Acts 20:19-31: Paul, the passionate leader.

“19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. 22 ‘And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. 25 ‘Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.  29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.” NIV UK

A story is told about a visitor to Robert Murray McCheyne’s church. He wanted to know the secret of McCheyne’s power. The person showing him round invited him to step into the pulpit. He said something like this: ‘Open the Bible; then look around at the congregation; now weep!’ There has been much talk in recent years about ‘emotional intelligence.’ The idea is that emotions communicate. They are catching; they are infectious. If someone is deeply committed to something, others will quite quickly see and feel it. Someone observed that you can smell commitment a mile off. Paul took his ministry seriously. He cared deeply for the churches. He exhibited a ‘blood earnestness.’ His tears were a mark of his intensity. Are not our all too dry eyes a rebuke to us?

Many years ago I was involved with a youth work, serving with others on a team. The young people turned up week after week in significant numbers. We loved them, although you will probably not be surprised to hear that they were regularly disruptive and unruly. One week, I was at a meeting in the home of one of the other leaders. He had tried to lead the study that night, and, on the face of it, it had not gone well. It wasn’t that my friend was ill-prepared. The youngsters were just intent on causing a bit of chaos that night. When they had gone home, he and I prayed together, and I still remember today his tears for them; they revealed the heart of this godly man, and the memory of it affects me still.

PRAYER: ‘Break my heart with what breaks yours.’