But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace (Acts 20:24).
I’ve heard it said that one can become a legend by doing the same thing for thirty years and doing it better than anyone else. I don’t know about that. There are likely to be qualifications to this pathway to legendary status like people really wanting and needing what one would do to get there.
There are faster but harder ways to achieve memorable glory. In sixteen degree cold (before wind chill) this week, I spent a day with two friends and a guide on the battlefield at Gettysburg, PA. Legends were made there in a matter of minutes 150 years ago simply because the deeds were so heroic and the stakes were so high.
What the Apostle Paul did was more than legendary. His faithful ministry was used by God to forever alter the history and culture of the world. His letters have conveyed the life of Christ to countless humans over the centuries explaining how the very life and righteousness of God is accessed by faith in his Son. They continue to speak this truth.
By his own account, Paul lacked eloquence, and was weak and fearful (1 Cor 1:17; 2:3-4). Bringing the Gospel to the pagan Mediterranean world was tough. Paul’s life was in constant danger. He was starved, beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, anxious about the fragile little churches he’d started, misunderstood, and severely criticized (2 Cor 11:23-29).
As he began his last journey back to Jerusalem and then on to Rome, the Holy Spirit revealed to him that more persecutions and imprisonment faced him (Acts 20:23).
“So what?” Paul asked. “What happens to me is of no consequence if the good news of God’s grace gets through to people through me.”
The definition of “passion”– is to give one’s self over body and soul to the all-consuming love or hate of someone or something. Paul was a passionate man. The love of Christ compelled him in everything that he said or did ( 2 Cor 5:14).
Paul knew that the value of his life, its only value, was its usefulness to God. He was effective because he was authentic in claiming everything for Christ and nothing for himself.
“I do not count my life of any value to myself” sounds more than passionate — it sounds obsessed, extreme even. More than once, Paul was considered quite mad for his single-minded effort to proclaim the Gospel and gain its acceptance throughout the Roman Empire. In the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul said, “the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love” (Gal 5:6).
Paul was no extremist or terrorist. He was more dangerous than that. Extremists and terrorists are obsessed with changing the established order. Paul couldn’t care less about the established order. It had its place and utility and he respected that (Cf Rom 13). But a follower of Christ was called to a much higher obligation. “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves one another has fulfilled the law” (Rom 13:8).
Such sentiments are crazy-making to the powers that be who depend on obligation to maintain their power and if that obligation doesn’t work, they resort to force. Someone who rejects both obligation and violence exposes their limitations and vulnerabilities. Do you aspire to power or do you aspire to love? Where do you find value in your life?
It’s possible to talk or write this subject to death, but it’s really simple. Turn over everything we have to Christ including our lives and do whatever he tells us to do. We can claim nothing for ourselves. The Cross is an addition sign because it puts Christ in the proper place. Paul had the right idea, the sane idea. Everything else is what’s crazy.
“O taste and see that the Lord is good. Happy are those who take refuge in him” (Ps 34:8).
Under the mercy of Christ,
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