I want to administer a test to you today. You may take all the time you want: in fact, the more time you take the better. It’s an open Book test, and you can look up anything you want. You are on the honor system, and I’ll even let you evaluate yourself!
You can ask for answers from others, although it won’t do you much good. In fact, that reminds me of a Woody Allen joke: “When I was in school, I cheated on my metaphysics exam: I looked into the soul of the boy sitting next to me.”
Here’s the test: examine with me the way in which Paul lived among the Ephesians and judge your relationships by what he reports. Here we go!
“You know,” he writes, “from the first day I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you.” And here is that manner. Take time to meditate on each of these 10 ways in which Paul came to the Ephesians. I find it helpful to remember that each of these is an aspect of love. For the more imaginative, maybe you’ll follow me in seeing these as the 10 fingers God has given me to love Him by loving my neighbors.
1. “serving the Lord with all humility”
At the center of Paul’s ministry was a keen understanding that he was serving his Lord, Jesus Christ. Paul, the greatest apostle, was at heart a servant.
To what degree is your life characterized by serving the Lord as His servant?
2. “with many tears and trials which happened to me”
As a servant, Paul was willing to do anything His Lord asked. Read 2 Corinthians 11:22-29 to see a sampling of Paul’s tears and trials that he suffered for those he loved.
How willing have you been to suffer whatever is necessary to serve those God has brought into your life?
3. “I kept back nothing that was helpful”
Paul spent all that the Lord had given him, for he had learned that it was indeed more blessed to give than to receive. Whatever the Lord gave him, he gave to the Ephesians or brothers or sisters he was with.
What treasures of God have you been hoarding and refusing to spend? Remember that the Lord’s treasure is only valuable if it’s used for His glory and given away.
4. “taught you publicly from house to house . . . repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” “I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God”
Paul was tireless in his preaching the gospel in and out of season, to Jews and Gentiles. You also have been made a steward of the mysteries of God. You are obligated to share Jesus Christ with those in your life, even if you are neither an apostle nor a missionary.
How faithfully and persistently have you shared Jesus Christ with those in your life – especially your own family? The most important sharing of Jesus Christ you can do is with your own family. How persistently and daily have your arranged your lives so that they center around Jesus Christ?
Every day Paul placed before his eyes the goal, the prize, of Jesus Christ Himself. And therefore even in this life he was always victorious when he was seeking Jesus Himself. Jesus Christ Himself, the author and perfecter of your faithendured the cross and despised the shame for the joy set before Him.
How visible and real are Jesus Christ and His Kingdom in your life?
6. “I am innocent of the blood of all men”
Paul spent his life, to the point of death, in serving others. His conscience was clear because he knew he had left nothing undone that His Lord had told him to do.
How many things that you know your Lord has commanded have you left undone – especially those that relate to bringing Jesus Christ into the lives of others (and, again, especially your own family)?
7. “for three years I did not cease to warn everyone day and night with tears”
Paul cared enough about those he loved to correct them and rebuke them when necessary. He warned those he loved not only of the flames of Hell but also about the need to be alert and attentive to Jesus Christ every day in all of the ways He comes.
How faithfully have you taken heed to your own soul, that you might take heed to the souls of others?
8. “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel”
Paul did not serve for any selfish reasons. He cared not for prestige or power or wealth, except to share in the treasure that is Jesus Christ.
How much of your desire to serve is to serve your self in some way or so that you may profit from it?
9. “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this [providing for himself with his own hands], that you must support the weak”
Paul carried his own burden, so that others didn’t have an extra burden to carry. More than this, he worked so that he could support those weaker than himself.
What do you do with the great riches God has given you? Do you spend it all on yourself, or do you use it for the good of others, especially those who are materially or spiritually poor?
10. “he knelt down and prayed for them”
Almost every one of Paul’s letters begins with a mention of his prayers for those he loved.
How dedicated are you to praying for those God has put in your life?
Prayer: Father, shed Your light upon me through Your Son and by Your Spirit that I may perfectly keep Your commandment to love. Give me Your love that I may give it to others by serving You with all humility. May I keep back nothing that is helpful to others, be innocent of the blood of all men, and covet no man’s gold or silver. May I faithfully declare to others the whole counsel of God and spend myself on behalf of others, even through the tears and trials that will happen to me; may I kneel down and pray for those You have entrusted to me. All which I pray that I may finish the race You have set before me with joy.
Point for Meditation: Take one of these 10 points and meditate on it more fully.
Resolution: I resolve to ask the Lord to show me how I can more lovingly serve Him in one of these ways and to practice it the very next occasion He provides.
© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson