You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day. (Acts 20:17, ESV)
As Christians, we are representatives of Christ. Our lives, character, and reputations should reflect godly characteristics everywhere we go and in everything we do.
While returning to Jerusalem from one of his missionary trips, Paul stopped for a visit with the Ephesus church elders. Based on the tone of their reunion, it’s clear that they knew Paul very well.
What I find remarkable about this meeting is Paul’s courage and confidence to remind them of his reputation. Since the first day they met him, his lifestyle was above reproach – and they didn’t disagree with him or remind him of some past indiscretion.
As Paul reminisced, he identified the following characteristics that we should also exhibit in our lives:
- Serve God humbly. Paul could have boasted of his spiritual accomplishments. Instead, he called himself the prisoner of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:1, 4:1) and the greatest of sinners (I Timothy 1:15). He had a horrible past before he became a follower of Christ and he had huge successes as a believer. However, he didn’t let his past define or defeat him nor did he let his current success derail him.
- Endure trials gracefully. Paul suffered horrendous persecution from the moment of his conversion. Yet, not once do we read that he complained. On one occasion, he asked God three times to remove a tough situation (II Corinthians 12:7-9). When God refused, instead of whining or asking “Why me?” he accepted and boasted in his weakness. He knew his trials and sufferings brought God’s strength to his life.
- Witness faithfully. It is one thing to speak to people about your faith. It is quite another to live in agreement with your faith. Paul’s “walk” mirrored his “talk.” His daily behavior and attitude reflected the same faith and grace he shared with others.
- Follow God’s will steadfastly. Most people start a race strong – but winners finish strong. Even though he knew prison and persecution were awaiting him in Jerusalem, Paul stayed the course. He fulfilled his life’s purpose. He focused his attention, energy, and time on finishing the race. Just before his death, he was able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (II Timothy 4:7).
- How would you describe your reputation to a group of people who know you well?
- What personal actions or behaviors come to your mind that are inconsistent with your “talk”?
- How should you “run your race” so you can echo Paul’s statement in II Timothy 4:7?