Finishing Well: Lessons From Paul
We are left with three months to finish the year. Reminiscing, probably, yours will come with a sense of regret or accomplishment or a mixture of both. Whatever your sentiments are, I present you with three points from Paul's life--what a great person he was--that will help you sail through the rest of the year with hope if you have regrets. Expansion if you have a sense of accomplishment.
These, I must say are no "wild insights". They are things we know already, so let me say these are just a gentle reminder: 1: Forget Past Failures, 2: Don't Be Complacent, 3: Focus On The Future. I will glean these three lessons from Philippians 3:13-14:
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Forget Past Failures
If Paul says "forgetting those things which are behind” we have to pay attention to him. He was a murderer. He has blood on his hands. To get a good picture of Saul(Paul); imagine him as head of any of the terrorists groups we have today. He hated believers of his day, persecuted and handed them over to be executed.
It was on one of such persecution trips that he met Jesus. Hear his own words: “And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him” (Acts 22:20). I believe Paul, as human as he was, had to deal with this regret constantly.
The devil might even take advantage and constantly whisper in his mind “You're a murderer”. Remember one of the credentials of the devil is “accuser of the brethren”. Can you identify with the effects of having to deal with past regrets, mistakes and failures? It can be energy sapping. Dwelling on past failures can breed guilt and immobilise us from moving forward. Everyone, without exception, got things in the past they not proud of. But we have to rise above our past failures and press forward. “... reaching forth unto those things which are before ... press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus "
If you ever admire Paul--you should if you are a believer-remember he is not a product of his own achievements. He is a work of Total Grace. God's grace made him. No wonder he taught us so much about grace. "By grace are you saved...", he reminded his congregation in Ephesians. There is no pit of failure so deep grace cannot reach you. I recently spotted a book title "You failed and So What?"...that would make good reading I believe...
How bad have you fared? Put your regrets and failures behind and press on...PRESS ON! God is not done with you: "...he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:" (Philippians 1:6)
Don't Be Complacent
"Don't be Complacent"-that is so basic; nonetheless, I have indicated these are just gentle reminders and no "wild insights". For those with regrets, I said in the previous post that "Forget Past Failures" and for you with a sense of accomplishment, I am saying today,"Don't Be Complacent"
Paul, unlike the first twelve Apostles, was a scholar. He studied in Tarsus under Gamaliel, one of the best teachers of His time. He also belonged to the order of the Pharisees--the highest political and religious order of his time. A qualified lawyer; Paul never considered himself inferior to any of the first Apostles, though, he never walked physically with Christ. He asked "Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant...” (2 Corinthians 11:23).
It is on record Paul wrote all his epistles before any of the earlier Apostles penned their gospels and epistles. So we are not looking at a man with average success in Paul. We are looking at a highly successful minister of the gospel. In today's world, Paul would easily qualify for a “Mega church” pastor. Despite these feats, Paul had no room for complacency: "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus."(Philippians 3:12) What Paul is communicating here is that: “I have not achieved it yet”. “I have not arrived”. “I have not become all I was called to be”. “There are still territories to cover.” “There is more success ahead” “There is more work to do”.
Regardless of your level of achievements, don't be complacent. Don't settle for less “...press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”.
Focus on the future
"...reach forth unto those things which are before”. Life should be progressive; building on successes and learning from failures. The day the past becomes the standard, we stop growing, we enter a comfort zone and our purpose on earth gets clouded.
In Deuteronomy 1, we see a comfort zone situation where the Israelites, instead of moving forward, pitched camp in a comfort zone and stopped moving: "The LORD our God spake unto us in Horeb, saying, Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount: Turn you, and take your journey ... and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them“ (vs 6-8).
Settling in a comfort zone when we are supposed to move on is equated to rebellion. In vs 26 of the same Scripture, Moses said: "Notwithstanding ye would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God:” (vs26).
Paul, didn't settle in complacency. Reach forth into the future. "Turn you, and take your journey...". Move on.