Thursday, June 23, 2005

Paul and The Crisis

Life at Work
Do one “word association” with me. I’m going to type a word in all caps. You tell me the word that comes immediately to your mind. Ready? “JESUS”. What did you think? What word came to mind? Savior? God? Lord? Christ? There would have been times that if you had done that word association exercise with Paul when you said, Jesus” he would have said “death.” Paul wrote that he and his gospel preaching companions “always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you” (2 Corinthians 4:10-12). He wrote to the Galatians, “I am crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20). He had earlier written to the Corinthians, “I die every day….” (1 Corinthians 15:31).

This was not just a choice that Paul made for himself. He was a follower of Christ and Paul understood that his life was not his own. He knew the words of Jesus, “… anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38).

If you know the history of Paul from Luke’s stories in Acts, you aren’t surprised to read words like those from his pen. One of the greatest stories is one that Luke witnessed with his own eyes:

“A prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’”
When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”
(Acts 21:10-13)

Thomas Paine wrote “The Crisis” on the occasion of General Washington’s retreat across the Delaware River. Washington was so moved by the words he ordered them to be read to some of his soldiers whose courage seemed to be failing. The first words are famous ones: “These are the times that try men’s souls.” These words, also from “The Crisis,” help me understand Paul’s resolve to go to Jerusalem: “Tis the business of little minds to shrink but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.”

Paul knew that the Jerusalem journey was his path. The hungry there needed the funds he was bringing. The Christians there needed to know about the concern of their Gentile brothers. Everybody there needed the message he would give from God. He needed to do what he was convinced was right.

What’s the right thing that you need to do? That’s your path. That’s Life at Work!

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