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Summary: This is the first sermon in a series on the life of the apostle Paul. We will be looking to become like Jesus by following Paul's example. The primary resource for the series is Charles Swindoll's book Paul: A Man of Grace and Grit.

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A. Once a five-year-old named Brian was impressed by the story of Simeon the Stylite, a Syrian hermit who lived in the 5th century.

1. Simeon the Stylite was admired as a saint because he lived for more than 35 years on a platform atop a high pillar.

2. Determined to follow Simeon’s example, little Brian put the kitchen stool on the table and started his perilous climb.

3. When his mother heard some strange sounds in the kitchen, she came in, and shouted, “Brian! Get down before you break your neck!”

4. As the youngster obeyed his mother, he muttered, “A boy isn’t even allowed to become a saint in his own house!”

B. I trust that most, if not all of us here today, want to become a saint – we want to become more and more like Jesus, right?

1. The question is: Whose example are we going to follow in that process?

2. Are we going to follow the example of Simeon the Stylite and live life atop a high pillar?

3. I believe there are better examples to follow than Simeon’s.

4. Perhaps one of the best examples we can follow is the example of the apostle called Paul.

5. Paul encouraged us to follow his example – In 1 Corinthians 11:1, he wrote: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

C. Today, we are beginning a new sermon series that I am calling, “Follow Me As I Follow Christ – A Journey with Paul.”

1. We have access to more information about Paul’s life and ministry than we have for any other New Testament follower of Christ.

2. Therefore, we have the opportunity to understand how to be more like Jesus through Paul’s example.

3. Anytime we engage in a serious study of a great life, we need to brace ourselves for surprises.

4. We are going to witness some amazing ups and downs in Paul’s life as he sought to follow God to the best of his understanding.

5. And as is often the case in life, there are circumstances and events that mold and shape us that take place in the hidden years when few are paying attention.

D. That’s certainly true of America’s sixteenth and perhaps greatest president, Abraham Lincoln.

1. Most of us would assume that the achieving the office of President of the United States was the fitting climax to Lincoln’s already prestigious and successful life, right?

2. But that is not the case with Abraham Lincoln.

3. Most of us know that he had humble beginnings, like being born in a primitive log cabin, but did you know the following things about Lincoln?

a. Did you know that his father was illiterate and that he had virtually no formal education?

b. Did you know that when he applied to law school he was laughed out of consideration because of his miserable qualifications?

c. Did you know that he failed in his first career in business and then started a business that ended in bankruptcy? (He spent 17 years paying off that debt)

d. Did you know that he spent six months in bed recovering from a nervous breakdown after his fiancé died soon after their engagement?

e. Did you know that he failed to be elected seven times when he ran for office?

1. In 1838, he ran to be speaker of the state legislature, and was defeated.

2. In 1840, he ran to become the elector of the state, and was defeated.

3. In 1843, he was defeated for nomination for Congress.

4. In 1846, he ran for Congress and won, but two years later he ran for reelection and was soundly defeated.

5. In 1854, he ran for the U.S. Senate, and lost.

6. In 1856, he sought the vice-presidential nomination at his party’s national convention, and received less than 100 votes.

7. In 1858, he ran again for the U.S. Senate and lost again.

8. Finally, in 1860, he was elected to the presidency of the United States.

9. His perseverance rewarded him with unprecedented political success, and he was reelected for a second term.

10. Sadly, only five days after Lee surrendered, on the 14th day of April 1865, Lincoln was assassinated – he was dead before reaching 60 years of age.

4. If we didn’t know about Lincoln’s early life, then we might think that he must have had a magnificent, silver-spoon background, with all kinds of advantages.

a. But amazingly, when we peer into his past, we discover a life riddled with failure and tragedy, heartache and pain.

5. That’s when we are reminded that the steel of greatness is often forged in the heat of pain.

a. We often learn and are shaped by the dark and difficult pits that we find ourselves in.

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