Paul’s Pain

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It is hard to put into words the appreciation Christians have for the apostle Paul. Few people had the impact Paul still has, almost 2000 years after is death. He describes the zeal that drove him as a person, first as a Pharisee and then as an apostle of the Lord.

And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. Galatians 1:14

What an extraordinary man Paul was! Trained as a Pharisee at the best school of the day, he was sent as an apostle to the Gentiles — people he previously despised as a Jew. Born as Saul, (meaning desired), he changed his name to Paul (small or little) after his encounter with the living Christ.

But they were hearing only, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.” Galatians 1:23

Paul’s epistles were written to Gentile churches, with the exception of Hebrews, the authorship of which we are not sure. Two of them, namely Romans and Galatians, were written specifically to keep the law out of Christian churches.

But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. Romans 7:6

I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” Galatians 2:21

 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14

Paul has no equal in the church: a powerful minister who shook cities and caused riots wherever he preached the gospel, and a brilliant scholar whose writings inspired countless authors through the ages to explain his teachings.

Remarkable as Paul was, he had his flaws. A speech impediment made it hard for him to express his vast knowledge and deep insight in God’s plan for humanity.

I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:3-5

“For his letters,” they say, “are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” 2 Corinthians 10:10

His ministry was marked by a demonstration of power, rather than a smooth delivery of his sermons. Nevertheless, his ministry was forceful enough to plant churches everywhere he went. A single-minded man, his only desire was to preach the gospel and to see the churches flourish. Paul was a no-nonsense man who clashed with Peter because he “played the hypocrite” in Antioch, (Galatians 2:11-14) and broke with Barnabas, his longtime ministry companion, because he insisted on taking Mark with them on a new adventure. John Mark had left them during their earlier mission, something Paul could not accept. (Acts 15:36-38) However, beautiful passages of Scripture flowed from his pen, such as 1 Corinthians 13 — the popular love chapter.

Paul’s life can be summarized in one sentence:

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21

Even today, most Bible students would give everything they own for the privilege to spend some time with Paul, to learn from him, to experience his dedication, to have his unwavering faith rub off on them, and to see the miracles that happened through his hands.

Outstanding as his life and ministry was, Paul spent his last days lonely and in prison. Only Luke was with him. He makes special mention of Demas, a travel companion who forsook him, “having loved the present world.” (2 Timothy 4:10) This is probably the greatest tragedy any minister can experience. To see an apparent faithful believer turn his back on the Lord because life in the world became more attractive to him, is one of the most painful experiences one can have, mainly because of the eternal consequences of such a decision.

Years ago, when I took over the pastorate of a church, we were told that a number of people had left the church shortly before our arrival. We decided to contact all of them and invite them to meet us as the new pastors, to see if we could persuade them to come back. A few did, some did not, but one woman told us that she never believed, and that she went to church only because she had friends there. It hurt me even though I never knew her.

There are many such people in churches today. I know some of them. People go to church for various reasons, but not necessarily because they are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle John had something to say about this:

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. 1 John 2:19

How it hurts to see those who fellowshiped with us, broke bread with us, and were baptized to confess their faith in the Lord, follow in the footsteps of Demas! It is painful to see the secular world lure believers away from their faith in the living Christ.

Demas, the envy of many Christians, thought nothing of the privilege he had to walk with this esteemed apostle, but turned to the temporary pleasures of the world instead. It is hard to understand how he could do such a thing while surrounded by believers who gladly and willingly laid down their lives to keep their faith intact.

The sad example of Demas is still being lived out today by those who choose the temporary pleasures of this world over their eternal future. There are those among us who had the Word sown into their lives, yet they have no root in themselves, they endured only for a while. (Matthew 13:20,21)

It is even more disappointing to realize that past involvement in church activities does not guarantee future faithfulness. Paul, lonely and in prison, shared his thoughts with Timothy, his spiritual son. He doesn’t reminisce about his past victories and accomplishments as he nears the end of his life, but the hurts of losing a disciple. He saw the time that we live in, and warned us against the spirit of Demas’ in our day:

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron… 1 Timothy 4:1,2

Jesus said the generation that sees Israel blossom in their land will not pass away before the end comes. It is us He was talking about! The signs of the last days tell us the curtain is falling on this age. Don’t be like Demas! This world is passing away, and eternity is around the corner — in your lifetime.

Please click on the link below and watch this short video, and then, as Paul once said, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…” Philippians 2:12

youtube.com/watch?v=YAOZC5wGsOI

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