Without a doubt, the apostle Paul was one of the most influential people of world history. His indefatigable energy in evangelism and church planting during the 1st Century AD changed the face of Europe and the world. He was part of the company who ‘turned the world upside down’ (Acts 17:6). He also wrote up to half of the New Testament. Every day of the year for the last 2,000 years, his legacy continues to pay rich dividends to the church and the world.
Born with the Hebrew name Saul in the city of Tarsus, Cilicia in south central Asia Minor (Turkey), he may have been given the Roman name Paul at birth. In the natural, he was a gifted man: multi-lingual, a Roman citizen from birth, from the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews. Like Moses and Daniel, Paul had a solid education in classical things and of the empire of the day. Despite his Diaspora-birth, he was fully orientated to Jewish theology and practice as one trained by the respected Rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 5) in Jerusalem. Paul could be forgiven for thinking he was destined for great things.
Yet, Paul’s personal earthly ambitions and strengths evaporate in the light of what God had planned for him. For those who want to make a difference in this world, who are more interested in being significant than merely successful, and want to leave a legacy that blesses the world, then Paul is your role-model.
How did Paul succeed in changing the world? His method is more valuable than the multi-billion dollar 11 herbs and spices KFC recipe. Unlike KFC’s recipe, which is a secret, Paul’s ‘recipe’ is open for all to see.
You can find it in the words of Philippians 3:7-12:
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,9And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. 12Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
At first glance, Paul’s principles might appear to be ‘radical discipleship’ but in reality he is offering a blueprint for the normal Christian living. Let’s look at a few of them here.
Principle One: Don’t let your natural gifts get in the way of God’s grace. Be willing to surrender them all to God in order to live by grace and truth (John 1:14,17).
The apostle affirms that his assets - pedigree, education, nationality - were dispensable. In terms of obtaining the ‘excellency of knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord,’ he was willing to ‘lose’ his assets and counts them a dung in order to win Christ.
Is knowing Christ of far greater value than your natural gifting? Without a doubt! Remember that even gifted people have faults, failings, and deficiencies. When you ‘win Christ,’ He becomes your sufficiency (II Corinthians 3:5). All the potholes in your life are filled by Him, regardless of how numerous and deep they may be. Regarding your gifting, surrender it to Christ. If He chooses, the Lord will return your gift to you, anointed by the Holy Spirit, ‘renewed and improved,’ so that your impact will be far greater than you could imagine.
Another way of looking at this is that Paul became a world changer by letting go of everything - his assets, sin, pride, blindness, everything - in order to be ‘hands’ free’ to take hold of Christ (v. 12).
You cannot change the world until you are willing to be changed yourself. In fact, change is not enough - you should be willing to be transformed. Paul’s principles guarantee that will happen. To be continued.