When You are Holding on for Dear Life

The Story Continues: Your Story, Gods Story….

Chapter 30 / When You are Holding on for Dear Life

One day in the late Spring they came to his cell in the Mamertine Prison in Rome and opened the door.  His executioners led him out of the city on the Ostian Road.

As they were walking out, other travelers would have been walking into Rome.  They would have paid him little attention.  No one would have recognized his face.  No one would have known his crime.  He was just another prisoner, just another “dead man walking.”

After traveling a few miles out, the executioners would have stopped.  A block would be laid down.  His head would be placed upon it.  A sword would be raised.  And in an instant the head of the most influential writer of all times would roll upon the ground.

Paul had known his share of suffering, but he did not shrink back from his calling.  If we could look closer, we would see how scars spread across his back like a windshield crack and how wounds stiffened his joints.  His own account of his hardships included floggings, lashings, beatings with rods, pelting with stones, shipwrecks, dangers from rivers and bandits and Jews and Gentiles, danger in the city and in the country, danger at sea and from false believers.  He knew hard labor, lack of sleep, hunger, thirst, cold and nakedness (2 Cor. 11:23-29).

It’s a wonder that he could move at all, but move he did.  From Corinth to Ephesus, from Thessalonica to Colossae, he left his footprints all over the known world of his day.  His visits to these cities were not for sightseeing.  He worked.  Long days of preaching and establishing churches.

When he wasn’t walking he was writing.  He wrote letters to the church in Rome and Corinth and Galatia and Ephesus.  He wrote to Titus and he wrote to Timothy.  Letters that continue to bless. God’s grace turned his world upside down and his life was spent telling others about it.  Until that day on the Ostian Road, when he drew his last breath.

When you face struggles because of your faith, remember Paul.  He anchored himself to a purpose that was higher and greater than his life.   There are many fights you can fight, but Paul trained himself for the “good fight” (2 Timothy 4:6-8). 

His fight did not end at death.  His writings have encouraged, exhorted, and educated followers of Christ till today and for all the tomorrows to come.  He gave himself totally to eternal things. 

So can you.  Fight the good fight.  And like Paul, finish the race well.

Chapter 29 / God Chooses Unlikely Candidates to be His Messengers

If you saw her backstage you never would have imagined what fame was soon to come her way. She walked out on the stage in a frumpy dress. Slightly mussed up hair. Bushy eyebrows. Seemingly a bit old and odd for the competition. But the moment she began to sing on Britain’s Got Talent she took the world by storm. By the final note she was receiving a standing ovation from the crowd and a broad smile from Simon Cowell. The video of her performance immediately hit YouTube and within a week had been viewed 66 million times.
She eventually won second place in the competition but that did not stop her. An album was released in November of 2009 and by the end of the year she had the top selling record world wide of any releases, selling a total of 8.3 million copies.

You probably would never have picked him either. One first century writing describes him this way: “Bald-headed, bowlegged, strongly built, a man small in size, with meeting eyebrows, and a rather large nose.”

Appearances aside, he had been spending his days with a singular purpose: persecuting Christians. Pulling them from their houses. Throwing them in prison. Even having some killed.

And yet God chose him to take his story to the Gentiles. Jesus arranged a face-to-face meeting with Saul while he was on his way to Damascus to persecute his followers (Acts 9). Jesus slammed on the stadium lights and Saul began to see the light. And by the end of the encounter his name is changed from Saul to Paul as he is given a new purpose and a new lease on life.

The rest is history. Paul, a Jew, took the gospel message to the Gentiles. Paul, the “chief of sinners” spoke as a gracious firsthand recipient of God’s mercy. Paul, the well-schooled expert on the Law, became the most outspoken voice for the principle of grace.

And aren’t you glad he did? Most of us would not know Christ had Paul not traveled the world telling others about him. And most of us would not know Christ if some modern-day “Paul” not walked across the cul-de-sac or the cubicle or the classroom to introduce him to us.

Susan’s look changed. So did Paul’s. The description of Paul ends by saying he was “. . . full of grace, for sometimes he looked like a man and sometimes he had the face of an angel.”

An “angel.” The word means “messenger.” God wants to use you to take his message to your world. Your street. Your workplace. Your school. You might not think he’d choose you either. But you might just need to think again, no matter your appearance.

The Story Chapter 28: God’s Search and Rescue Plan Involves You

William Pilkenton was one month away from turning eight years old.  His family had traveled from Bellingham, Washington, to Tofino, British Columbia for a vacation.  He and his father were walking up from the beach when his father turned to look for him and realized he was gone.

 When children go missing, fathers start looking.  And so did this one.  Before long, the entire community was helping him search for this missing child.  Search and rescue crews scoured the area.  Search coordinator Garth Cameron said, “I don’t think there’s a square foot in this town that doesn’t have footprints.”[1]

 When children go missing, parents go looking.  And that’s what God has done.  There’s not a square foot on earth that doesn’t have his footprints.  He began searching for them the moment Adam and Eve made a choice and lost their way.  He sent the nation of Israel looking.  He sent his Son to “seek and save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). 

 Today he sends his church.  In Acts 1:8 we find his search and rescue plan: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

 Jesus sent the disciples into the middle of Jerusalem and told them to wait.  While they were waiting a crowd gathered for Pentecost.  Some estimate Jerusalem swelled to over one million people during this time.  The Holy Spirit came on them, Peter preached, and the church swelled from 120 to over three thousand.

It didn’t stop there.  The devoted themselves to “the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).  That first church in Jerusalem grounded its people in the Word, in deep community, to sharing meals and sharing Christ, and to prayer.  They had to.  The task at hand was too big for them to accomplish on their own.  They needed each other.  Mostly they needed God.

That hasn’t changed, has it?  We still have the same commission to be witnesses for Jesus in our Jerusalems and in our world.  We are still called to the Word, to love each other, to share life, and to prayer.  And we are still searching for those who have lost their way.

We are still searching because the Father still has children who are missing.  So go to your Jerusalem and wait.  God will bring you power as you serve him there.  Let’s not leave a square foot without our footprints.
GO and DO Great Things