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ACCOUNTANT, ATHLETE, AND EYEWITNESS




At the close of three years in Ephesus (Acts 20:31), Paul “summoned the elders of the church” (Acts 20:17) for a tearful farewell. As Paul looked back to summarize the effectiveness of his third missionary journey, he mused, “You know, from the first day I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, serving the Lord with all humility, with tears, and during the trials … You know that I did not hesitate to proclaim anything to you that was profitable and to teach you … I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:18-21).


Then, after reviewing recent efforts, Paul looked forward. “And now I am on my way to Jerusalem, compelled by the Spirit, not knowing what I will encounter there, except that … the Holy Spirit warns me that chains and afflictions are waiting for me. But I consider my life of no value to myself; my purpose is to finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:22-24).


Let’s examine Paul’s words.


Paul was “compelled by the Spirit” expecting “chains and affliction!” In fact, a few weeks later in Jerusalem, a riot broke out and “the whole city was stirred up … the people rushed together … seized Paul, dragged him out of the temple, and … they were trying to kill him” (Acts 21:30–31). His fears were further realized as he languished “two years” in a Caesarean jail (Acts 24:27).


Look closely at Paul’s message to the Ephesian brothers. “I consider my life of no value to myself; my purpose is to finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24).


He didn’t “account (his) life of any value” (Acts 20:24, ESV). Like an accountant, he analyzed the facts. His well-being and personal comfort were worth little when compared to the great joy of his relationship to Jesus and his obedience to his Master’s calling. He’d accounted, and he was sure. “I consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Christ”(Philippians 3:8).


Sometimes Paul analyzed his life like an accountant. At other times, he saw himself like an Olympian, running a race. “My purpose is to finish my course” (Acts 20:24). Like a winning athlete, Paul could see nothing but the finish line. “Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus”(Philippians 3:13–14). At the end of his days, Paul could boldly proclaim, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).


Paul was like an accountant, an athlete, and an eyewitness called to testify. “My purpose is … to testify to the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24). Like a witness in an important legal matter, He’d been summoned to “testify,” to take his seat on the witness stand. From personal experience, he knew the Good News, “the gospel of God’s grace!” Paul wouldn’t be deterred. He was going to Jerusalem to testify, to share his testimony, to herald the transforming power of the Resurrected Redeemer.


Like the Apostle, we are “compelled by the Spirit” to carry the Good News to the waiting and watching world. We must “lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us… and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1–2).




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