When Paul stood before King Herod Agrippa, he commented on his life from the time of his conversion. He said, “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision” [Acts 16.19]. I don’t think he said it boastfully, just matter of factly. As I am preparing for my retirement in January, I want to be like Paul, “not disobedient to the heavenly vision.”
Paul was an affective apologist for the early church. After his conversion, he was threatened by Jews, which , it seems, were enraged by his defection from “the faith.” In light of them, he went to Tarsus where he disappeared for about ten years. In his letter to the Galatians, it appears that he spent some of that time in Syria and Cilicia [2.12-22].
When he returned, he submitted to an examination of his doctrine from the leading apostles [Galatians 2.1-2, 7-10]. After passing his “exam,” he was welcomed into the apostolate by other apostles, including Peter [Galatians 2.9].
That was the beginning of Paul’s apostolic work, which included at least three missionary journeys, the founding of a number of churches throughout Asia and Europe, and writing his letters that are now thirteen of the twenty-seven books in the New Testament.
Paul expressed shame and regret over his past [1 Corinthians 15.9], but he was able to put it aside so that he could continue to move forward in faith [Philippians 3.13]. So, at the end of his life, he could confidently say to his protege Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” [2 Timothy 4.7].
We often think of Paul’s life as extraordinary. I have no problem with that, but as a Christ follower, aren’t all of our lives like that? Ours is an extraordinary life if, after our conversion, we radically obey the Lord and never look back!
I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. No turning back!
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12.10