When you think of the Apostle Paul, you have several pictures and ideas to choose from. He was a major author of our New Testament, a mentor to churches and spiritual leaders, an encourager and teacher. He was a multi-faceted man of God, working to build God’s kingdom with each passing day.
But what I like about him most is his obedience.
Obedience. That isn’t a word our current society is very fond of. We like to have our own individual opinions, forming our own moral codes and causes. We are led by our own individual perspectives to make serious life choices, and often try to make others fall in line with these opinions. We have become manipulative and bossy. We have mutinied from our authority.
Do you ever think about how hard it is to follow Christ? Not only do we have to have faith in what we can’t see, but we must also obey the Word of God. Some of us give up relationships, pleasures, even beliefs, just to follow Christ. And now and again, if you’re honest with yourself, you’ve come to wonder how valuable it really is to follow Christ. Is it really impacting your life? Are you actually gaining anything from this experience?
Truthfully, following Christ isn’t easy. It’s a difficult decision that starts with a simple “yes.” It often feels like you’re stuck on a indoor race track, running lap upon lap just to achieve the same distance you would on a scenic run through a park. It can be exhausting.
Paul knew this. He knew this more than any of us. He suffered for Christ. He suffered for years and years, moving from prison to prison, captivity to captivity. He was beaten for sharing the Gospel in the streets. He was exiled and survived a shipwreck. If anyone experienced tragedy and turmoil from following Christ, it was certainly Paul.
But the funny thing is, he never stopped running.
From the day God blinded him, Paul set off in the direction of Christ. He didn’t turn back. He didn’t whine about it. He didn’t complain to God about his losses.
Paul remained obedient to the Holy Spirit.
“So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues saying, ‘He is indeed the Son of God.’” -Acts 9:17-18,20 NLT
There’s a reason you have been selected for your specific journey. It’s not always easy. It hasn’t been for me, and it certainly wasn’t for Paul. Yet, he stayed obedient no matter the cost. He knew the race set before him would take endurance. He knew his eternal reward is far greater than any comfort and splendors he would have received if he had chosen to quit. He knew his earthly freedom was nothing compared to his spiritual and eternal freedom. He counted his blessings in life, no matter how many of how few, and followed Christ’s example.
Where does this leave you? You have a very difficult decision to make that starts with a simple “yes.” Will you follow Christ with your faith and obedience?