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Summary: A look at the life of Paul, the apostle. From The Story, a 32 week journey through the Bible, inspired by Max Lucado and Randy Frazee.

The Story - 30

May 15, 2011

You may not have known this, but there was time when two of the most famous men in history lived in the same city — the apostle Paul and the emperor Nero. Their lives actually overlapped for a short period of time. Of course, nobody took notice of Paul, he was overshadowed by Nero. Everyone was fascinated by this young flamboyant emperor. Nero would have been invited on Oprah to espouse his philosophy. Larry King would have interviewed Nero. We would have had a state dinner for Nero. Nero was a hero, while Paul was a zero.

If anyone knew anything about Paul, it would have been that he was an eccentric and fanatical Jew who always spoke about some guy, some teacher named Jesus, who he said came back from the dead. In those days in Rome, they took people like Paul and locked them up in prison. So, while he was suffering and growing old in prison, Nero was enjoying life in the palace. He was the one with a future ahead of him. If you asked the common person on the streets of Rome, ‘who’s going to make the biggest difference in the world, Nero or Paul?’ It would’ve been a no-brainer, of course it would be Nero, he’s a hero.

Nero had everything going for him. For one thing he was married to Poppaea Sabina, who was his 2nd wife and was reportedly very beautiful. She kept up her beauty, soft skin, and kept diseases away by taking daily baths in donkey milk. Nero had 400 donkeys in a stable just for her bath. You see, whatever Nero liked, Nero got. He loved to hold lavish parties and invite himself to be the entertainer. At the age of 25, he made himself a god, and had a huge statue erected of him.

According to a first century description of Paul, he wasn’t much to look at. He was bald, bow-legged, strongly built, small in size, meeting eye brows and a big nose. He didn’t look like much. If we were to take a close look at Paul, we’d see how there were scars all across his back, from all the beatings he endured. It had been a rough journey for Paul. Listen to what he endured,

24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,

26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own people, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.

27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches ~ (2 Corinthians 11).

It’s amazing what he went through. Can you imagine going through all of that, and still being so passionate about Jesus. Paul was called to a life of suffering, and that’s what happened, and it only made his story and reliance on Christ all the stronger.

Imagine all of the places he went to . . . Corinth, Ephesus, Thessalonica, Galatia, Colossae, Jerusalem, Cyprus, Crete, Malta, Athens, Syracuse, Iconium, Philippi, Antioch and Rome. These weren’t vacations, these were working trips. Trips in which he would teach and heal and tell others about the hope he had in Jesus. And if he was accepted somewhere, he would often stay for a period of time, like in Antioch for 3 years, or in Ephesus for 2 years.

Paul would work in the morning, then he would teach and preach all afternoon or evening. He was a tireless and passionate worker for Jesus. Nothing slowed him down. And when he wasn’t visiting a city or preaching, he was writing. We cherish his writing today. He’s the author of almost ½ of the New Testament, and is the most influential writer in the history of the world.

He wrote letters which were read throughout the churches. Passages which help us in our times of trouble. Passages which remind us of God’s love and grace. Passages which encourage us. Passages like ~

• Do no be anxious about anything!

• Rejoice in the Lord always, I say it again, rejoice!

• Our citizenship is in heaven.

• God made Him who had no sin, to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

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