It was a touching scene, one of those never-to-be-forgotten moments. In future years, by warm firesides, men would tell their children and grandchildren the story. Tears stained many faces and heartache was endemic to all. Paul was about to leave them. He had called for them from Miletus and they had come: men from every walk of life who all had one common burden – the welfare of God’s assembly.
Paul would conclude by commending them to the ultimate resources still available to us in 21st century times: “I commend you to God and to the Word of His grace” (Acts 20:32). But Paul did have one additional thing to give them as a bulwark in days to come. As he looked back to the two years he had spent with them, and as he scanned the horizon of coming events, he had one vital truth to impart. He was able to give them the example of his motives, movements, and ministry. Amidst these high standards, Paul spoke of how he had “been with you at all seasons” (v18). Paul had passed through all the seasons of assembly life with those at Ephesus. Just as the circling globe knows seasons of the year, so an assembly can pass through its own “seasons” of life.
Most assemblies have known the spring season with its restoration, recovery, and promise of things to come. A few saved and added, some restored, unity enhanced – all these contribute to the springtime of assembly hopes. It is wonderful to be there and enjoy the clear, fresh atmosphere of spring air as it fills the assembly.
Summer comes naturally, with its own unique conditions. For some, the experience of the Psalmist is theirs: “My moisture is turned into the drought of summer” (Psa 32:4), as patience begins to wane, waiting for seed sown in the spring to bear fruit. Some find the summer seasons of assembly life the time to relax from the efforts that marked the spring with all its hopes. The labor is left to a few while many, losing heart, cease from labor.
Fall follows, inevitably, with harvest for some. Like the foliage that adorns the mountains and fields, the beauty of some who have come through spring and summer with ripened fruit of character shines and is visible for all to see. Christlikeness adorns wherever it is found. Every assembly which has such fruit-laden believers is blessed.
But then comes winter: cold, discouraging, lowering skies, and oppressive winds. Only those who are not sluggards will plough in winter (Prov 20:4), to prepare for the coming spring. Like the virtuous woman, wise leaders will prepare garments to clothe the assembly from the snow (Prov 31:21). Some will find winter unbearable and seek other, more temperate, fields. The winter of assembly experience can be harsh on assembly life.
Am I, are you, a man or woman for all seasons of assembly life? Perhaps your assembly is passing through a winter. But to those who plough in winter, there is the promise of a harvest at the right season (Prov 20:4). Be a believer for all seasons!