Acts 20:17–35 says this:
Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. And when they came to him, he said to them:
“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 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 know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
In 2016, Kobe Bryant played his final basketball game as an NBA player. It was a memorable night as “Black Mamba” scored 60 points late in the game, leading his team to victory. After the game, he was honored by the franchise and the crowd, and he gave a short farewell speech thanking his fans and family for their support that enabled his career success. Surprisingly, what is most remembered about that night is the way Kobe ended his speech. He spoke two simple words: “Mamba out” and then dropped the microphone on the hardwood.
In Acts 20:17-35, Paul gives his own farewell speech to the elders of the church at Ephesus. His missionary career seems to be coming to a close. He has been compelled by the Holy Spirit to travel to Jerusalem to deliver a famine relief, but the Spirit also revealed that “prison and hardships” awaited him there (v. 23). Paul had a special bond with the church at Ephesus. He spent more time with them than any other church. So, on his way to Jerusalem, he called for the Ephesian elders, who met him at a port city called Miletus. Here Paul delivers his farewell speech, his mic-drop moment. What did Paul want to communicate on such an occasion?
How He Lived and Why
Paul begins the speech by reminding them, “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you…” We can summarize Paul’s lifestyle in three ways: diligent, resilient, and relational.
Paul was diligent.
Paul served the Lord, taking every opportunity to complete the task the Lord Jesus had given him. He never hesitated to step into a ministry opportunity, and he didn’t let the cares of this life compete with God’s whole will for him. He never stopped warning and exhorting people to get serious about their salvation and he set an example of hard work in order to provide for himself, his ministry, and the needs of the less fortunate.
Paul was resilient.
Life was not easy for Paul. He served the Lord in the midst of tears and faced fierce persecution from religious authorities, power brokers, the government, and even at times riotous mobs (Acts 16:2219:29; Acts 21.). And he knows the hardships are not over. Yet he endured and persevered, considering his present life worth sacrificing), because he knew an inheritance of eternal grace awaited him in his next one.
Paul was relational.
For three years, Paul shared his life with the Ephesians, ministering day and night in the context of personal relationships. They knew how he lived because he spent most of his time with them and among them. He was available to people, sharing anything he thought would be helpful. Though he had a public ministry of teaching and preaching, he was never too important for house-to-house visitations. The Holy Spirit made him a shepherd to keep watch over God’s flock. He was generous towards companions who could help his career and vulnerable people who could not because it is more blessed to give than receive.
What inspires and empowers a diligent, resilient, and relationally rich life? The answer is found in Paul’s faith. The foundation for Paul’s life was what he believed about God. Lifestyle fruit flowed from his faith in Jesus. He was committed to God and the truth about his grace, the good news of the Lord Jesus, that through faith in his life, death, and resurrection and repentance from sin, we can be forgiven and have new life in him. By accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we can be led by the Holy Spirit into a life of joy in relationship with God and others, purpose in advancing his kingdom, and peace in knowing that our eternal destiny is secure).
How Will We Be Remembered?
At the end of Paul’s life, he wanted to be remembered for his faith in Jesus and the fruit it produced. And he wanted others to follow his example. The question we should consider today is how will we be remembered? What priorities will we point to in our own farewell speech that we want others to replicate? Will we point to our career success as Mamba did? Or silver and gold as others do? Or will we be able to say along with Paul, that we believed in the Lord Jesus and lived our lives fully for him? That’s the only true mic-drop moment.