Acts 20:22: Paul – the leader’s confidence.
22 ‘And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.” NIV
The great Victorian preacher Charles Spurgeon reputedly said, ‘You no more need defend the Bible than you do a lion; just let it out of its cage.’
These words of Paul show his confidence in God and God’s Word. He was leaving the Ephesians, but God wasn’t and His Word wasn’t. He was sure that God’s Word would go on working on them and in them.
As a human leader in the church you can only be in a place for a time. In certain cases it may be for a long time, but it’s still going to be a limited time. At some point you will have to move on. So long as you know that you’re in the will of God, you can go happily, knowing that God will never leave or forsake His own. The good seed you have sown is what matters, and because it is alive, it is likely to continue to sprout and grow after you have left. No good work done for the Kingdom is ever lost.
In 1980, at the age of 23, I moved to Lancaster to be involved in starting up a new church in Lancaster, my home city. There followed close to three wonderful years of ministry. They were glorious but difficult years. There were quite a few ‘growing pains’ but the infant church showed some healthy signs of development. Unexpectedly, to me, in 1983, I heard the call of God to move to Leeds. I felt the church I was leaving behind was poised to grow. However, approximately six months after I left, I received a call to tell me that this young church was folding. It was heart-breaking. I felt like my baby had died. However, I received a letter from a young girl who had been a loyal member of the church while she studied at Lancaster University. She said that as she was reading the story of the feeding of the 5,000, she felt God spoke to her. She saw that we came together in one place for a time and Jesus blessed us (like the loaves and fishes) and then he ‘broke’ us and scattered us into other local churches where we could carry the blessing we’d received.
That insight helped me make sense of a puzzling situation, and made me realise that no genuine work for God is ever lost.
Incidentally, in recent years the ‘Elim’church in Lancaster has re-opened and is thriving! God’s ways are wonderfully unfathomable, and His Word is unstoppable.