I’m not one for keeping a checklist when I travel. I’ve tried, but I always forget where I put the list. Somewhere stuck in my head is a list of many things I have forgotten while packing numerous times. It may not be the most efficient, but it is what works for me.
Traveling is relatively easy. Relative, let’s say, to saying goodbye. That is probably the hardest word to say when you have to say it to people you love.
This week we are saying goodbye to some of the children in our home who are being reunited with their families. Last night, little “F” came to me beaming, “Head Teacher, I am number three in my class.” Class rankings are a big thing here, and I was so happy for her. I wasn’t just happy with her class standing, but what it was evidence of.
Little “F’s” name was one of my most used in 2014: “F, stop fighting,” “F, no hitting,” “F, obey teacher.” Her teacher had complained that she was always quick to raise her hand but she would not give the correct answer—seemingly on purpose. We disciplined and counseled her in the only way we knew how: with the Word of God. The Holy Spirit has worked such a miracle in her heart that has caused us great delight.
Now that we are about to say goodbye to “F” and the other children, I am reminded of something I studied while I was in seminary. It is my mental checklist for saying goodbye. It is found in Acts 20.
Paul was saying his goodbye (never to meet again in the flesh) to the Ephesian elders. It was a very emotional time. But just like Paul does, he presents it to them in an orderly, Godly, logical manner, yet with clear love and humility. These are the things I know I should accomplish by the grace of God.
- Serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and trials (v. 19). Can we say we have served those in our care with humility, through tears and trials? We display humility not only in our relationships with others, but by displaying dependence on God for all things. We especially display humility when we submit joyfully to God’s providence, whether we call it “good” or “bad.” We recognize God’s sovereignty. He is King, and He does with us as He pleases.
- Not shrinking from declaring to them anything that was profitable in public and private (v. 20) and not shrinking for preaching the whole counsel of God (v. 27). We preach the Word of God in the assembly, yes. But do we also use every opportunity to point the ones we serve to Christ? Do we speak the Gospel in counseling, in disciplining, in daily conversation as well as in teaching? Do we help them put to memory enough Scripture to fill their minds with things honorable, pure, true, trustworthy, excellent and worthy of praise (Phil. 4:8)?
- Testifying about repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 21). Do we live a life of repentance before them? Are we willing to be corrected, quick to seek forgiveness, and quick to forgive? Do we display such a great faith in Christ that they see the wonderful answers to our prayers? Do they understand through our lives what it means to live by faith?
- Obeying the Holy Spirit’s direction, even if it means hardship (vv. 22-23). Our lives after all, are for God. They are not first for the ministry then for God. God has called us. He knows when to place us somewhere and when we must leave. In this case, He knows whom he will put in our path, and when they are to depart. Our comfort and consolation is that we obey and follow a great, wise, and loving God.
- Finishing the course and the ministry that we receive from the Lord Jesus (v. 24). There is a task that is given us, and we must complete it by God’s grace. We do not leave it half done, unless God has reason to take us away. As far as it is within His will and within the ability He gives us, we press on until the work is done.
- Giving them what they need to fight for the Truth, even in the face of powerful and persuasive opposition (vv. 29-30). How we are assailed day after day in our community with a false gospel—or false gospels. Do we speak truth with the power of the Spirit, so that those we serve will be edified and prepared for the hardships to come? For they will come.
- And finally, commending them to GOD and the WORD of his grace, which is able to build them up and to give them their inheritance among those who are sanctified (v. 32). Ultimately, we surrender those we love to God, who loves them more than we do. We also trust the promise in His Word, that He will use it for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16).
Almighty Father, my heart longs to see these children grow and witness Your continued work in their lives. Yet even as you allow us to be parted, I understand that you have given me every opportunity to teach, and them every opportunity to hear Your powerful and life-saving Word. Bless us all with Your mighty, comforting presence. Help us to bow down to Your wise and sovereign will. Amen.