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#carmelprays – Acts 20:17-38

Opening Song: Worthy Is The Lamb

Read Scripture: Acts 20:17-38

While this is addressed to the elders of the Ephesian church, this passage captures God’s heart, as articulated through Paul, for spiritual leadership. In this passage, we see Paul gathering the leaders from the Ephesian church. He had spent three years with them, but was now heading to Jerusalem and was prepared for trouble to await him. Paul meets the leaders and gives them what is his last will and testament for them.

Paul reminds the leaders about his own ministry and gives them pointers on how to lead and serve God’s people. To Paul, serving the Lord means being humble and lowly (v9), having a spirit of complete submissiveness to Lord as the one who has authority and the one who knows what is best for His people. It also means serving people with a joyful and sincere heart because we know how graciously God has redeemed and loved wretched beings like ourselves. Serving the Lord also means tears (v19), which can take the form of both tangible and intangible pain. Spiritual leaders should be ready to endure physical hardships, as well as the emotional pain of being involved in people’s struggles for faith, hope, truth and holiness, yearning for them to see God’s glory. 

As spiritual leaders, it is important to be on guard. Paul outlines the possible dangers that lurk. As leaders, we need to keep watch over ourselves, over the people that we are overseeing, and against people from both within and outside of the Church who will attempt to cause trouble (v26-30). From the individual leader, to the church community, and to everyone outside the church, there is the possible danger of becoming the enemy of God, His truth and His righteousness – and this is a great trial. Serving the Lord also means we do not decide what to teach by what is popular or easily accepted. If it is part of God’s counsel, it ought to be taught, and this requires a great deal of courage (v20). May we not be intimidated by the trials warned by Paul, but pray that God opens our spiritual eyes to these potential dangers, assured that God reigns sovereign and He is our guide in leadership. May we always fix our eyes on Jesus, the epitome of a servant leader – even though He was in very nature God, He did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage, but made Himself nothing, humbled Himself and took on the very nature of a servant (Philippians 2:6-8).

God’s kingdom is full of paradoxes. The broken heart is the healed heart, the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, to have nothing is to possess it all, to give is to receive and similarly, to be a leader is to serve selflessly from a love that flows from God. It is healthy to reflect on our lives and our commitment and service to Jesus. Regardless of what our commitment looks like, can we like Paul proclaim that we consider our lives worthless, our only aim is to finish the race and complete the task God has given to us (v24)? In light of that, what can we do such that our lives reflect God and how can we be better servant leaders?

Pray in Response

Lord, thank You for the cross, for bearing all my sin and shame on the cross, that I may receive Your forgiveness and amazing grace. May Your grace imprint on my life a deep sense of humility and gratitude. As You have shown me undeserving love and grace so often in my life, may I reflect Your same love and grace in my interactions with others. For those under my care – children, peers, group members, team mates – grant me a servant heart like Yours. Grant me wisdom that comes from You, help me to lead with a heart that is filled with Your love. Lord, I want to be like You – more of You and less of me. Teach me, lead me, mould me and guide me – and form Your likeness in me. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Response Song: To Be Like You

By Lim Ren Ai

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