It is interesting because when I was growing up my dad was always quoting the Apostle Paul. I enjoyed much of the conversations but I guess it has taken me to this late date to unfold and discover what my Dad was so crazy about. I have been doing some heavy research on this Apostle in my work here at Bethel University and I am a major fan at this point. Not so much that I worship a human but I do worship the amazing God that used Paul in such a profound way. It never occurred to me that God – the great Author of the Word – used such foreshadowing in introducing this Apostle - not only to the original audience but to us today. It is in the story of the first Christian martyr that Paul enters the narrative (Acts 7:58). Basically Paul holds the coats of one of the murderers that take out Stephen. OK – he enters as a bad guy!
His powerful conversion follows as he was on the way to arrest and kill more early Christians (Acts 8). What?!! His redemptive story is out of this world. But what is most amazing is not Paul’s early zeal for Judaism but his love for Jesus and how it inspires the great call we all have on our lives. As we live so opposite at times from sacrificial love for Christ – Paul goes all out. He was imprisoned, shipwrecked, and beaten more times than you can count as you read through the early church stories. But this is the point Jesus brought me to in my studies. It has made me unglued. You see, if it weren’t for Paul’s letters especially to the early churches we wouldn’t understand some very dynamic things. Paul is the one who basically lays out God’s call to the church and His pursuit of the human heart. Paul exemplifies the measures we as Christians should go to draw people to Jesus, and he models it well. Risking everything was a daily desire of Paul’s. As an example his first missionary trip to Europe and one of the reasons my gentile ancestors heard of Jesus in Finland years ago was inspired by a VISION. Yes, he saw a vision, packed his bags and walked 600 miles to the Roman territory of Philippi. His entourage entered the scene in Europe and it has never been the same – straight fire! (Acts 16)
Paul is the person who explains in depth that Christ is in us! Without that knowledge where would we be as a church? God used Paul possibly more than any other person in that day, and even to this day. Paul’s zeal for Jesus screams from scripture and his call for us to be humble and united in prayer is so relevant today it keeps me up at night. But here is the thing – because God drew Luke’s hand to transcribe Paul’s story – there is not a person alive that wouldn’t want to receive his wisdom. It is like getting golf lessons from Tiger Woods. If we want to learn about Jesus heart for us, and our identity in Christ after the cross - Paul has earned our attention! He so beautifully exemplifies a person who does first what he asks others to do! I am in love with this guy and I understand now why my dad told me he wanted to visit him after Jesus. Our family has joked a few times that we wonder if my Dad has allowed Paul a respite yet? I am now reading a book titled Paul: A Novel that my dad gave me the year he passed away. In this book the author Walter Wangerin Jr. (2000) calls Paul “the hinge to history”. Whoa! Blows my mind!
Paul’s life teaches us that we can’t minimize the powerful life Jesus has planned for us. Each of us has a divine purpose far beyond most of our daily thoughts. Who we are going to marry - where we should take our first job? Let's hold out for a vision or command from our KING. And then obey! Above all else - let's seek Jesus way before our own! In this American culture it is difficult to get past our common worship of the god named SELF and lay down and pursue the God in us! I am inspired today!
What if we saw the importance of foreshadowing in our lives. What is God showing others about us possibly before we even meet them? What is our story with God speaking out to others? Who are we on social media/ or in our daily lives when no one is watching? What if we realized that the impact we have in others lives might directly correlate with the intensity of our own walk with Jesus. Paul's life inspires me to be someone of substance for Jesus. Someone who at least tries to walk the talk I am giving! I am chewing on some deep stuff today!
Paul’s past was used to draw the Jews to Christ and his walk after the cross inspires us today. Both Jew and Gentile can learn from Paul’s life in life changing ways. Just a person, yes, but for now - one of my favorites. He is on my short list now for a coffee date in Heaven – along with Joash, Gideon, Rahab, Luke, and Mary. Please tell me who is on your short list?