over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you
overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his
own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among
you and will not spare the flock." (Acts 20:28-30)
Paul has stopped for a brief visit to the church of Ephesus on his way to Jerusalem, and he knows he shall never return: "Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again." (Acts 20:25). All of the Ephesian church is gathered together in honor of the occasion. Can you imagine what this meeting must have been like? The frazzled emotions of knowing Paul will never return, the awesome responsibility of continuing on without him? If I had been there, I would have been hanging on his every word, vowing in my mind to follow his advice to the tee! And just what advice does Paul choose to pass along to these people he loves so much? "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers." (Acts 20:28). And just to emphasize the importance of this statement, Paul repeats it! "So be on your guard!" (Acts 20:31) Paul's last words of advice are for the church to be watchmen! Why? Because he knew that after his departure, " . . . savage wolves will come in among [them] and will not spare the flock." (Acts 20:30).
Now if I really had been at Paul's farewell address, I believe I would have taken these words very seriously. But there is something that would have bothered me immensely. In fact, it might have even kept me up at night, praying to God for revelation! Just how would I recognize the wolves? How would I know the true sheppards so that I wouldn't be drawn away?
I believe Paul's next few words give us the answer to the problem: ". . . I have not coveted anyone's silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (Acts 20:33-35)
Paul's life was a living example of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even though a missionary who traveled from place to place and who had no place of his own to even lay his head, Paul never "leached" money from fellow believers. He worked hard to supply his own needs and the needs of those who traveled with him. Yet, though he had very little for himself and had to work hard for what he did have, Paul always gave freely to the poor. He was a living example of "What Would Jesus Do"! He practiced what Jesus preached, and he personally knew that "it is more blessed to give than to receive"!
I would like to suggest that the example of Paul's life can give us the guidance we need to know the true sheppards from the wolves! Sheppards do not take advantage of people. They work hard to provide for their own needs and the needs of others, and even when there isn't much for themselves, they share freely with the poor. True sheppards practice Jesus' principle that "it is more blessed to give than to receive"!
Lord God, give me the wisdom to put each and every Sheppard that comes across my path to this simple test, that I may not be led astray by wolves in sheep clothing! Open my eyes that I may recognize true Sheppards from wolves. Give me the discernment to keep my eyes open, that I may truly keep watch and be on my guard against the "savage wolves" of my time. And Lord, may I, myself, be a true Sheppard to the sheep you have placed in my care! May I practice the principle that "it is more blessed to give than to receive" in every aspect of my life!
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Moderator, The Nugget, Scriptural Nuggets ( www.scripturalnuggets.org ), Answers2Prayer Ministries, www.Answers2Prayer.org