Today's Bible Readings
     Genesis 21
     Matthew 20
     Nehemiah 10
     Acts 20
''But none of these things move me nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God :,, (Acts 20:24)
            God had given Paul an incredibly successful ministry. Now God is allowing us to see inside the heart of the great apostle as he nears the end of his ministry. We discover Paul's intense obsession with finishing well. This magnificent obsession of the Apostle Paul was because God had called him and given him a vision. It is easier to serve the Lord without a vision and without a call because then you are not bothered by what He requires. Common sense and emotion becomes your guide. It is easy for you to be more prosperous in the world's perspective and have more leisure time if there is no call of God upon your life. But once you have that call you will no longer be able to serve Him strictly on the basis of common sense and emotion.
            This verse shows an almost noble annoyance of Paul at being asked to consider himself. Our ordinary and reasonable service to God may actually compete against our total surrender to Him. Never consider whether or not you are of use, but always consider that ''you are not your own''. (I Corinthians 6:19) You are His! Do you also desire to finish well? There are some follies that foil a faithful finish. Consider the following:
            Do you  have a burden without a call? This has always been one of my frustrations. I would love to be a missionary, author, evangelist, pastor, administrator, etc. It is easy to see needs everywhere. We must face the fact, however, that none of us can meet all the needs. The important thing is that we have a specific call to a ministry and the obvious spiritual gifts to carry out that ministry. Be careful that you do not get sidetracked with a burden without a call. On two occasions Paul tried to go a different direction than was clearly the call of God. These are set forth in Acts 18:8-10 and 16:6-10.
            Are you following the flesh and not the Spirit? Most people who fall into sin while trying to do ministry fail because of three things - passion, possessions and pride. We must walk in the Spirit on a daily basis so we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Ask yourself the question - ''What thrills me most - stock market success or souls; a new promotion or an answer to prayer, a good golf score or the move of the Holy Spirit in my local church?''
            Are you tempted to go it alone?  When Jesus sent out the apostles He sent them two by two. Loners are losers, and God's servants need to realize that we really do need each other. We are part of the team and must have great dependence upon the spiritual gifts of the other team members. “Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken." (Ecclesiastes 4:12) We should never forget that yoked horses could pull more than twice as much as both of them could have pulled separately. It is always our ego that makes us try to do it alone. Remember there are no great men of God, only men of a great God.
            Are you following the fads, not the fundamentals? The wise Christian will stay with the foundational principles of the Word of God to guide his theology and ministry. The passing fads of the Christian community will always lead to failure.
Are you running without resting? Consider the Eagle who soars to the highest altitude while resting in flight. The writer of Hebrews tells us ''there remaineth a rest for the child of God." Certainly God wants you effective and productive, but He wants you serving in the energy and power of the Holy Spirit and not wearing yourself out in meaningless exercise. God has called all of us in Christian service to finish faithfully and pass the torch to the next generation. We must not waste the sacrifice of those who have given themselves before us.
Many missionaries today are discouraged for lack of response, great distances from family and friends, sub-standard living conditions, lack of support, the non-ending difficulties of survival in a different culture and the overwhelming physical, social, material and spiritual needs of the people they are seeking to reach for Christ. Pray that God will give these missionaries the courage to stay the course and overcome their discouragement that they may finish well.
''It was seven years. . .before William Carey baptized his first convert in India . . .before Judson won his first disciple in Burma .. .Vic Morrison taught before the first Chinaman was brought to Christ.  These finished well and so can you.''
A. J. Gordon