You Never Get Over It…
When you’ve been reading the letters of Paul as long as I have, you begin to notice a few things. For one thing, as a pastor, you begin to understand that Paul was a pastor himself and dealt with many of the same issues any pastor will deal with in any church. Most of Paul’s letters are written in response to questions and problems in a local church. He is addressing real people with real issues.
The second thing you notice is how often he erupts into spontaneous praise and worship. After one of the most difficult passages in all of the Bible — the middle chapters of Romans where Paul is working through a complete saga of salvation history — he comes to the end of chapter 11 where he explodes into worship as he marvels how God has continued to work with His people across history.
And the last thing you notice? Paul never got over his conversion. That Christ, the One Paul has spurned and attacked, would seek him out, forgive him and then, call him to preach was something Paul never fully got over. You see him make this point throughout his letters.
“And last of all, as one untimely born, He appeared to me also…” (I Corinthians 15:8)
“It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” (I Timothy 1:15).
“So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision…” (Acts 26:19).
I could go on and on, but you get my point. There was the underlying amazement to Paul’s preaching. If Christ can save me, he seems to be saying, He can save anyone. This message and the power of Christ’s continuing presence in his life made Paul eager to preach in the most difficult circumstances — Roman prisons, house arrest, synagogues in front of hostile audiences — Paul didn’t care. The message of Jesus was bigger and more important than anything else.
I know being the pastor of a church can be a demanding job. People are constantly pulling at our time and the meetings never seem to end. Sometimes the constant pounding can almost make us numb to the realities of our ministries. Our Bible reading slides. Our prayer life is pushed back. Private worship is lost. We lose the wonder of Christ finding us. We forget the majesty of our calling — that the message of Jesus is bigger and more important than anything else. We don’t burn out as much as we simply dry out.
But at the heart of it all, life for Paul, is the wonder that Christ saved us. It is the moment when we were simultaneously confronted with the reality of our sin and the sufficiency of grace. There is the humility of our calling — not because we’re talented or gifted, but because, like Paul, we could best make the point that if Christ can save us, He can save anybody.
Paul was never quite able to get over that. Neither should we.