22i%20tremble%20like%20an%20aspen%20leaf%22%20spurgeon&pg=PA118

 

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