(1 Cor 15:9,10 Phillips) I am the least of the messengers, and indeed I do not deserve that title at all, because I persecuted the Church of God. But what I am now I am by the grace of God. The grace he gave me has not proved a barren gift. I have worked harder than any of the others – and yet it was not I but this same grace of God within me.
This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.” We have already looked at the lives of Moses and David, both of which were used mightily of God, both of which were major contributors to scripture, and both of which were murderers. God used them, not because they were so good, but because of His amazing Grace. When you get to heaven, if you track down the Apostle Paul, I have a sneaky suspicion that he will also talk to you about God’s amazing Grace.
Paul was an amazing man. While he was not one of the original Apostles, one can easily make the argument that he was the most influential Apostle. Let’s take a look at just some of what Paul did:
Paul went on four missionary journeys in which he evangelized an area so wide that it covers modern day Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel. He accomplished this nearly 2,000 years ago without the aid of planes, trains or automobiles.
He started churches and served as a Pastor of Pastors.
He wrote half the New Testament (at least) and he wrote many of his letters from jail.
He faced tremendous opposition along the way, because he was preaching at a time when Christians were persecuted for naming the name of Jesus, but he never stopped.
He was, outside of Jesus, the MOST influential person of the 1st century church.
But Paul was not perfect (as we will learn in this series) and he needed the Grace of God to do what he did.
To give you an example of the opposition, by Paul’s own account he said, “I have worked harder than any of them. I have served more prison sentences! I have been beaten times without number. I have faced death again and again. I have been beaten the regulation thirty-nine stripes by the Jews five times. I have been beaten with rods three times. I have been stoned once. I have been shipwrecked three times. I have been twenty-four hours in the open sea. In my travels I have been in constant danger from rivers and floods, from bandits, from my own countrymen, and from pagans. I have faced danger in city streets, danger in the desert, danger on the high seas, danger among false Christians. I have known exhaustion, pain, long vigils, hunger and thirst, going without meals, cold and lack of clothing.” That is enough to crush anyone. No mere human could suffer all of that without the Grace of God to do it. And if that were not enough, Paul endured it all, while still focused on the Body of Christ. Paul went on to say, “Apart from all external trials I have the daily burden of responsibility for all the churches.” Even while in suffering and imprisoned, Paul was focused on others and not himself. Through it all, Paul kept the focus on God. Paul continued and said, “Oh, if I am going to boast, let me boast of the things which have shown up my weakness!” (2 Cor 11:23-31). Paul learned that when he was weak (humanly speaking), he was able to be made strong by the Grace of God.
So what does this mean to you today? The message is simple: you have the Grace to keep going. Never give up! Paul held on to the end. In his last letter he said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7). He knew what his assignment was and he also knew that it had been completed. Paul did not live much longer after writing this letter. In this same letter he said the following to his spiritual son Timothy: “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus… Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” What was Paul doing? He was helping Timothy get mentally and spiritually prepared for the challenges he would face on the road to fulfilling his own life’s assignment. The same can be said for you. You will face challenges, but you must NEVER quit! The only way you can truly lose is if you quit. If you refuse to cast away your confidence (Heb 10:35), God will refuse to allow the enemy to overtake you. Like Paul, you won’t be able to do it on your own. Without the Grace of God you will succumb to the pressures of the enemy. But with the Grace of God you will be able to keep going, even when the pressure is on you to quit.
Closing Confession: Father, I know that I have a part in what You desire to do in my life. For You to freely operate in my life, You seek my cooperation. By faith I declare that I shall provide it. I submit to Your Kingdom plans and purposes for me. I know You made plans for me before the foundations of the world and I am committed to finding and submitting to those plans. I know it will not always be easy and I know the enemy will do all he can go get me to give up, cave in and quit. But I refuse to allow opposition or challenges to stop me. I am not a quitter, I am a fighter and I have a Warrior Spirit burning down inside of me. I have SuperNatural strength. Not from me, but from You. My true strength comes from my surrender. My power comes when I get to the end of myself and I know I cannot do it on my own. When I fully surrender to You, and I call upon You for help and strength, it is then that Your grace is released in my life to the fullest. By Your Grace I shall die empty. By Your Grace I will get out of me (before I die) all the things You have placed in me. By Your Grace I will overcome every obstacle, opposition and challenge. By Your Grace I will keep going even when I feel like stopping. I am not in this fight alone. You are on me, in me, with me, and for me. You are on my side and You are more than the entire world against me! I am who I am, and I will do what I am destined to do, BY YOUR GRACE! In Jesus’ name. Amen!
This is Today’s Word! Apply it and Prosper.