I think the most inspiring man in Jesus’ time was Paul. He understood the love that Jesus pours out to us. In 2 Timothy 4:16-18, he gives a quick recap of his life. Because he welcomed Jesus into his life on the road to Damascus, see Acts 9:1-22, he faced many ups and downs throughout his life with Jesus always by his side.
He states in 2 Timothy that he was brought before judges. He started out hating anything and anyone that had to do with God until God called him to a different way of living. Paul immediately set foot in a new direction with a new mindset. This caused a lot of upheaval. So much so, that he was beaten and put in prison many times for speaking Truth. I read that in his lifetime he was imprisoned a total of 5-7 years. Look up times when he was imprisoned and take note how he handled it.
He continues with how he was abandoned. Yet, he never counted it against those who didn’t stick around. He forgave them. He understood Jesus’ love. How others treated him, good or bad, did not alter how he lived his life. His life belonged to Christ and his obedience to Jesus remained his focus. He did not let his flesh dictate his thoughts and actions. In Philippians 4:11-13, Paul states, “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.”
Paul learned from God. He states how “the Lord stood with me and gave me strength” in verse 17. When he was Saul, he lived his own way. He didn’t like believers. Then God called him and truth set him free. From that time on, God has never left his side. Jesus not only remained with Paul but He became his very life. When the Holy Spirit enters a believer’s heart, one has all the attributes of God at his disposal. Paul became like Christ. He loved others the same way that he was loved; unconditionally.
When God called Saul, He gave him a new name. Paul had a new identity and a new mission in life. He took his assignment seriously. Everywhere He went he preached the Good News in its entirety. Many came to believe in Jesus not only because of what Paul spoke of but of how he lived his life. His talk matched his walk. How about you? Many speak the God talk but walk in worldly ways. Look at 1 Corinthians 10:21 and Luke 11:23.
Paul faced death many times yet God rescued him. Paul understood who was in control. Until God called him home, he remained secure in who he had become in Christ and he spoke of the lover of his soul to everyone who would listen. He did not squander time. He developed a confident faith in God. He knew that God would deliver him from evil and He will lead him home to heaven in due time. Until then, he gave glory to God in all things. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
God wants us to learn from Paul. We know this for he wrote 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament. He walked closely with Jesus which means God spoke to him readily. Saul lived by sight. Paul learned to live by faith. 2 Corinthians 5:7 says, “For we live by believing and not by seeing.” We will have unity with God when we walk closely with Him. He will reveal Himself so you will know that He is speaking to you.
Paul understood that the best is yet to come. One’s best life is found in the presence of Christ. Our home is where Christ is. Earth is like boot camp. God calls us into service. We elect to join or not. God gives man free will to choose; saying no forfeits heaven. We are locked into the bondages of sin from this world. Jesus broke the chains that bind us and He frees us to now be with Him forever. Paul chose to be set free.
Think about it, Saul hated and despised God! God calls him. What for? Because He saw his potential. He loved Saul. He loves you. God’s heart has not changed for man since the beginning of time. He sees you. He sees me. He sees potential and He wants to use us for His glory. God has plans for each of us which will impact this world. The closer we follow Him, the greater our impact will be.
We see how Saul immediately turned and followed; whole-heartedly. There was no haphazard way about it. Paul went all in. God’s love requires that. All in or nothing. When we sign up for His boot camp, we become invested. Here is the beauty of this, a military boot camp is rigid, structured and controlled. Jesus’ boot camp is structured but there is freedom to be who you were intended to be. There are boundaries but they are set in grace, mercy and love. God has his best interest out for us. Our hearts were made to be in His army while on Earth. We need to be retrained and refocused because of sin and evil in this world. We need to be set apart, swim upstream and fish for others to join in.
God’s love is about relationships. It began in heaven with the Trinity then God shared His Son with man. It wasn’t in the most desirable way, I might add. But because of His resurrection, we can have a relationship with God. This is the benchmark for all relationships in life. You cannot love others well if you aren’t willing to go deep with Christ first. Your own depth or capability will be your gauge to how you love others. With Christ, you can love infinitely. Focusing on Christ causes a ripple effect; marriages have harmony, families flourish and lives are intact and have meaning. There would be heaven on earth!
Have a blessed Thanksgiving! Let’s be like Paul as we celebrate the holidays. There will NOT be a Bible Study blog on Thursday.