Acts 20 tells of the Apostle Paul’s last interactions with the elders and church leaders from Ephesus. He’d spent 3 years among these precious people, and he knew by the leading of the Holy Spirit that he wouldn’t see them again. To me, this makes Paul’s words here that much more significant – knowing that they are his last ones, and that for sure he wanted to make them count:
Acts 20:28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood.
I hear echoes of Jesus’ words from John 10… “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…” So many things come to mind with these words… the great responsibility and honor of being a shepherd to God’s people – the value of each person to God – the desperate need for vigilance in the life of the shepherd to guard against the ‘wolves’ that would inevitably come.
Going deeper, Paul’s charge to the Ephesian elders started with “pay careful attention to yourselves…” And I know that caring for others starts with caring for ME. Making sure to nurture my first love. To make sure I am living within a healthy life rhythm. Watching my doctrine carefully. Monitoring my significant relationships, ensuring their vitality and health. I cannot care for the church of God if I’m not watching out for and caring for myself first.
Paul’s last words, his encouragement deals with the precious role that the overseer serves in; his words carry more weight because the people he is challenging the elders to care for are people he knows by face and by name; he knows the intimate details of their lives, and wants God’s very best for them, all the while knowing that every one of them will have to fight their own good fight of faith, a fight that he knows just might hinge on the care, the training, and discipleship that their shepherds have invested in them.
I’m challenged to dig deep to what really matters, and to contend for that with the people I am privileged to lead. To speak the truth in love, and to hope the very best for each one, while at the same time, trusting that Christ, the Good Shepherd, will watch over us, and provide for our every need.