By Dr. Richard Ing
October 23, 2002
Of all the apostles in the New
Testament, there are three that stand out to me. The first was Peter, the brash fisherman who
once proudly bragged that he would be willing to die for Jesus and would never
deny Him. Mt. 26:35. Indeed he would die for Jesus one day, but
not until he found out the true condition of his heart when the rooster crowed
twice. Mk. 14:67-72. Peter was so humbled by his experience that
God was able to use him to become the leader of the Church in Jerusalem and to minister mightily to the
Jews. It was Peter who later bravely
stood up and defended the faith (Ac. 2:14), and it was Peter who raised the
dead (Ac. 9:40) and whose shadow would touch the sick and bring healing (Ac.
5:15). In the end, historians say that when Peter was to be executed through
crucifixion, Peter chose to be crucified upside down because he felt unworthy
of dying the same way Jesus did. Peter
was a person that men familiar with hard labor and physical exertion to earn a
living, can identify with. He was
uneducated and rough, impetuous and loud but had a heart of gold. I picture Peter as a big, burly sort of man
with a booming voice - a natural leader.
Then, there was the apostle John,
who was the youngest of Jesus’ disciples. It was John who laid his head on
Jesus’ breast during the last supper. There was a special love relationship
between John and the Lord. John became
known as the apostle of love because the major theme of the Book of John and
1st and 2nd John is love. Nothing much
is said of John’s ministry, but it must have been great and penetrating. His ministry so irritated Rome
that John was eventually banished to the island of Patmos
where the cruelest and most incorrigible criminals were left to die. It was
there that God gave the final revelation of the end times that we find in the
Book of Revelation. John must have been
a kindly, soft-spoken man who smiled all the time. Although he was around ninety years old when
he was on Patmos, I always see him as a young
man who followed Jesus around like a puppy dog and who was a light-hearted,
unassuming kind of guy, who saw Jesus like an older brother.
But, of all apostles, my favorite is
Paul, who was once called Saul. Perhaps,
it is because Paul was a scholar who studied under the famous teacher Gamaliel
(because I’m a pseudo-scholar myself).
It was said that those privileged to be picked to learn from Gamaliel
were known for their brilliant minds.
Students of Gamaliel were almost guaranteed a prestigious position in
the temple, even to eventually become the chief priest. It meant fame, recognition, respect of men,
wealth, power and admiration. Here was
somebody who had everything going in his favor in the world before he met
Jesus. Phil. 3:5,6. Maybe I favor Paul because he was a lawyer
who expounded the Word and could argue against the best scholars of his
time. Before he became a follower of
Jesus, Paul (who was Saul at the time) was an enemy of Christianity and killed
and imprisoned many of God’s people. He
was destined for hell. But, God’s
amazing grace was upon this unique man.
On the way to Damascus
to persecute more Christians, Paul was knocked off his horse and blinded. You know the story. Ac. 9:1-18.
Meeting Jesus changed Paul’s life
forever. The blind Paul couldn’t drink
or eat for those three days. I can only
speculate on what was going through Paul’s mind. He knew that he had made a mistake so big that
he had brought upon himself the ire of God.
At that moment, Paul knew that his life was over either way. He’d either die or if he lived, he would
never be the same again. When you meet
Truth head on, your eyes are opened to eternity. Everything he had enjoyed in life, all his
goals and expectations, all of his possessions, wealth, position and friends,
and all that he had stood for was wiped out in an instant. They held absolutely no meaning for Paul from
that moment on. Paul had met the power
of the universe and it blew him apart at the seams. Paul was thoroughly crushed. He had nowhere to go. When Ananias, an unknown follower of Jesus,
appeared and laid hands on Paul, Paul received his eyesight back. His gratitude knew no bounds. He knew without a doubt the depth of God’s
grace and mercy. Here he was - a man who
had killed God’s people and who had resisted God, standing before the Lord of
all creation and being spared his life.
From that day on, all Paul could say was, “Lord, what wilt thou have
me do?” Ac. 9:6. Paul no longer belonged to Paul; Paul
belonged to Jesus.
Paul’s story is your story and mine
too, if we let it. We were gross sinners
before we met Jesus. Unlike Paul,
however, none of us has yet to be struck blind.
In a way, we were already blind and now we see (hopefully, and with
tongue in cheek). It took a cataclysmic
event to change Paul’s mind and heart.
His old man died when he fell off that horse. From that day on, he considered the best that
the world could offer to be like dung, compared to knowing Jesus. Phil. 3:8.
Life on earth held nothing for Paul.
Paul later said, “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire
to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: nevertheless to abide in
the flesh is more needful of you.”
Phil. 1:23,24. His choice was to
go to heaven to be with Jesus. He was a
complete and empty vessel for God’s use.
Something tells me that all of us need to meet God head on and be
knocked off our high horse.
According to Bible historians,
Paul’s intellect was prodigious. Paul
was short in stature, probably less than five feet tall, and had an unsightly
“weeping” eye that served as a “thorn in Paul’s side.” 2 Co.
12:7. Paul had been given so much
revelation from God that this affliction was to remind him that God was in
control and that Paul was just a vessel and conduit for God. It kept him humble and probably kept the
women away at the same time. Here’s a
great man of God who healed the sick, cast out devils and raised the dead, and
he couldn’t even heal himself. When he
prayed to God that the affliction would be taken away, God said, “My grace
is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Co.
12:9. To that, Paul said,
Most gladly therefore will I rather
glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in
reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake:
for when I am weak, then am I strong. I
am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been
commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though
I be nothing. 2 Co.
Paul never looked back. He never regretted losing everything he had
previously lived for. He began to see
eternity through the eyes of God, like no other man before him (except Jesus
and David) and few since. He was willing
to pay whatever price it required:
Yea 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, and 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: that I may know Him, and the power of
His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable
unto His death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the
dead. Phil. 3:8-10.
total focus was the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is nothing in that statement that smacks of self. Paul gladly gave up everything this world had
to offer, just to follow Jesus. That was
what was burning in Paul’s heart. He
went through many sufferings on earth and willingly endured countless trials
and deprivations, just to please the Lord.
2 Co. 4:8-12; 2 Co. 6:4,5; 2 Co.
23-27. He considered all the sufferings
For our light affliction, which
is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of
glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which
are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which
are not seen are eternal. 2 Co. 4:17,18.
the end, Paul received the crown of righteousness that had been laid up for
him. 2 Ti. 4:8. That reward was worth everything to
Paul. His eyes were on eternity.
HEART FOR THIS HOUR
I believe that the heart of Paul
(which is the heart of Jesus) is being required of all Christians today. Many saints have tried to emulate Paul and
many have succeeded. There have been
countless martyrs and champions of God that were buoyed by Paul’s statements
throughout the ages. Now, we come to the
end of the age when the greatest generation of Christians ever formed will make
its appearance on earth. Anyone who
desires to be in that elect group must have what Paul had.
In sharp contrast to Paul was the
rich, young man in Mark 10. In a sense,
he was a Paul (or Saul) before meeting Jesus.
Jesus loved the young man (Mk. 10:21) and the youth was zealous to
inherit eternal life. Mk. 10:17. But when Jesus instructed him to sell
whatever he had, give to the poor and take up his cross and follow Him, the
young man walked away from Jesus.
Plainly speaking, this is what
separates the sheep from the goats. Many
Christians want just so much of Jesus and that’s it. When it starts to touch their money and
possessions, or their pursuit of the same, they walk away from Jesus. When following Jesus starts to bring trials
and afflictions, they draw back. When
their fun-filled life is threatened, they turn their backs to the Lord. And so, the question for you and me is, “Are
you a Paul, or are you that rich, young man?”
Making a decision to pursue God and
go all the way with Him requires more courage than most people have. It separates the sheep from the goats, the
winners from the losers and the overcomers from the luke-warms. In the natural, many athletes may “risk it
all” to climb Mt.
Everest or to be the best
race-driver or jockey; but all their efforts are for self, not for God. Businessmen may “risk it all” in an
investment calculated to make them rich, but God is not the goal.
Following Jesus requires a faith
that will risk everything, even your very life.
All the champions of God had it in their heart to risk it all. David had it in abundance. He would rather die than not trust God. The young David risked his life to fight the
lion and the bear. 1 Sa. 17:34,35. He
risked humiliation and death when he challenged the giant, Goliath. Throughout most of his life, David was not
focused on himself. He was bent on doing
God’s will no matter what. He was not
really interested in palaces, riches, many wives and power. If God wanted David to be a shepherd the rest
of his life, David would have accepted it in an instant. He just wanted to please God.
I believe that this one quality set
David apart from all others. This attitude of the heart is so precious to God
that he promised that there would forever be a son of David on the throne. Jer.
33:17. Jesus fulfilled that
promise as the “root and offspring of David, the bright and morning star” (Rev.
22:16) who shall forever rule on the throne.
How I pray that some of you will
have the heart that David and Paul had.
Then I will know that my efforts have not been in vain. Light of the World Missions is a strange
church. All we talk about is “changing
the heart” and all we care about is being like Jesus and doing His will. People drop off like flies because they
cannot stand the seriousness of this church.
I pray that we will be like Moses, and Elijah, and John the Baptist, and
David and Paul - trusting in God and willing to lay our lives down for His
great name’s sake.
The remnant of God has always been a
tiny group of people. That’s because
very few are willing to risk it all to follow God.