by Kathy Howard
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. Acts 20:24 ESV
We don’t always know when the last conversation we have with someone will be our last. My father’s death was unexpected, so the last time we talked, we discussed casual, every day topics, nothing terribly significant.
My mother’s passing was different. She had a long, brutal battle with Alzheimer’s. For the last three years of her life, Mom lived near my brother in Tennessee. The journey was almost one thousand miles for me, but I went regularly. I visited them in February 2020, then the COVID lockdowns hit. Due to the disease, Mom could not Facetime or even talk on the phone. And she continued to decline.
In October 2020 the hospice director gave me special permission to visit her. God graciously provided this just two weeks before her death. Mom could not talk to me, but I told her how much I loved her and what a wonderful mother she’d been. I filled her in on her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Our last moments together were sweet. I sang her favorite hymns, held her hand, and kissed her cheek. After reading Scripture, I reminded her how much Jesus loved her. These, my last words with her, were significant. Meaningful. Weighty.
Paul knew the importance of last words, the urgent obligation to say what needs to be said. On his way to Jerusalem, near the end of his third missionary journey, Paul had a burning message for the leaders of the Ephesian church. But knowing a visit to Ephesus would require too much time, he sent for the leaders to meet him along the way. These “elders” were the pastors and teachers of the church, the ones responsible for the spiritual formation of the believers.
First, Paul reminded them of his ministry in Ephesus. He poured out everything to proclaim the Gospel and to minister to the believers. He financially supported himself. He endured persecution. He humbly, but boldly taught everything they needed. Next, Paul warned them to be on guard against false teaching. Even some of these leaders would distort the Word of God for their own gain.
Paul left nothing unsaid. He held nothing back because he did not live for himself. Paul’s greatest desire was to complete the work Jesus gave him. To finish well. In his last known letter, the second to his spiritual son Timothy, Paul reflected on his life and ministry:
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:6-7 ESV).
Paul’s last words describe a life lived all out for the Lord Jesus. No regrets. Nothing left undone. When the end of my race draws near, I pray I will be able to say the same.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to live all out for You. To hold nothing back. To leave nothing undone. Amen.
This post is adapted from “Deep Rooted: Growing through the Book of Acts.”
This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).
About the author: Kathy Howard is a treasure hunter. She hunts for the creamiest chocolate and richest coffee. She searches for cherished stories of faith that still impact hearts. And she digs deep into God’s Word, mining His eternal truths for herself and to share with others. With more than 30 years of experience, Kathy has taught in dozens of states, internationally, and in a wide range of venues including multi-church conferences and large online events.
Kathy has a Masters of Christian Education from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary and is the author of 10 books, including the “Deep Rooted” devotional series and “Heirloom: Living and Leaving a Legacy of Faith” (October 2021). Kathy and her husband live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area near family. They have three married children, six grandchildren, and two accidental dogs. Kathy provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at www.KathyHoward.org.
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