Perhaps what’s as inspiring about the apostle Paul as anything else is his unwavering sense of call and purpose. Maybe that’s what encounters with the risen Christ on a road to Damascus can do to a guy. Whether it was escaping the Jews in a basket elevator at the beginning of his ministry (Acts 9:25), or writing from a Roman prison towards the end of his ministry, Paul was clear on the stewardship the Lord had given him, “to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to His saints. . . . which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:25-27).
If ever there was a guy who knew what it was to keep on keepin’ on, it was Paul. In times of triumph and in times of trouble he faithfully proclaimed the gospel, that people might be born again into relationship with God as their Father. And, whether he himself was experiencing a season of abundance or a season of need, when it might have been just as easy to move on, he stuck around, faithfully teaching the necessities of maturing in Christ which came only through following Christ together as family.
And here’s what grabbed me this morning as I’m reading in Colossians, the apostle’s fuel for faithfulness.
Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me.
(Colossians 1:28-29 ESV)
Peterson puts it this way: “That’s what I’m working so hard at day after day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me.”
Paul toiled. He labored. With wearisome effort, often to the point of exhaustion, he sought to do what he believed God had called him to do.
He struggled as part of his stewardship. Often he agonized against great opposition to announce the greater opportunity found in the the gospel Repeatedly, he entered the fray in order to contend for God’s people.
And where did the strength come from that allowed him to awake every day and get back in the battle? What was the fuel for such faithfulness? It was the superhuman, trinitarian power only God the Father could provide by God the Son who lived in Paul through the God the Spirit. Fuel available today to the faithful.
I can so easily forget that.
Sure, I can say that “the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me”, but so often I’m not consciously drawing on the eternal power of the “Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). I can so easily plop down in my chair at the end of day, feeling defeated and out of gas, failing to appropriate by faith the divine energy graced to me as part of the gift of salvation. I can so easily become discouraged at the weight I feel for the stewardship I believe God has given me, forgetting that His power really is made perfect through my weakness (2Cor. 12:9), and that I really can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Php. 4:13).
I just need to enter the struggle with His energy that He powerfully works within me.
Not by your might, Pete, nor is it by your power, but only by My Spirit, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
(Zechariah 4:6 PLT)
I know that. I just need to remember that. And believe that. And appropriate that. By His enabling, I need to avail myself of His fuel as I seek to serve Him faithfully.
It’s by His grace. It’s for His glory.