A treasured piece of Scripture (Acts 20:17-38) provides us with a vivid portrait of history’s greatest Christian, both as a man and also as a missionary and pastor. With a few deft strokes on the canvas, in the centre of which stands Christ for whom the apostle Paul lived and died (Philippians 1:21), the picture emerges of what a true man of God and his ministry should be.
Without doubt, he was engrossed in the Lord Jesus, and ‘the gospel of the grace of God’, caring nothing for what the world had to offer, or for personal advantage. His concern and passion was for the glory of God, for the preaching of revealed truth and for the flock for whom Christ died. He was not a spectator in the arena in which truth is fought over, nor did he seek safety in the aloofness of an ivory tower where intellectuals both real and imaginary sometimes hide, but rather he stood in the centre of the battlefield with his sleeves rolled up (I Timothy 6:12) fighting the good fight of faith (2 Timothy 4:7). As a consequence he was hated by the enemies of truth, ‘grievous wolves’ he called them, but loved by the people of God. He reciprocated their affection, guided, instructed, prayed for them and wept over them. There was a unique and precious relationship between poem, and when he had cause to depart, they shed tears of sorrow because ‘they should see his face no more’.
The man of God has only one ambition: to be faithful to his Lord to the end, and nothing less will do for him. He desires to preach what he knows to be the mightiest and most unique of messages (the only one to provide hope in this wicked world), and in Christ’s name, to sit at the lowliest of hearths, listen intently for the faintest of heart-cries, hold the frailest of hands, console the weakest of people, kneel at the bedside of the aged and infirm in prayer, and gently whisper the gospel into the ear of the dying. Such is the man of God’s heavenly calling, and a ‘pearl’ indeed!