1 Corinthians 2:2 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.[a] 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. New International Version (NIV)
I’m a big fan of the Apostle Paul. Here’s a guy that was well respected in his community. A “Pharisee of Pharisees” by his own words, meaning all the religious leaders around him wanted to be like him. If he was an artist he would’ve been an artists’ artist. The kind of artist that makes you feel cool to bring them up in conversation. “Oh man they are just soooo good, I’ve been listening to them for, like, awhile now y’know…” Paul was that guy. He was respected not only because he was awesome at following the religious code of his tribe, but also because of the way he went after this new sect who claimed to know the Messiah. A claim he totally disbelieved. Many followers of Jesus were tortured and imprisoned because of him. He even held the coats of his peers and approvingly watched them stone the first Christian martyr Stephen to death. He was a zealous man firm in his convictions. What makes me a big fan of the Apostle Paul isn’t any of those things (especially the stoning part).
Paul’s Amazing Turnaround
What amazes me about Paul is how he responded with his life after he had a face to face encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul had everything he could want out of life up to that point. He was popular and intellectually accomplished. As far as we can tell he was financially secure. But after meeting Jesus none of that meant anything to him anymore. From that moment on he was willing to be rejected and hated by the community he had made his “name” in. For a while, quite possibly a few years, he wasn’t fully trusted by many Christians because of his past. He moved from being independent and firmly established in his community to being a couch surfing missionary traveling across the Middle East, depending heavily on funding from and the hospitality of others. He did all this just to tell people what Jesus had done for Him and the world. He went from torturing Christians to enduring torture and imprisonment for the sake of sharing the Gospel. Paul was able to do this, not because of his stellar self-confidence, but because he found a new standard to base his confidence in. His identity was no longer in his friends, his goodness, his talents, his money, his marital status, or his circumstance. His identity was in Christ. He considered himself to be nothing but a sinner saved by Jesus sacrifice with nothing good to boast about in himself. All he that he had, he decided to offer back to God and leveraged his life for God’s glory and not his own.
What Paul’s Life Teaches Us About God
I believe God chose to reveal himself to Paul to teach us a couple of things about Himself. First, no one is outside of the reach of God’s grace. The biblical scene of the stoning of Stephen unfortunately reminds me of the beheadings carried out by ISIS in present times. God offered grace and redemption to a man who was cheering on a brutal execution of one of Jesus’s fully devoted followers. Secondly, when it came to living a perfect religious life Paul was disciplined like no other. He could’ve easily continued to trust in his own abilities and his own righteousness and not submit himself in obedience to Jesus’s will for his life. Paul’s example shows us that no human should rely on their own self-righteousness. Our best efforts in our own strength are of no lasting value when compared to the perfection of God.
Finding Our Identity in Christ
As artists it is so easy to get caught up in our creative and technical abilities. We get puffed up and prideful when we pull something off, or we’re devastated when something doesn’t go right. We want to impress people with our songs or playing. We want to get asked back to perform, or wonder for days why we didn’t get called back to do an annual event.
These things inhibit us from becoming the follower and the artist that Jesus wants us to be. When we find our confidence in what Jesus has done for us and not what we can do, then we become the types of people that others hope to become. We may lack abilities in areas that other artists rock in, but if we have a confidence in Jesus people will be drawn to Him through us. If we happen to be exceptionally talented in other ways, people will be drawn to Jesus through that as well. People recognize humble spirits and will see in our life that Jesus is still more important than anything we could ever offer.
If art or anything else is what we are living for we will never be satisfied, but if we live for Jesus we will find our fill, we will receive the Living Water, and we will offer it to a dying, thirsty world.
Your Turn to Share
In what ways does has the story of Paul impacted your life? How has your pursuit of Jesus helped you become comfortable in your own skin?