What is with this man Paul? What makes him tick?

14 11 2013

            His life is an extraordinary life.  He started out as a zealous young Pharisee and was well on his way up the ladder of success.  Everyone knew that he would be the “Most Likely to Succeed” when the Sanhedrin met.

            But a sudden and radical change occurred in his life as he was on a mission to Damascus.  Later many times he described it as a meeting with “Jesus”!  He was never to be the same again.  The same people who looked up to him and thought of him as a brilliant up and coming leader opposed him and set about to kill him.

            The Book of Acts in the New Testament from chapter 13 gives the story of his life and adventure.  Our lives are never the same when we read this account slowly and deliberately.

            Then we read a summary of his life as he lays it out in 2 Corinthians 11: 21-27.  It reads in The New International Readers Version,

 21  … What anyone else dares to brag about, I also dare to brag about. I’m speaking like a fool! 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Do they belong to the people of Israel? So do I. Are they Abraham’s children? So am I. 23 Are they serving Christ? I am serving him even more. I’m out of my mind to talk like this!

I have worked much harder. I have been in prison more often. I have suffered terrible beatings. Again and again I almost died. 24 Five times the Jews gave me 39 strokes with a whip. 25 Three times I was beaten with sticks. Once they tried to kill me by throwing stones at me. Three times I was shipwrecked. I spent a night and a day in the open sea.

26 I have had to keep on the move. I have been in danger from rivers. I have been in danger from robbers. I have been in danger from people from my own country. I have been in danger from those who aren’t Jews. I have been in danger in the city, in the country, and at sea. I have been in danger from people who pretended they were believers.

27 I have worked very hard. Often I have gone without sleep. I have been hungry and thirsty. Often I have gone without food. I have been cold and naked.

            So what was this man all about?  How could he when he was all beaten up and sore sitting in a Philippian jail be singing at midnight and then later writing to these same people in a letter written from another prison say to them, “Rejoice”?

            Could it be that he was motivated by what he knew was ahead of him? Let’s see what he says in 2 Corinthians 4: 16-18,

16 We don’t give up. Our bodies are becoming weaker and weaker. But our spirits are being renewed day by day. 17 Our troubles are small. They last only for a short time. But they are earning for us a glory that will last forever. It is greater than all our troubles.

18 So we don’t spend all our time looking at what we can see. Instead, we look at what we can’t see. What can be seen lasts only a short time. But what can’t be seen will last forever.

            What can we learn from Paul’s life for our lives today?


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