Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Paul's Passion and My Task

I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the Gospel of God's grace. (Acts 20:24)

I have always admired the apostle Paul's passion for ministry, and no doubt this verse captures its essence.
How did Paul know it was his task to be an apostle to the Gentiles?
In the account of his conversion in Acts 9, Jesus called Paul "a chosen instrument... to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel" (Acts 9.15)

This sounds like a generic elaboration on what he told the disciples just before he ascended. You know, "You will be my witnesses..." Which in itself is an extension of the Great Commission from Matthew 28: "Go into all the world and make disciples of all men, baptizing them... teaching them..."

I never imagined that these words were tailored specifically for Paul. Therefore I expected no similar task-assignment in my own life.

Not until recently.

I now believe that we all share Paul's same task. No matter what we do with our lives, it must always boil down to this: testifying to God's grace.

But what exactly does that mean?

I don't know if this is the whole answer, but look at how Paul lived. The grace of God in sparing his life so captivated him that he counted his life as forfeit. He said so repeatedly in his letters.

How did he find such selflessness? I'll tell you. He discovered that the one he had been persecuting was Jesus, God in the flesh. As a sinner, a devoted murderer of Christians, he deserved a literal death sentence. That is why he calls himself the worst of sinners. Not out of false humility but because he was deeply aware of how wrong he had been, how far short he fell of the righteousness he thought to uphold.

The fact that Jesus did not execute him on the Damascus Road was grace to Paul. It became the overwhelming definition of his identity.  He even changed his name to reflect that he was no longer the same man.

His life was no longer his own, having been purchased at the price of Jesus's blood. Being a devout Jew, Paul understood sacrifice and atonement. From that day forward, in Paul's mind Jesus owned him. The way they said it in those days was to call the new owner, "Lord."

And now that he had become the slave of the Christ, he set about his assigned task with all the zeal that had made him a Pharisee of Pharisees. Off he went and never looked back, counting everything as loss, forgetting what lay behind, straining forward to what lay ahead.

So I ask, Does Jesus still assign tasks today? Maybe there will never be another Paul, yet my soul longs for significance in the kingdom of God.

One evening not so long ago, with no more details than he gave Paul, the Christ said to me, "Tell my story." He didn't say to whom, and he didn't say how or through what medium.

Like Paul, I have taken that command seriously; I now write the Tales from Eternity books.

My passion for the gospel is more alive than ever. My focus and life purpose do not waver. I make all my decisions about commitments and priorities based on how they will enable this path.

I count myself blessed to know my task, but is it any different, really, than Paul's? Like him I am testifying to the gospel of God's grace.

Are you?