Monday, November 20, 2017

A Very Un-Missionary-Like Thanksgiving


I've been reading the letters of Paul in the New Testament recently. They haven't been my favorite, partly because sometimes Paul reprimands people via a letter so that he doesn't have to reprimand them in person. 

I'm still a little fragile from the long season of caregiving, followed by Sam's death, and it's seemed like more than I can bear. I've persevered, however, because... Well, I don't really know why. Mainly because persevering is what I do. 

This morning, I opened my Bible with a mild sense of dread, in anticipation of more Paul-fussing. I hate to admit that, because it's not very missionary-like, but it's true. I'm probably not the only one who feels that way sometimes. 

I don't think a dread of Paul's fussing is a sin, unless you indulge it and avoid the Bible because of it, which I didn't. 

I've spent weeks whining to the Lord about how hard it is to read Paul's words in this season of life. When I picked up my Bible, I prayed, "Lord, I need a nugget of truth that's not fussing this morning." I know. That's not a very missionary-like prayer, either, but it was answered in an amazing way. I think God understood my heart.

Today, I read Galatians 2, in which Paul describes his visit to Jerusalem to talk with the elders there. He'd gone to present what he was teaching to the Gentiles and be sure they were all in agreement. 

My faded, hand-written note in the margin says, "Paul suffered much persecution in Galatia. He was stoned and left for dead. Run out of town. The church ladies and leading men of Galatia were stirred up and the city was divided. People tried to worship Paul and Silas and he barely restrained them. Taking the gospel to Galatia was costly to Paul." 

Suddenly, I realized that all the trouble was because Paul, who had been a major Jewish leader before his conversion, spent his life taking the gospel to the Gentiles. Since I'm a Gentile (not a Jew), Paul spent his life taking the gospel to my people. 

If not for Paul, I probably wouldn't be reading my Bible, much less whining about his words not suiting me.

I was cut to the core with conviction.

Sometimes I forget how much it cost those early disciples/apostles to spread the gospel around the world. They were persecuted over and over again. Most of them died martyrs' deaths. 

Paul could've been a top-dog-leader if he'd stayed in Jerusalem. Instead, he walked the path of obedience and paid dearly for it. His life of pain and suffering was the price he paid to bring the gospel my direction.

Tears streamed down my face as I repented of my negative feelings toward Paul's words and thanked God for this man who gave up the life he had to embrace the life God chose for him. I thank God for Paul's impact that persists nearly two thousand years later. 

I'd like to have the legacy Paul has, but I don't want to pay the price he paid to have it. I'm ashamed to admit that, but I doubt I'm alone in my reticence. 

What I realized this morning is that Paul didn't want all those hard times either, but he wanted obedience more than he wanted an easy life. That's what I should want, too. But do I?

This morning, I'm thanking God for those who have given so much to bring the gospel to me, for those early disciples who sacrificed to carry the news of our resurrected Jesus around the world. 

Today, I'm embracing Paul's "fussing." Bring it on, Paul. You've earned the right to your hard words. 

More important, though, is that I'm embracing Paul's attitude. Not me, but Christ. Enduring through whatever comes my way and setting my eyes on the goal, I press on. 

Disciples follow their Master, even when it's hard. That's what Paul did, and it's what we're supposed to do, too. Today, let's assess our depth of discipleship and make whatever adjustments are needed.

Embracing the life of a disciple may not be easy but, to have a legacy that persists thousands of year, it's worth it. 

"Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13-14 nasb
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: When I had a Nazareth Heart and Missed the Miracle Before Me