Summary: Compare your life with the life of a man who met Jesus up while on his way to punish Jesus’ disciples. What did the cross mean to him?
Let’s think for a moment about a man who was moving up the ladder of success in his field, having been taught in the finest schools, awarded most likely to succeed among his peers, powerful and on fire with a bright future before him. But suddenly he threw it all away. He gave up marriage, comforts of a home, he gave up sleep, food, safety… just listen to his own list: 2 Cor. 11:23b I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.
24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.
25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, 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 countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.
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.
And again he says about himself and his present company:
1 Cor 4:11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless.
12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it;
13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.
Why would anyone chose a life which he himself would say, “If this life is all there is, we are of all men most to be pitied.” (1 Cor. 15:19). We are the most miserable of all men!
You know who I’m talking about, don’t you? This is a man who met Jesus one day. From that day forward nothing in his life was the same. The Jesus who he had hated so much before he met him… this Jesus became his richest treasure, his brightest hope, his only purpose and focus in life.
Let’s face it, this sounds like the story of an extremist. But this so called extremist wrote most of the books in our New Testament. God inspired the life of this man, and he preached and proclaimed Jesus Christ and him crucified everywhere he went. In most of his letters it is hard to find a complete sentence where Jesus is not mentioned. He begins and ends and fills the middle with Jesus Christ.
Paul was brilliant, but he didn’t dare lean on his clever intelligence. He was extremely talented, but he didn’t dare let his talents take the center stage. He was a prolific writer, but as we just said, his pen could hardly move on the page without writing the name of Jesus on every line. He was educated, was from the right family, trained in the right discipline, reputed to have the politically correct posture, and by the law, he was squeaky clean in character.
But listen to what happened:
Phil 3:7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ,
9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God and is by faith,
10 I want to know Christ, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;
11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.
13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
I love the song that goes:
All I once held dear, built my life upon, all this world reveres and wants to own,