An energetic and somewhat ornery little boy once tried to get his mother to give him some money in exchange for his good behavior. His mother answered, “Why can’t you be like your father and be good for nothing?”
Nobody wants to be “good for nothing”. We all want to live meaningful and productive lives. Fortunately, the Bible is filled with information on how to do that.
In Acts 20, Paul the apostle was making his way toward Jerusalem when he called for the elders of the church at Ephesus to come and meet with him. He sensed that this would be the last time he would ever see these men with whom he had served; men whom he obviously loved. He wanted to speak to them one last time, and, as usual, his message was about how to live a powerful life for Jesus.
He said to them, “…You know how I lived the whole time I was with you…” (v.18). So first of all, a powerful Christian life is a life lived together with other Christians. I cringe every time I hear someone say that they can live for Jesus just fine without the church. The Bible clearly and consistently refutes that assertion. There were no “Lone Ranger” Christians in the Bible, and, unless you are stranded on a deserted island, there are none today. A Christian life is a life shared with other believers.
Secondly, a powerful life is one of service. In verse 19 Paul says, “I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents.” Some think that they are saved by what they believe, but if their faith is not accompanied by works, it is dead (James 2:26), and a dead faith can’t save you.
Notice that Paul says that he served with great humility. There is a danger of thinking too highly of yourself when you are doing the Lord’s work. A lady once told me that she thought I was a model preacher. I felt kind of puffed up about myself until my wife reminded me that the dictionary defines a model as “a small imitation of the real thing”. Whatever you do for the Lord, remain humble about it.
Notice also that Paul says that he served with tears and was tested severely. Serving Jesus is not easy! Jesus says that in this world we will have trouble, but that we should take heart because he has overcome the world (John 16:33). Though serving the Lord can be extremely difficult, he will give us the strength to persevere through any hardship.
A third characteristic of a powerful life is to boldly share the word of the Lord. Verses 20-21 say, “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. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.” You may not have been called to preach in the same sense that the apostle Paul was, but every believer has been given the assignment to be a witness for Jesus (Acts 1:8).
Finally, in order to live a powerful life, we must follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and finish the race that the Lord has laid out before us. Let the Spirit guide you and you will not go astray. Stay the course and complete the race.
Years ago a marathon runner in the Olympics was injured with several miles to go in the 26.2 mile race. Rather than drop out, he persevered all the way to the finish line, finishing long after the other competitors. Someone asked why he didn’t quit. No one would have blamed him because of the severity of the injury and the pain it caused him. He replied, “My country did not send me here to start a race. They sent me here to finish a race.”
The Lord wants us to finish the race he has laid out before us. And he wants us to live a powerful life as we do so.