Summary: Farewell sermon.
There is nothing more poignant than considering the end of things. Whenever we experience the end of things it helps us consider what is really important. I was struck this week by John Piper’s journal entry:
He recounted as he sat beside the bed of his father keeping a vigil. He monitored his breathing, he prayed aloud into his ear with Bible texts and pleadings to Jesus to come and take him. For Piper, he said that he felt an unusual sense of partnership with his father as he pressed on the Lord to relieve his father, this warrior of his burden. He thanked God that his father is not suffering but quietly going home. His breathing stopped. Nothing more. He stroked his fathers head and sang:
“My gracious Master and My God
Assist me to proclaim
To spread through all the earth abroad
The honors of thy name”.
His journal entry then recounted the faithfulness of his father:
“Daddy, how many thousands awaited you because of your proclamation of the great gospel. You were faithful. You kept the faith, finished the race, fought the fight. “Make friends for yourselves with unrighteous mammon that they might receive you into eternal habitations.”
Piper called the rest of his family
His final words were: “Thank you, Daddy. Thank you for sixty-one years of faithfulness to me. I am simply looking into his face now. Thank you. You were a good father. You never put me down. Discipline, yes. Spankings, yes. But you never scorned me. You never treated me with contempt. You never spoke of my future with hopelessness in your voice. You believed God’s hand was on me. You approved of my ministry. You prayed for me. Everyday. That may be the biggest change in these new days: Daddy is no longer praying for me.
I look you in the face and promise you with all my heart: Never will I forsake your gospel. O how you believed in hell and heaven and Christ and cross and blood and righteousness and faith and salvation and the Holy Spirit and the life of holiness and love. I rededicate myself, Daddy, to serve your great and glorious Lord Jesus with all my heart and with all my strength. You have not lived in vain. Your life goes on in thousands. I am glad to be one.
I kissed him on his cold cheek and on his forehead. I love you, Daddy. Thank you.
It was 12:55 as I walked out of room 4326. Just before the elevators on the fourth floor in the lounge, a young man in his twenties was sitting alone listening to his iPod with headphones. I paused. Then I walked toward him. He stopped his music. Hello, my father just died. One of the greatest tributes I could pay to him is to ask you, Are you ready to meet God? “Yes, Sir.” That would make my father very happy. You know Jesus is the only way? “Yes, Sir.” Good. Thank you for letting me talk to you”.
In Acts 20, the Apostle Paul delivered his farewell speech to the elders of the Ephesian church. He was on his way to Jerusalem, bringing an offering from the Gentile churches for the needy in the Jerusalem church. Just as John Piper spoke words of comfort to his dieing father, Paul hoped to ease their physical burden of the Jerusalem Church, as well as to cement the spiritual bond between Jews and Gentiles in the church.
When I was called by the people of Everton Community Church to be their pastor a few weeks ago, it did not afford me the opportunity to say good-bye to many of you. I was asked back this morning to say farewell and share a message from God’s word. What more appropriate in a time of good bye than to get a perspective on transition from scripture.
What if you were to give a farewell today, what would you say? What would be your final words? To the church? To your family? To all people? Would you make a graceful exit? It’s very possible that your last words could be your most important.
In Paul’s farewell address in Acts 20, he spoke of the past, present and future
I. HIS PAST WORK (Acts 20:17-21)
Acts 20:17-21 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18]And when they came to him, he said to them: "You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews, how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. (ESV)