Everyone struggles with something. It might be pride, recognition, approval or a dozen other issues. When I meet someone who overcomes what I struggle with, I am in awe. How does he do so easily what causes me so much struggle? The Apostle Paul is one such person for me.
Saul, whom we first meet in Acts 7, opposed Christianity in the most violent way. Acts records this about him: “(Stephen’s) accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul. . . .Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen.” He took a staunch stand against Christianity and did everything possible to eradicate it. Until he meets Jesus in a most dramatic manner. Turn to Acts 9 to read about that. It is what Saul, now turned Paul, does that makes my jaw drop.
He immediately changes his course of action and goes from ardent persecutor to passionate evangelist. Just. Like. That. He didn’t ask anyone’s permission. He didn’t check his script with anyone. He didn’t wait to be acknowledged by the other apostles in Jerusalem. He took seriously his encounter with Jesus and took to the streets. Amazing! This is how Paul says it for himself to the churches in the area of Galatia.
1This letter is from Paul, an apostle. I was not appointed by any group of people or any human authority, but by Jesus Christ himself and by God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead. 10Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant… it pleased him 16to reveal his Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles. When this happened, I did not rush out to consult with any human being. 17Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to consult with those who were apostles before I was. Instead, I went away into Arabia, and later I returned to the city of Damascus.Galatians 1:1, 10, 16-17
After Paul’s conversion, he knew that if he stopped to ask the opinions of others, he would be sidetracked. His time would be spent convincing others of his conversion rather than living out his conversion. It is evident he knew that pleasing humans ultimately meant he wasn’t pleasing God. It’s great when humans are pleased with our service of God, but it doesn’t always happen that way.
I know I can’t be guaranteed the approval of man in my service of God. But why is it so easy to be distracted by the approval of humans? What must I do to live with the kind of confidence Paul displayed?
The challenge I face is to live with my eyes on Jesus, to take my cues from him. I want to be so familiar with him that I notice the slightest movement of his eyes to guide me left or right, to feel the slightest pressure on my arm to pause or move more quickly, to trust so completely I take the next right step without hesitation.
What keeps you from living boldly? Is there a champion from scripture that illustrates how to do it well? What practices do you need to adopt to be that person?