*This has been adapted from an article that I wrote for the June 2013 Contact newsletter of the First Baptist Church of Mabank. I pray you find some encouragement in it.
24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren ; 27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.(NASB)
At the end of last year, I finished teaching a Bible study series about the missionary journeys of Paul. The more I studied, the more humbled I became. One of Jesus’ last commands before He ascended into heaven was for His followers to go into all the world and make disciples and baptize and teach. This requires time and sacrifice. It requires the believer to think outwardly. It requires the believer to count the cost and eliminate things that might steal from the commitment that we are to have to our Lord.
Paul left everything and everyone. He was not haphazard about his mission work; he was very intentional. He purposefully went out of the way and often into harms way to take the gospel to both Jews and non-Jews (Gentiles).
He did not take the easy way and he did not do it on his own preferred schedule. He was sometimes prevented by the Holy Spirit from doing what HE had planned. Every time he obeyed, the Gospel spread and the Kingdom was multiplied. Also, every time he obeyed he faced opposition and often danger to his life.
This makes me ask myself several questions: Have I really done all that I should for the cause of Christ? Have I really demonstrated a heart of gratitude by the way I serve (or don’t serve)? What sacrifices am I making daily? What conveniences am I giving up for the sake of the lost souls that are perishing without Christ? How much DO I love God, my Savior? Do I love Him as much as I say I do?
This isn’t a guilt trip. This is introspection. I am prone to exalt my desires above the Lord’s desires and the world’s desperate need. These are questions I must ask myself regularly to keep myself in check. I want to show my gratitude to my Savior. I hope you do to.
For God's Glory,
Chris S. Sweet