In Acts 20:17-38 we have recorded for us the farewell speech of Paul to the Ephesian elders. I challenge everyone to take the time today to read it. I believe it will both comfort you and challenge you. One of the statements that Paul makes that has challenged my heart is found in verse 24; “so that I might finish my course with joy”. We talk about joy quite a bit but do we ever think about finishing our course with joy? I desire to do that. I hope you do as well.
We are all familiar with the acrostic for JOY: Jesus, Others, You. I remember being taught that as a small child in Sunday school. It is one of my earliest memories of those lessons. I find it very interesting that those three elements of joy can be found in our verses today.
JESUS. In the latter part of this verse, Paul mentions the ministry that was given to him by the Lord Jesus. The main focus of Paul’s ministry was to testify of the gospel of the grace of God. Once again, there is Jesus. We have every reason to be joyful if we have trusted Christ as our Savior. He is the author and finisher of the gospel and, therefore, our faith. Paul set a wonderful example of a person who truly lived for Jesus without regard for his own self.
OTHERS. This context of Acts 20 is all about others. Paul made a special stop on his way to Jerusalem because he wanted to say goodbye to these people who were so dear to his heart. They, in fact, were the ministry that Jesus had given to him. Throughout the New Testament we see countless examples of how much affection Paul had for those that God had given to him. He was the epitome of servant leadership and obviously put others above himself.
YOU. “Neither count I my life dear unto myself.” These are the words that directly precede his statement of desire to finish his course with joy. We cannot live joyful lives in the service of our King if we do not put ourselves last in line. It is not enough to have Jesus, Others, and You in the mix. The must be in order. We are by nature prideful creatures and if we put ourselves above others, our pride will destroy our joy.
How is your joy? I hope it is strong. After all, the Bible says the joy of the Lord is our strength. I want to be strong in my faith and in my service. I need joy. And I desire to finish my journey the way I started, joyful and rejoicing. I hope you do as well.
photo credit: Kelly Morton