Paul, the early church apostle is probably the most famous Christian who ever lived. His missionary efforts and his powerful literary presentation of the Gospel and of the person of Jesus Christ are generally recognized as combining to become the most influential force in Christian history, after Jesus of course.
And yet Paul himself admitted to serious failures and sins in his past. For many of us, our past experiences have the power to cripple our testimony to the greatness of our God. Paul, however, had a singular focus. There must have been something about his original encounter with Jesus. Christ appeared to Paul in His glorified state, when he was on the road to Damascus to arrest Christians there. This experience definitely changed the course of his life! (Acts chapter 9)
While in prison for his outspoken testimony to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, he wrote these words in his letter to the church at Philippi:
“Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 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.”
Paul also had much to say of God’s plan of the ages. This plan is alluded to in the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. However, Paul noted that it had been enshrouded in mystery until the coming of Christ into the world. He also explained that the apostles of Christ had been entrusted with this now unveiled mystery.
When observing the intensity of Paul’s passion for His Lord and the message of Good News that burned within his heart, I can’t help but believe that his understanding of God’s plan was another motivating factor in his life and ministry. Furthermore, I must confess that however small the portion of that mystery has been revealed to me personally, it definitely continues to be a powerfully motivating force in my own life!
There is a proverb stating the importance of having a vision. (Proverbs 29:18). The ability to see God’s purpose for His creation and our part in that purpose is empowering. The Word of God is described as a lamp and a light that reveals where we are and where we are going. Christians have long valued the holy scriptures as God’s message to us, and as a means to understanding His will, but how often do we miss the bigger picture? Is it really just about having our good deeds outweigh the bad ones? Is there something like a heavenly score card that determines who wins in the end?
Paul and other New Testament teachers took the time to show us the bigger picture. He narrowed his focus down to one thing, to press forward toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus! The apostle John saw this also, but cautioned to not speculate too much. We only know, he said, that our destiny is to be like Jesus! (1 John 3:1-3)
This fact is clear even from the opening verses of the Bible. God originally made man in His own image and likeness, to rule the earth in His stead. (Genesis 1:26) However something was lost when Adam and Eve disobeyed God. Even though they would continue to bear His image in a sense, they lost the relationship with Him which made it possible for His purpose to be completely fulfilled in them.
The rest of history is about recovering our destiny in God through Christ. The Old Testament laws and prophecies all pointed toward what God would do in Christ, Who Himself fully revealed the image and nature of the invisible God. (Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:1-3).
The Westminster Shorter Catechism of 1647 states that the chief purpose of humanity is “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” From the scriptures we learn that Jesus is the first man to fully glorify God, since our history is one of missing the mark and falling short of His glory. (Romans 3:6)
What I am saying is that the source of Paul’s ability to overcome against all odds, persecution, illness, distain and ridicule, was the fact that He was on God’s side. He knew that God was at work in Him to fulfill His purpose! He knew that you and I are a part of God’s plan of the ages! He knew that God was causing all things to work together to fulfill that purpose of conforming us into His image. God will be glorified IN HIS SAINTS! (Romans 8:28,29, 2 Thessalonians 1:10)
Like the apostle John, I am not exactly sure of what that will be like, at the same time, like both Paul and John, I am motivated to pursue it!
1 John 3:2-3:
“Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. ”
So where ever you are, God is calling you upward! Hear His calling you personally! Arise from the depths of despair! Arise from the defeat of your circumstances, which are actually designed to reshape you into the victorious person that you already are in Christ!