Messages from Pastor Raddatz

May 8, 2022, Mount Olive Lutheran Church Houston TX, Other texts: Rev. 7:9-17 & John 10:22-30

FINISHING WELL: endurance through service to the Lord, Acts 20:17-35

Acts 20:24, “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”. ESV

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Dear People of God,

            You have probably heard that it is not important how you start but how you finish!  This is true when you think of a person’s life: born as a baby, learning how to walk and talk, dealing with other people (families, playgrounds, classrooms and work…), providing for those you love, and finally death.  Our life is defined by our life’s work.  This is where we find the follower of Jesus names Paul.   In our reading for today, Paul is giving his farewell message.


     If Paul were to be defined by people of the Jewish faith we would probably hear the following: Philippians 3:4-9, 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 

Hear what Paul says about his change from persecutor to believer: Philippians 3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith…

            You have probably experienced the cruelty of not being chosen!

Bob Goff writes, Every year when I was in school, we were required to go to “athletics,” better known as gym class. I always hated it because there was a possibility we’d play kickball or dodgeball or pretty much anything that required a ball. This meant there would be team captains to pick players. It is a time-honored tradition that picking teams in gym class starts with the best and goes to the worst. I often hoped God would make the bell ring forty-eight minutes early because

I knew what was about to happen again. I wouldn’t get picked. I was huge. I almost blocked the sun. This was good. But I was clumsy, which was bad. It was a terrible system, leaving me and all the other uncoordinated guys stranded on the sidelines looking at each other in our gym shorts and T-shirts. It was clear who was cool and got picked and who wasn’t. I’m so glad God doesn’t chose who will be with Him the way the guys in gym class picked who would be on their team.  Bob Goff, Live in Grace, Walk in Love, Thomas Nelson, 2019, p.64.

            Anyone can analyze our life, but it is only their perspective.  They may be true or false.  What is most important is how God defines you.  Listen how God defined Paul.


            God talked about Paul, it was in Acts 9:15, he described Paul as “his chosen instrument”.  Paul became the missionary to the non-Jews or the Gentiles.  

            You too are God’s chosen instrument.  You did not choose God, but God chose you, John 15:16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” ESV

            Most of the New Testament was written by Paul.  He wrote 13 letters to churches.  He wrote over 25% of the New Testament.  This is the most by any one person.

            Yes we have broken God’s desires for our life, but he still desires to use us.   This can carry you, like a wave, the rest of your life.  


            Sometimes God gives an individual a personal insight:  

When he was a young boy, twelfth-century church leader Bernard of Clairvaux fell asleep outside a church while waiting to go in for a Christmas Eve service. In his sleep he had a dream, a kind of vision, in which he saw very clearly and distinctly how the Son of God, having espoused human nature, became a little child in his mother’s womb. In that act he came to see how God’s heavenly majesty was mingled with sweet humility.

This vision so filled young Bernard’s heart with comfort and jubilation that throughout his life he kept a vivid memory of it. What was it that filled his heart with joy? It was nothing other than the fact that God chose to be with us: Immanuel. Out of love Jesus was conceived, and out of love he chose to die. There is something in us that God finds lovable. It is certainly not our sanctity, nor is it our fidelity. When I look at my own baseness, my incredible ability to sin at a moment’s notice, I wonder what God sees in me.  James Bryan Smith, Embracing the Love of God: The Path and Promise of Christian Life, HarperCollins, 2010.

                Paul’s farewell address concludes with the following admonitions: 

  1. Follow the whole counsel of God, follow his law and his Gospel, see v. 27.
  2. Be aware of false teachers, know why you believe what you believe, see v. 29.
  3. God’s grace will build you up, his Word will strengthen you to serve, see v. 32.

God will finish what he has started in you.  He will bring to completion the faith he has begun in you.

May this peace which passes all human understanding, keep your heart and your mind in this one true faith, till life everlasting, Amen.

Your Fellow Servant,

Pastor John Raddatz


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