“Don’t Waste Your Life…Lose It!”

// September 8th, 2019 // Sermons

“I hope to persuade you… You can listen online or download it and listen later…Don’t Waste Your Life…Lose It!

…that it is better to lose your life than to waste it.”

Just a bit of context for Acts 20 – Paul had spent 3 years in Ephesus – teaching and building up the church – he mentions this in v. 31.  He was so successful in this ministry that according to Acts 19:10, “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.”

He left Ephesus and spent the winter in Corinth, and he is on his way to Jerusalem now, hurrying to get back by Pentecost.  But he wants one more contact with the leaders of the church of Ephesus.  So, when his boat anchors at Miletus some twenty miles south of Ephesus, he sends for the elders of the church.  In Acts 20:18-35 he gives them his last words.  It is a very encounter that ends like this – v. 37-38:

“They all cried as they embraced and kissed him good-bye.  They were sad most of all because he had said that they would never see him again. Then they escorted him down to the ship.”

If we knew that a certain encounter with people we loved, would be our last, what we say to them?  What would be my main emphasis to leave with them?

Essentially, it’s like we get to read Paul’s Last Will and Testament to a church where he seems to have worked longer than anywhere else.  So, what he has to say is very personal – his deepest convictions about what it means to follow Jesus.

When I read this passage, I have a desire to renounce everything and follow Jesus.  These radical words of Paul make me want to be utterly out of step with my contemporary society – stirring up the attitude, “I don’t care about the American Dream!”  Paul’s words make me want to be utterly abandoned to the cause of Christ in this world — no matter what!

Listen v. 24:  “But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.”

I don’t count my life of any value, or as precious to myself — except for one thing.  I have been given a race to run and ministry to perform – I have been called to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

There is a race, and I’m running it…it is my reason for living.  This is what my life means.  And so, I intend to finish the race, to complete that task God has given me – to fulfill the ministry.  So, wherever you are, don’t stop running for Jesus, don’t leave the race course God has laid out for you, don’t back track…because, if you do, your life is wasted.

Paul is saying, “It is better to be faithful and die than unfaithful and live.” His goal and our goal…is not to stay alive, but to stay on course.  He says this same thing again, from prison in Rome, in Phil. 3:8 – “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.”

No doubt Paul had read Ps. 63:3 – “Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you!”  There is a path of life that leads to the everlasting enjoyment of the steadfast love of God.  I suggest to you that it is better to lose your life than go off of that path.

So, what is it like to have the mind-set – “Better to lose your life than waste it”?  First,

  1. It is being compelled by the Spirit – v. 22, in the Message, reads – “But there is another urgency before me now. I feel compelled to go to Jerusalem. I’m completely in the dark about what will happen when I get there.”

A Christian who says, “It is better to lose my life than to waste it” and really means it for Jesus’s sake, such a person is constrained/compelled by the Spirit.

This is how we all got started on this race – we were dead in our sins!   How did we come to proclaim, “Jesus is Lord”?  In 1 Cor. 12:3, Paul wrote: “…no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.”  You and I would never have said, “Jesus is Lord” unless constrained by the Holy Spirit, we overcame all our fears and our rebellion.  When a Christian says, “It is better to lose my life than waste it”, it is the evidence that God’s Spirit is in you.

This is the mind-set of the Spirit, not the flesh.  When God’s Spirit has a hold of you, you have a new passion in life that is totally devoted to God’s ministry plan.  Secondly,

  1. It is being content without knowing the future – in the last part of v. 22 Paul wrote, “…not knowing what will happen to me there.”

A “life not wasted” looks at death and says, “You are no threat to me — it’s better to die than waste my life.”

Every course that God appoints for His children to run will face uncertain things called the future.  Every ministry opportunity faces places of unknown.  But, this is what faith is for.  “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going” – Heb. 11:8.  That’s what faith does.

Most people want to know every detail of the stuff in front of them – no surprises!  But, the reality is, “You don’t.  And you never will.”  But we can know – with confidence – that God will be with us and for us, in all of our tomorrows.  Third…

  1. It is the courage to keep running through suffering – v. 23 – “…the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead.”

Paul says there is one thing he does know about his future – he would suffer and face persecution.  Not just an uncertain or unseen future, his race would take him right through pain.

  • In Acts 14:22, Paul “encouraged the believers to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” There is one path to heaven, and God never promised it would be an easy road.
  • He told Timothy – “…everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”

For Paul, the Holy Spirit got more specific: “The Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.”  It’s not the same for all of us, but the course of the Christian life always leads through suffering.

So, to honestly say with Paul “It is better to lose my life than waste it,” means not only that you can be content with uncertainty about tomorrow, but you can also be content with the certainty that some of your tomorrows are going to hurt.  Therefore, “It is better to live life through suffering than to waste it.”  Then, #4…

  1. It is living my life for His glory! – v. 24 – But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.”

We don’t all have the same ministry, but we do all have the same essential goal:  to magnify the glory and the greatness of the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

This is the Christian racetrack – the twists and turns and the terrain are different, but the objective for running remains the same.

Listen to what Paul wrote in Eph. 1:5-6: “God predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace.”  That is our ultimate meaning of life — to live to make much of the glory of the grace of God. That is the un-wasted life!

Therefore, a wasted life is a life is one that runs off course or stops running altogether and thereby not living to magnify the glory of the grace of God.  It is better to lose your life than to waste it like that.

  1. Regardless of my age, it is choosing to obey Christ – in v. 22 Paul says, And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem.”

Can you hear the arguments of others?  “But Paul, you’re getting old. How about a little cottage on the Aegean Sea?  You’ve already done more in your ministry than most people could do in five lifetimes.  It’s time to rest.” 

“Why not spend the remaining years of your life in leisure, golfing, shuffleboard and such.  Don’t go to Jerusalem.  You’ve heard what Agabus the prophet said – they are going to bind your hands and feet and give you over to the Gentiles.  And, for sure, don’t go to Rome.  And get that trip to Spain, at your age, out of your head.  You could get yourself killed doing some of those things.  That is not “Living the Dream” of ‘the sunset years.’”

All through my ministry life, I have told my family and anyone that will listen, that I don’t believe in retirement…it is not in the Bible.  No doubt, things have to change…I already know that I can’t get as much done as I used to be able to do.  But, it is my hope and keen desire to die with my boots on!

As long as we are alive, there is a race to be run and a ministry to participate in.  You need to know that there is a life to be wasted, but it is better to lose your life than to waste it.

And now for the logic of this whole discussion – It is better to lose your life than to waste it because, when you lose it, you actually gain it.  You don’t end up with less, you end with more – God gives you a crown to acknowledge your faithfulness to Him.

In v. 24, Paul speaks of finishing his course – “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course.” Paul used that same language in 2 Tim. 4:7-8 – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.  And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.”

Everybody who finishes the un-wasted life, regardless of your age, wins the crown!  This crown of righteousness will be put on your head by the King of kings allowing you the amazing privilege of sharing his righteousness, His rule/reign, His glory!

At that point, I can just imagine looking back and saying, “I’m so glad I didn’t I lost my life for Christ, instead of wasting it for myself!”

I can’t tell you what to do with your life…but I can say, look at Paul’s example.  Or, look at Caleb when the Israelites were claiming the Promised Land.  Or, look at Abraham, living like an alien in the land God gave him and raising a son at the age of 100.  And, what about Simeon who dedicated the baby Jesus, Anna who prayed, fasted and worshiped God they were both “advanced in years” and were still actively serving in the Temple.  And the list could go on and on….

My challenge – Don’t waste your life…lose it!

Let’s pray…

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