Summary: A lesson on the impact of the Apostle Paul on lives of believers.
1. Unexpected Influence
Back in the 1800's a skeptic promised a famous British preacher, Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910) that he would attend his church for 4 Sundays. Maclaren told the skeptic that during those sermons he'd present reasons why he should believe in Jesus.
The skeptic was true to his word and showed up each Sunday - listening intently to the sermons.
After the fourth message he stepped forward to become a Christian. Maclaren was delighted but he couldn't resist the impulse to ask which of the four sermons brought about this decision.
The skeptic replied, "Your sermons, sir, were helpful, but they were not what finally persuaded me." He said that after church one Sunday as he was helping an elderly lady on a slippery walk, she looked up into his face and said, "I wonder if you know my Savior, Jesus Christ. He is everything in the world to me. I would like you to know Him too."
For that woman, there was only one theological question to ask: Do you know my Jesus?
2. Paul Vs. Nero
a. Some overlap between Paul and Nero
b. Nero -- focus of Rome; Paul a prisoner of Rome
1) Media today would have wanted to interview and honor Nero -- ignore or criticize Paul
2) [Tim Tebow Vs. Gay BB/FB players
c. Nero Caesar --
1.) Self-proclaimed god (man to god; Jesus: God to man) -- erected a 120' statue to himself at age 25
2.) Married beautiful blonde, Sabina Poppea -- bathed in Donkeys' milk (400 kept for her baths); dried with swan feathers; massaged with crocodile mucus -- Nero wanted her to have soft skin and what he wanted he got
1) Follower of Jesus, called "Christ" -- anointed One
2) Refers to himself as "prisoner of Jesus"
3. The world looked up to Nero and down on Paul -- (Isaiah 5.20 -- Woe to those who call evil good . . .)
4. Who has exerted more influence?
I. Paul Had a Difficult Path
A. The Demands Came at His Call
1. He would suffer -- Acts 9.16
For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name."
2. The life of a follower is demanding, not convenient -- will we follow anyway?
B. The Demands Continued on his Commitment -- 2 Corinthians 11.23-29
23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one--I am talking like a madman--with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers;27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?
1. Preached throughout the Roman Empire to Jews and Gentiles
2. Wanted to be like Jesus (his rabbi) and face Roman authority
3. Wrote letters (our NT books) while in prison
4. He stayed the course -- 2 Timothy 4.6-8
In the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, a Japanese gymnast, Shun Fujimoto, was competing in the team competition. Somehow, during the floor exercises, he broke his right knee. It was obvious to all reasonable observers that he would be forced to withdraw. On the following day, Fujimoto competed in his strongest event, the rings. His routine was excellent, but the critical point lay ahead- the dismount. Without hesitation, Fujimoto ended with a twisting, triple somersault. There was a moment of intense quiet as he landed with tremendous impact on his wounded knee. Then came the thunderous applause as he stood his ground. Later, reporters asked about that moment and he replied, "The pain shot through me like a knife. It brought tears to my eyes. But now I have a gold medal and the pain is gone."
This is the promise that we have from God. One day, if we remain faithful, the pain will be gone, the hurt will be gone, the sickness will be gone, the tiredness will be gone, the tears will be gone and we will have a reward of eternal life with God. Jesus himself gives us this promise in Revelation 210b, "Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life."