True story—there was a man who:
Traveled constantly and had no home of his own.
Experienced racial abuse and prejudice.
Was betrayed by co-laborers.
Was sleep deprived.
Was hungry and thirsty, often and for long periods of time.
Lacked proper clothing and shelter.
Went to prison more times than he could count.
Was beaten repeatedly for his faith, sometimes legitimately fearing for his life.
Was whipped with a cat o’ nine tails five times.
Was beaten with rods three times.
Was once stoned and left for dead.
Was shipwrecked three times, once spending a day and a night in the sea.
Carried the emotional and spiritual burden for thousands of church members and worked harder than anyone else.
Before he accepted Christ as his Savior and surrendered to the ministry, the apostle Paul had been on the fast track to a lucrative and prestigious career. He traded it for a life that included the experiences I’ve listed above.
When I read about the ways the apostle Paul suffered for his faith in 2 Corinthians 11, I am overwhelmed. If I were Paul, I suspect I’d be whining. Often and loudly.
My dirge would sound like this:
God, life was pretty good before you intervened. Since the day I accepted you as Savior, I’ve had nothing but trouble. People don’t like me. Even my friends don’t understand me. I do what’s right and get in trouble. I don’t have a lot of the stuff others have, and sometimes I even do without basic comforts. I thought having you in my life meant everything would be sunshine and roses. Instead, everywhere I turn, life’s hard. If this is the faith life, I’m not real impressed.
Instead, listen to what Paul wrote from a Roman prison:
“Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
“. . . this grace was given me: to preach.”
Paul didn’t see his calling as a burden or a sacrifice; he saw it as a joy. A grace. An awesome privilege.
And instead of seeing himself as a prize God was lucky to get, listen to how he described himself:
“less than the least of all God’s people.”
Paul understood that the greatest thing in the world is to be saved. And the next greatest thing is to be used in God’s service. No matter what it costs us in this life.
Sometimes I’m guilty of forgetting just how lost I really was, but Paul never lost sight of this. Listen to how he describes himself:
“For I am the least of the apostles, and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God,” (1 Cor. 15:9).
Paul never got over how lost he was when God saved him
Sometimes I do.
I forget the fear, guilt, confusion, emptiness, and hopelessness of a Christless life.
I forget how far away from God I was and how far he had to reach to save me.
I forget that I was destined for a Godless eternity in a place called Hell. And I forget the bloody, torturous death Christ suffered in my place.
And I whine that God isn’t serving me well. That life’s too hard. That the promise of future rewards doesn’t compensate for present pain.
And my foolish heart becomes ungrateful.
Until I read Paul’s words, and I remember, as John Piper writes in Taste and See, how it is to feel “that you are justly damned and hopelessly lost and cut off from God and life and joy. Then to learn that God has made a way. That he will forgive you. That he will accept you and love you and work all things for your good. That all your sins can be forgiven and cast into the deepest sea and never brought up against you anymore. Oh, the preciousness of being saved . . . !”
Yes, indeed. The preciousness of being saved.
How about you? Is it easy to forget what life was life before Christ? How do you keep the joy of your salvation fresh? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
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