What a man!
He was the New Testament version of Old Testament David in so many ways. Paul was a Jew, a Pharisee of the highest order, completely devoted to Judaism. In his early life, no one hated Christianity or Christians more than Paul. In fact, his life’s mission was to destroy Christianity and to kill Christians, KILL THEM! He hated Christ, even though he had never met him.
But then, miraculously, Paul met Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World in a way which perhaps no other man had before him. Paul was on his way to Syria from Jerusalem, traveling the Damascus Road on his mission to hunt and kill Christians, when a searing light confronted and blinded him, and a voice like one he had never heard before confronted him saying:
SAUL, SAUL (PAUL), WHY DO YOU PERSECUTE ME? WHY?
Paul, totally traumatized, managed to mumble:
WHO ARE YOU LORD, WHO ARE YOU?
I am, the answer came, the one you seek to persecute said Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of Glory. Paul, the killer, the hater, the destroyer instantly became not just a follower of Jesus Christ, but perhaps one of the most devoted followers CHOSEN, CALLED, COMMISSIONED for a Christian calling and commission like no other. From that point forward, the Christian killer let the whole world know that:
FOR ME TO LIVE IS CHRIST!
You and I have never had a DAMASCUS ROAD CONVERSION but our very own conversion, confrontation with the Christ of Glory can be every bit as meaningful and life-changing. I pray your life has been changed by Him and that you serve him as:
YOU ARE CALLED!
Paul served his Lord every day of his new life from that day forward. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul authored almost one-half of the New Testament. His writings explain, give meaning to, challenge, and inspire like no other writings before or since. His life’s motto, theme, and purpose was: 2
FOR ME TO LIVE IS CHRIST AND TO DIE IS GAIN.
At the last, he went to Rome, spent his last days in a dark, dank, freezing, Roman prison, where he announced to his adopted son Timothy:
THE TIME HAS COME FOR MY DEPARTURE.
Then came five words which perhaps were the epitaph for his life and that of which he was most proud:
I HAVE KEPT THE FAITH!
I have, he told us:
FOUGHT THE FIGHT OF FAITH.
I have run the Christian race and I have won with the help of my Lord. I HAVE FINISHED THE RACE.
Paul sat deserted in that brutal Roman prison, with no one to befriend or defend him and he told his adopted son Timothy:
EVERYONE DESERTED ME.
But then, overwhelmed by Christian love, he wrote the following:
BUT THE LORD (THE LORD) STOOD AT MY SIDE AND GAVE ME STRENGTH.
The more we give of our lives, the more persecution, the more rejection, criticism, ridicule, and abandonment by others. Nothing but nothing, and no one would ever get Paul to forsake his faith for he proudly stated over and again:
I HAVE KEPT THE FAITH.
At his first defense in a Roman court, Paul told Timothy that:
NO ONE CAME TO MY SUPPORT. EVERYONE DESSERTED ME.
And perhaps the same with you and me. The firmer we stand for the Lord, perhaps the less likely others would come to our support. It is then, especially then, when we should remember, count on, and know for sure that, like Paul:
THE LORD WILL STAND BY OUR SIDE AND GIVE US STRENGTH!
Paul knew that to die was gain and he longed to see and be with his Lord. And that time came. For the second time, this man would hear the voice of his Lord, just like he heard that voice years ago on the Damascus Road. Paul was brutalized, slaughtered, and: 3
because he was a believer from head to toe. Paul was a man of total faith, never doubting, living a life with sure hope, knowing himself and writing to us that as great as faith and hope were, there was nothing like nor could anything equal:
THE ULTIMATE LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST.
He went then, and he lives now with Him in that eternal, ultimate, never-ending LOVE of Jesus Christ.
What a man, what a mission, what a marvelous ending, what a loving ministry. You and I have our own, and that love experienced by Paul is available to us. That calling, that constant companionship of our Lord is available to us every bit as much as it was to Paul. I pray you know Him, that you know His forgiveness, and then perhaps most importantly, like Paul, because of your faith and hope, you know the ultimate:
LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST!