Summary: Paul passed many tests to graduate.
Paul kept surrendered so he could graduate! 2 COR 4:7-12, 16-18
A father was filling out an application form for his daughter, who was seeking entrance to a very exclusive college. He came to the question on the form which asked whether the applicant was a leader. In honesty, he wrote, "No, but she is a good follower." The application was sent in, and a month later a letter arrived notifying him that his daughter had been accepted. At the bottom of the page, the dean had written, "Since the entering class of 500 has 499 leaders, we thought that there ought to be room for one follower."
Some false prophets had been saying that they were just as good as Paul in what they were doing. He was not wanting to boast but he wanted to show what serving Christ had cost him. He had higher claims to the office than they had. 2 Cor. 11:6 “I may not be a trained speaker, but I know what I am talking about. I think you realize this by now, for we have proved it again and again.” He had been called to it in a more remarkable manner, Acts 9: 3-14, 16, 22-23, 26, 28-29. He tells by his labors and trials, that he had more of the true spirit of a minister of the Lord Jesus than what they had. He tells in detail what he had to endure in spreading the knowledge of the Savior. He did not do this to receive praise but that Christ might be glorified through what he did. With all that we are going to talk about this morning we want to test ourselves as to whether we are surrendered to Christ. His work was not to get the praise of man. He did it because He knew there was a graduation that was out of this world. It was worth more than all this world had to give. He did not have a car or plane to go around holding meetings. When he went out he had to walk or ride a donkey and at times he traveled by ship. He did not have a consistent income but depended on God to have people take care of his needs.
Here are four things to consider as we go through Paul’s course in living for Jesus. Have you had to take classes like these? 1. He claimed to have worked harder. 2. He had been in jail. 3. Whipped many times. 4. Faced death many times.
Would you still follow Christ if you had to go through the class course he had to go through?
A. He had to work hard. We read that he was sent out by the church through the Holy Spirit to reach places where the Gospel had not yet been heard. He was to talk to people that were much different than he was in culture and customs and language. He was to communicate the gospel. He as I see it worked some 30 years. Have any of us been in school for thirty some years?
B. He was whipped with thirty nine lashes five times. The Jews would do this but did not go past 39 because the law allowed 40. The Law of Moses expressly limited the number of stripes that might be inflicted to forty. In no case might this number be exceeded. There was another reason still for limiting it to thirty-nine. They usually made use of a scourge with three thongs, and this was struck thirteen times. We see proof here of his being a minister of Christ, because he remained committed to Christ in these times. When we choose to follow Christ it takes commitment no matter what the test.
C. He had been in prison many times. If your job description included this, how many of us would take the job? Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, mentions only one imprisonment of Paul before the time when this epistle was written. But we are to remember that many things were omitted by Luke. He does not profess to give an account of all that happened to Paul; and an omission is not a contradiction. For anything that Luke says, Paul may have been imprisoned often. He mentions his having been in prison once; he does not deny that he had been in prison many times besides.
D. Paul was exposed to death or suffering pain equal to death many times. No one familiar with the history of Paul can doubt that he was often in danger of death.
Illustration of Pushing the Rock: I have been pondering a story of a weak sickly man. The man was so sick and he could not afford going to town to the doctor. The man lived in the deep back woods in an old log cabin, his condition seemed to grow worse. Out in front of his cabin was a huge boulder. The rock was massive in front of his place. One night in a very real vision, God told him to go out there and push the huge rock all day long, day after day. The man got up early in the morning, and with great excitement, he pushed the rock until lunch, then he rested a while and pushed the rock until suppertime. The man loved pushing against the rock, it gave him meaning. The dream was so real that it was with great excitement he pushed against the rock. Day after day, he pushed. Day rolled into week, and week into months, he faithfully pushed against the rock. After 8 months of pushing the rock, the weak sickly man was getting tired of pushing the rock so much, in his tiredness he started to doubt his dream. So one day he measured from his porch to the rock, and after daily pushing the rock, he would measure to see how much he had moved the rock. After two weeks of pushing and measuring, he realized he had not moved the boulder not a 1/32 of an inch? Actually, the boulder was in the same place as when he started. The man was so disappointed, he thought the dream was so special and now after 9 months he saw his work had accomplished nothing, he was tired and his dream seemed dashed upon the rock. The man sat on his porch and cried and cried, he had invested many hundred hours into nothing. Nothing, it was all nothing! As the sun was sitting in the west, Jesus came and sat down next to the man as he cried. Jesus said, "Son, why are you crying?" The man replied, "Lord, You know how sick and weak I am, and then this dumb dream gave me a false hope and I have pushed with all that was within me for over 9 months, and that dumb old rock is right where it was when I started." Jesus was kind and said to him, "I never told you to move the rock. I told you to push against the rock." The man replied, "Yes, Sir, that was the dream." Jesus told the man to step in front of the mirror and look at himself. As an act of obedience, the man stepped in front of a mirror and looked at himself. The man was amazed, he had been so sickly and weak, and what he saw in the mirror was a strong muscular man. The man realized that he had not been coughing all night. The man started thinking of how well he felt for several months and the strength that he had built by pushing on the rock. Then the man realized that the plan of God was not for the rock, but for the man. So, I suggest to you today, that God is building people. God is building churches. The storms, the trials, the heartaches, the disappointments, are all but part of the process. We should never use people to build the church; we must use the church to build people. Don’t start measuring your success, trust the God that will take the process, and build His people. God is stretching you God is growing you! Understand the plan! Trust His Hands!