Daily Bible Reading – June 27, 2023

(Acts 20) We see a pattern in the modus operandi of Paul’s ministry. He had concluded the first missionary journey, even after being stoned and left for dead at Lystra, by returning to the cities where he had ministered, “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith” (Ac. 14:22). At the end of the second missionary journey, Luke told of Paul’s travels to the cities, “strengthening all the disciples” (Ac. 18:23). We have arrived at chapter 20 in our study of the book of Acts, where Paul is ending his third missionary journey. Again, we read, “Paul sent for the disciples, and when he had encouraged them and taken his leave of them, he left to go to Macedonia. When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece” (Ac. 20:1-2). Paul was in my opinion the greatest evangelist that ever lived, and he understood his role as such to include the encouragement and strengthening of the believers.

Acts 20:24 has a very personal application for me: “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of God’s grace.” I would not begin to compare myself to Paul and the extremely emotional circumstances in which he found himself as he said goodbye to the Ephesian elders at Miletus. But I was inspired by his experience, as I described in Chapter Six of my book, “From West Texas to the French West Indies and Back Again.”

Paul was being led by the Holy Spirit back to Jerusalem, and we hear his testimony: “the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that chains and afflictions await me” (v. 23). This was a pivotal moment in Paul’s life, as he felt God leading him to Jerusalem, to imprisonment and perhaps death. He did not consider his life as “dear to himself,” but what mattered to him was finishing the course (the ministry that he had received from the Lord). In 1992, Judy and I were searching to know God’s way for us, after having spent almost twenty years in Guadeloupe. In my human spirit, I felt it was time to change the place of our missionary ministry, but God used Acts 20:24 to confirm to me that we were to return to Guadeloupe. I was led to “finish my course and the ministry which I had received from the Lord Jesus.” I praise God even today for that revelation from the Holy Spirit, as our remaining fifteen years in Guadeloupe were the most fruitful of our career. “The reasons for God leading us to return to Guadeloupe would be revealed to us over and over for the rest of our missionary career!” (from page 60 of my book).

The ending of my career was not nearly as dramatic as Paul’s experiences. But we had this in common as we finished our respective courses: we were each called to “the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Ac. 20:24, NIV). And so are we all—may God find us faithful!

-Al Gary





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