Before you read today’s devotions…
LSA and myself want to say thank you Dave, for the many years you’ve been with us as Youth Pastor and then Family Ministries Pastor. You have always been so available to us when we’ve needed to talk to someone, so willing to hear and to help. You and Anneke have done so many of those millions of ‘behind-the-scenes’ things that keep a church functioning well. We will miss you both, and you will be in our prayers as you begin this new chapter in your lives with God at your side. – Audrey
Are you the kind of person who likes saying good-bye or doesn’t like saying good-bye? Which kind of person would best describe you? For me and, I believe for you, it depends on the circumstance. I don’t think anyone will have any trouble saying good-bye to COVID-19. This global pandemic has been terribly horrendous and won’t be missed when it is over. But, when saying goodbye to people, it can be quite difficult, especially when they are family and close friends.
In Acts 20:16-38, Dr. Luke reveals why the apostle Paul’s experience of saying goodbye was difficult. It’s important that you read these 23 verses to fully understand the context. They say, 16 Paul had decided to sail on past Ephesus, for he didn’t want to spend any more time in the province of Asia. He was hurrying to get to Jerusalem, if possible, in time for the Festival of Pentecost.17 But when we landed at Miletus, he sent a message to the elders of the church at Ephesus, asking them to come and meet him.
18 When they arrived he declared, “You know that from the day I set foot in the province of Asia until now,19 I have done the Lord’s work humbly and with many tears. I have endured the trials that came to me from the plots of the Jews.20 I never shrank back from telling you what you needed to hear, either publicly or in your homes.21 I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike—the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus.
22 “And now I am bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what awaits me,23 except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead.24 But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.
25 “And now I know that none of you to whom I have preached the Kingdom will ever see me again.26 I declare today that I have been faithful. If anyone suffers eternal death, it’s not my fault,27 for I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know.
28 “So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as leader.29 I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock.30 Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following.31 Watch out! Remember the three years I was with you—my constant watch and care over you night and day, and my many tears for you.
32 “And now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself.
33 “I have never coveted anyone’s silver or gold or fine clothes.34 You know that these hands of mine have worked to supply my own needs and even the needs of those who were with me.35 And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
36 When he had finished speaking, he knelt and prayed with them.37 They all cried as they embraced and kissed him good-bye.38 They were sad most of all because he had said that they would never see him again. Then they escorted him down to the ship. (NLT)
Paul is summarizing his years of ministry planting churches as a missionary. We learn a lot about his years serving the Lord and in verses 36-38 he mentions how he prayed, cried, hugged, and kissed the elders goodbye. He goes on to tell how he and his friends were sad because they would never see each other again (at least on earth). Saying goodbye was difficult for the apostle Paul and it can be hard on us too.
Over the past four decades, I’ve had the privilege of serving the Lord in four churches located in two countries (two states, and one province). Those years were filled with incredible highs as well as disappointing lows, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything. My wife, Anneke, and I have had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people. God has been so good to us and we are extremely grateful to Him for being able to get to know and serve those who have crossed our path. This is what makes saying goodbye so hard but, as Winnie the Pooh said, “How lucky I am to have something (or someone) that makes saying goodbye so hard.” We are truly fortunate to have been given the opportunity to know so many outstanding people through the years.
Even though there are challenges that present themselves when saying goodbye, there can be an upside. One of those challenges is knowing and understanding just how bright the future really can be. In John 14:1-6 we learn what Jesus told His disciples when He was getting ready to die on the cross, resurrect from the dead, and ascend to heaven. He said,“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (NLT)
That is the Good News! Jesus tells us not to worry but rather trust in Him. As a result of placing our trust in Jesus as our Saviour, we can come to the God, the Father. Jesus claimed to be the way, the truth, and the life. These verses show us that goodbye doesn’t have to mean forever. That’s awesome news!
As I wrap up this devotional, I want to ask you some questions to ponder.
- How are you doing at saying goodbye these days?
- Who is it that you are saying goodbye to?
- Are you trusting in God for help as you say goodbye?
- Have you placed your trust in Jesus as your personal Saviour? If so, then your goodbye doesn’t have to be forever because you will see that person again in heaven if they have placed their trust in Jesus has their personal Saviour.
Life can be looked at as one great adventure. My hope for you is that you will have that outlook for your life. Whether you are saying goodbye to a family member, a friend, a job, or something else, I pray you will trust God and know He has His best for you. So be sure you seek Him because He can provide you with the comfort and peace you need. I encourage you to trust Him with your future. In 1992 Steven Curtis Chapman released the album, “The Great Adventure”. Take a listen to the song by the same name and be inspired. God’s best!