Acts: Day 31

Paul Says Goodbye to the Ephesians


Today's Text: Acts 20:1-38, 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, Philippians 1:20-21

Text: Acts 20:1-38, 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, Philippians 1:20-21

The price we pay for the sun-drenched joys of summer camp are the sad farewells. I was seventeen and my legs were completely covered by bug bites, from my athletic sandals to my cuffed jean shorts. Bending over to scratch an ankle while Emily and I propped up the last of the mattresses in our cabin, I allowed myself a moment to peek into my sadness. Back at home, I was “Becky,” but at camp, I’d managed to introduce myself as “Rebecca,” and after a summer of feeling so grown up, I was sad to leave.

Emily, sunburnt and still wearing a camp t-shirt, hugged me and said, “See you in heaven!” And she left. Just like that. I remember sitting alone in the fading light of our empty cabin, smelling the warm cedar and thinking, “See you in heaven?! Can she even say that to me?” It felt so final, and yet so hopeful. No one has said those words to me since, and I don’t think I’ll ever see Emily again, so she was probably right.

Her words stuck with me, however, and when I read Paul’s lingering goodbyes to the Ephesians, I’m reminded of how hard it is for us to say our final farewells. Small things receive huge significance when they are the last things. Even the dust motes floating in the air, illuminated by shafts of sunlight, seem important in our last moments with those we love.

Set in the context of eternity, all these things—all these moments—are the last things. My summer camp goodbyes are mostly forgotten, but that one reminded me that this world is passing away (1 Corinthians 7:31). Paul’s last address to the Ephesians invited them to see the world in the light of eternity, to make much of little things, because our goodbyes in this world are many and often.

Knowing that none of them would ever see his face again, Paul slowed everything down to cry and savor their time together. Some of Paul’s last words to them were simple:

“But I count my life of no value to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.”
-Acts 20:24

In his final moments with dear friends, Paul wanted to speak to them about only the things that truly matter. Whether we die at the ripe old age of 110 or at breakfast tomorrow morning, these moments on earth are so dearly short compared to eternity. These sunlit days are brief and full of petite goodbyes. Paul uses these moments to commit his beloved friends “to God and to the message of His grace” (Acts 20:32).

In the midst of the sadness of all our goodbyes, the small and the huge farewells, God’s presence continues to go with both parties. When we are joined together in Christ, He promises that we will share an inheritance together in heaven (Romans 8:17). Indeed, we have His word that, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).


  • I’m late in this devotional but it’s so fitting. I’ve lived in Southern California my whole life and I am leaving in less than two weeks to Thailand to be part of a church planting team. “Small things receive huge significance when they are the last things” was spot on as I have been struggling to say bye to not only my friends and family but the little things I hold dear. Acts 20:24 encouraged me as I remember that all the relationships and experiences I’ve built here is only a sliver of what God has given me and promises for me. Thank you for your words. I felt refreshed as I read it this devotional.

    • Catherine

      Hey Chelsea! Where will you live in Thailand? I’m headed to Chiang Mai in January to build with habitat for humanity. Maybe I could stop by the church? :)

  • Christine

    Well said Andrea. I think of the modern day martyrs with International Justice Mission and Paul’s sacrificial, loyal commitment and am so humbled. How do I keep my eyes focused on Jesus and ready to lay it down for the Gospel. Christ in me, help me.

  • This devotional was so pertinent today (although I’m a day behind)! God recently moved our family out of a town we loved and I’ve had a really hard time saying goodbye. I’ve also been battling postpartum depression for almost a year and this devotional falls on the one year anniversary of my grandmother’s death. I’ve been struggling to see what God is doing with this tumultuous season and this study has been really refreshing!!

    • Kathy

      I,too recently moved from a place I loved. I loved the people, the conveniences, the comfort of knowing where everything was. I loved the spur of the moment lunch dates with friends. Today’s reading and devotional solidified that even thou I have moved physically, God is always with me. He is the only permanent thing in my life and He is enough.

  • Michelle Bates

    2 Corinthians 4:16-18

  • My takeaway for today was that we should all be living in the moment. I am a worrier by nature, and so, sadly, I spend a lot of time worrying about the past or the future and forget to live in the moment: to be here on the present, the here and now. I have no control over what has already happened or will happen, but I can choose how I will react/respond to what it happening right now. I pray that God will help me to stop worrying so much and enjoy life.

    • Gator mom

      I have the same problem that I battle with daily. Trying to not worry about the future unknowns and leave them in Gods hands. I find it helpful to meditate on “give us this day our daily bread”. God provides what you need for one day and tells us not to peer into the future.

  • Your story made me think deeper into our goodbyes. I think that Paul did a great job with showing us how it really has to be. Now I will always think about seeing people for the last time and saying “see you in heaven”.

  • Marietta

    I feel like Paul is the perfect receiver of love from the perfect giver. How awesome!

  • churchmouse

    May the nightly news never eclipse the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have no faith in the politics of man. I have all faith in the promises of God. While there is still day, still time, I continue to pray and hope. Keep the faith. Keep the faith.

    • Sarah_Joy

      Thank you for this. We watched an investigative news story about the Middle East last night, and it made my heart heavy. Even this morning the images flash through my mind. May my eyes be fixed upon Jesus who has guaranteed the victory. He has conquered sin, death and the devil. May His glory shine brightly in us over fear and uncertainty.

  • Paul’s character amazes me. His love for Jesus compels me. His lack of fear inspires me.

    Paul was hastening to be at Jerusalem before the day of Pentecost. (V 16) we find out that he does not know what will happen there except that the spirit has revealed to him that imprisonment and afflictions await him (v 23). Wow!

    In my pride I sometimes think I have great faith. But my acts of obedience over the years (although stretching for me) are nothing in comparison to this.

    He is EAGER to go to the place where he knows he’ll ensue pain and prison.

    I admit, think I would take a Jonah approach on this one and run or avoid Jerusalem as long as possible…

    But Paul knows that his life is not his own and that dying is gain to see Jesus!

    Lord, your perfect love casts out fear. May we walk in the revelation of your love today.

  • Amanda Mae Steele

    I worked on a cruise ship a few years ago and people came and went every time we would port. I honestly became desensitized to it – saying goodbye was hard and sad, but I quickly realized it was a part of the experience that would never change.

    I specifically remember one friend I had met from South Africa, a Christian also, and when our friends and I bidded him goodbye he simply said “see you on the other side.” That was comforting, but there was still a bittersweet sadness that we’d probably never cross paths in this lifetime again.

    Another friend from New Zealand was a healthy young man – he was actually one of the gym trainers. He was quiet but had a lot of friends and was well liked. We may have talked about Christ in passing but nothing I can specifically remember. A few months after he had gone home, I saw the shocking news on Facebook – he had died in the big earthquake in Christchurch.

    We don’t know what the future holds. I admire Paul for fervently praying, teaching, and admonishing the saints WITH TEARS. That had to be way out of his comfort zone – and it is a challenge and encouragement to me to step out of mine.

  • Caroline

    So glad we have hope in heaven. It sure makes the heartache of loss so much more bearable.

  • Goodbyes are hard…but what I couldn’t help continuing to think as I read this is how cool it would be if Emily read this!!!☺

  • Keri Underwood

    “And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 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.” – Such powerful words! I am constantly in awe of him and how God turned his life around. Even to the end his loyalty and love didn’t waver. Praying that we can all have faith like that. That we will stand strong in the Lord even when we don’t know what waits for us!

  • Carrie Rogers

    These sunlit days are brief and full of petite goodbyes. ❤️❤️❤️
    I am sitting here with my 8 year old & 5 year old drinking coffee and I want to show them Christ today! I want to show my husband Christ today! I want to show my small town in Oklahoma Christ today! Thank you for this truth.

  • I am literally sitting here on vacation with my parents and my family and my Dad is on a deck above me saying his final goodbyes to his dear cousin whom has made the decision to stop treatment of a debilitating illness. What peace these scriptures are bringing me. God is good.

  • We are just going through a goodbye – my brother’s girlfriend has broken up with him after 5 years of what seemed an ideal relationship. It was completely unexpected and we are all shocked, especially my brother. I am not sure about his relationship with God, but I know he was quite estranged from Him. I cannot get rid of the feeling that this might be God’s way of bringing my brother closer again… Ladies, I know this is not the most serious matter in the world and I know there are far worse situations, but still, could you please pray that God will heal my brother’s pain and encourage him and draw him closer to Himself? Thank you!

    • Kristi

      Wow, that sounds just like my sister’s current situation. I, too, am hoping that this is God’s way of bringing her back to Him. Praying for your brother, P!

    • Christa

      God can take anything and bring something good out of it. Having faith in waiting for the blessings at the end of the trial is the challenge. Praying for peace in knowing that today is not forever and that God has something wonderful in His plans.

  • Goodbyes are not fun. I have always disliked them but have found over the years the sacrifice of the goodbyes are worth it for the time spent with the ones I love. I’d rather have the time spent even if it means tears as we part. Paul had a deep understanding of who he was and understood his life was not his own so He spent his time exhorting and loving his family of faith knowing goodbyes were inevitable. He didn’t choose not too because the goodbyes would be hard it was a sacrifice of his love for them. He loved them enough to walk through the goodbyes. Paul lived his life to the full of his calling in Christ. May we all take those steps and make those sacrifices because of love. “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”
    ‭‭Acts‬ ‭20:32‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

    • Dawn

      I agree goodbyes are hard, but I wouldn’t want to miss out on the hellos and getting to love and know the people in my life.

  • Heather Dehaan

    Perfect, timely and brings Perspective. I enjoyed the bible passage, and Paul’s travels, miracles and encouragement is so interesting to read about. His perspective and attitude is something to strive for this summer!

  • Time here is brief-may I be about the things that really matter in the kingdom of God.

  • Christina Gandy

    “He said these things so you would have peace.” Tribulation will pass, and you will have eternity. Itis good to know I Jesus has overcome the world, so I don’t have to.

  • Courtney

    This came at the right time (as God is smiling down) this morning because my roommate is moving out this morning, and we haven’t really said our goodbyes yet. While I am sad that she is leaving because of physical companionship, I am excited that she is going to be able to be with her family and friends back in her home state. I am also excited that God has an amazing plan for her because she was unable to find a job in our current city/state after graduation, but her skill set will be used to HIS glory wherever God decides to lead her next. I will also miss her cat that has grown on me over the last 2 years, and I do talk to her like she is my own fur child (crazy cat lady here haha). I know this isn’t goodbye forever because even before we are joined together in heaven (because she does know Jesus as her Lord and Savior), we will still keep in touch with texting, phone calls (3 hour time difference will be tricky, but not impossible) and Skype. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers as she is driving all the way from the east coast to the west coast with her sister, and that there are wonderful memories with that road trip and safe traveling mercies.

  • Elisabeth

    Seeing the world in the light of eternity really brings things into perspective. It’s not only about making much of little things, it’s also to let got all the small things that might be disturbing or make you angry. In the perspective of eternity, they probably won’t matter and aren’t worth the time you spent worrying about them.

Further Reading...