There’s this guy named Paul. He’s a pretty intense guy from the Bible who lived during the 1st century. At one time he thought he was living a missional life when he threw a bunch of Christians in jail, but he was wrong. That part was really for himself and his ideas about God. Once God showed him what his intensity was for and how God was going to use him, he got on track and did a lot for God. He wrote a lot. He traveled a lot. He planted a lot of churches. He helped a lot of people find their way to God and in the process made a lot of people angry. Bottom line, he was pretty intense. He gave his all.
So now here was Paul, coming towards the end of the most extensive missionary campaign he had been on to date. This was his farewell tour, so to speak. He had traveled literally all over the Mediterranean area (modern day Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Greece, Macedonia and Italy) by boat and on foot, approximately 8,000 miles: an impressive feat for the first century. He was speaking to some dear friends in Turkey that he had led to faith on a previous trip. This was his final farewell and he shared these words:
“…And how I kept back nothing that was profitable to you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul’s message had been so radical in his time that he was often kicked out of cities or had to escape for fear of his life. He was thrown in prison. He was whipped and tortured. Sometimes, he was stoned by angry people with heavy rocks who dragged him outside the city and left him for dead. In spite of all these things, did he stop speaking? Did he quiet down? Did he tone down his message? Did he change the content so it wasn’t so controversial? Did he hold back? No! In fact, he spoke all the more to the people God had told him to speak to.
He “kept nothing back that was profitable to them.” He gave those he encountered an all access pass to God through his message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. More than that, he showed them the grace and mercy of God. He lived fully among the people he spoke to, demonstrating what this radical new life of grace looked like. He showed them how to love. He showed them how to serve, how to live in harmony with one another. He was inclusive to all who would hear. He didn’t hide anything from them that could help them connect to God. He was ALL in and he invited others to do the same!
In light of this, I ponder these questions for myself: Am I keeping back anything from my neighbor that could help them come into the kind of relationship with God that I have? Do I continue to pursue being generous with the good news even in the face of being misunderstood, hurt, rejected, dismissed, or persecuted? Am I testifying of God’s grace and mercy to those who are in and out of the church through my words and actions? Are there people I withhold the message of God’s love from (or don’t share with them to the full extent)? Do hold back or keep pursuing?
A little further in this same speech, Paul declares,
“But none of these things move me, neither do I count my life dear to myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus.”
May this be our testimony as well, that our lives are not so dear to us that we miss the opportunity to worship God through how our lives are spent in service to Him. May our lives, as we pursue God, be ones of open-handed generosity of this incredible grace we have received, and that we will share this grace liberally with all we encounter, keeping nothing back and living missionally.