Word Dive

A friend of mine told me that Acts is her favorite book in the Bible, which I thought was kind of strange because as far as I knew up until a couple of weeks ago, Acts was just a book talking about the beginnings of the church.

Needless to say, I’ve been flipping through Acts nearly every day ever since she sat me down and read chapter one with me.

Right now, I’m in chapter 20:

(starting in verse 17 and going through the end of the chapter) Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him.  And 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;  how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.

And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.

 I did not shrink. 
Some of the most crucial years for the church– Jesus has left the disciples, His followers are being persecuted as they travel from city to city trying to disciple others… They are experiencing tremendous trial, constant rejection, endless persecution, and yet the writer says “I did not shrink.” He says this of himself not only once, but twice!
And I love that this is the example set for us today: do not shrink. We are not called to shrink.
The word “shrink” means “to become or make smaller in size or amount,” but it also means, “to move back or away, especially because of fear or disgust.”
We are not called to shrink. We were not created with the ability to become smaller, but sin made us smaller, and sometimes it makes me feel like I have to make myself smaller; but shrinking is not in our make-up. We were not created to move back or away or down; we were meant to push forward, to look head, to rise up. We are not called to shrink.
 Second: nothing is more important than finishing the things God calls us to. There is no room for distraction. There is no room for self. There is only God and what He wants to use us for. And whether He uses us in literal ministry or corporate America, our course is one in the same: testify about the grace of God.
I want to mention the last highlight that stood out to me because I group it with this verse about our mission– we are called to work hard. And I think I love this verse so much because I’m twenty-one and therefore fall in the “millennial” category, and no one thinks millennials work hard because so many millennials don’t actually work hard.
But to my other fellow twenty somethings: there’s Scripture right here telling us to work hard. Because Jesus worked hard. In fact, He’s the one that defined what working hard looks like when He said, “It is better to give than to receive.”
Lastly, I love the reminder: His grace is able to build us up.
We talk about how grace covers us and fights for us and changes us, but it builds us up. When we tear ourselves down, when we are bulldozed by life, when we are tired and breathlessly looking for a break– His grace is what is able to build us up.

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