Here is what Jesus Christ told Ananias, things which I’m sure He also told St. Paul: “He is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:15-16).
Was it worth it?
Here is Paul’s abbreviated list of what he had to endure for Christ: “imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?” (2 Corinthians 11:23-29).
Was it worth it to Paul? I think we would all say yes, knowing what fruit Paul yielded for the Kingdom of Christ. He preached and established churches in most of the places he visited: Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, Antioch Pisidia, Perga, Attalia, Paphos, Salamis, Troas, Apollonia, Neapolis, Philippi, Amphipolis, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Miletus, Ephesus, Assos, Mitylene, Rhodes, Patara, Myra, and Cnidus. He strengthened the churches, encouraged them by visiting them, prayed for them, and ordained others to guard and keep them. He wrote letters to the churches at Rome, Corinth (3 letters, although one is lost), Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossi, and Thessalonica, as well as to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. These inspired letters make up half of the New Testament.
I think we could agree it was more than worth it!
But do you think it seemed like it was worth it to Paul at the time? Maybe. If so, only because of his great faith in what Jesus had promised to him.
So now we have come to the end of Paul’s story, and what do we hear? What is the end of this incredible, grace-drenched story? This: “Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.” Even at the end of his life, a life that was submitted to Christ in all things, Jesus Christ used him as His chosen vessel to be His minister on earth.But what about you? St. Paul ran the race set before him, and he ran it well. He ran it to win, and win he did by losing himself so utterly to Jesus that in his weakness he was made strong by Christ.
One thing’s for sure: you won’t be another St. Paul – and neither will I. God hasn’t called you to be St. Paul: that was a unique gift given to him. But He has called you to minister in His kingdom. Who might you be and become if you truly answered the call of the Lord. When He calls to you, whether generally or specifically, do you answer, “Here I am Lord!”
How many more years do you plan on living? Who do you think the Lord could make you if you completely surrendered your life to Him the remainder of it? It doesn’t matter if you think your life is almost over and have only a few years left. What will you do with them?
The answer to that should be this question: “What is Jesus calling you to do?”
Paul once wrote about himself: “Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, through the will of God” (1 Corinthians 1:1).
We’ve talked a lot in Acts about the stories that God is telling. We’ve heard the story of Stephen, and the story of Israel as he told it. We’ve especially heard the stories of Paul and of a young Church that was trying to live a Spirit-filled life that pleased her Master.
What will you write about yourself? To what has Jesus Christ called you, and to what is He even now calling you? I don’t presume to know what that is in particular, but I do know what it is that Jesus has called each of His disciples to: He’s called us to take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow Him. And He’s called us to invest our lives in Him that we might have life, and have it more abundantly.
Prayer: O Lord, my God, fountain of all true and holy love; who hast made me, and preserved me, that I might love Thee; give to Thy servant such a love, that whatsoever in Thy service may happen contrary to flesh and blood, I may not feel it; that humility may be my sanctuary, and Thy service the joy of my soul, and death itself the entrance of an eternal life, when I may live with Thee, my Strength and my Refuge, my God and everlasting Hope. Amen. (Jeremy Taylor)
Point for Meditation:
1. Consider your story so far. How would you like for it to end?
2. To what do you know that God has called you? How faithfully are you doing His will? What is keeping you from it? Who or what might the Spirit use to encourage you?
Resolution: I resolve to spend some time today considering my life and God’s call on it.
© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson