Hey guys! You might be wondering why I’m posting on Saturday. I wanted to post this now, because this week I may not be posting anything with the exception of Friday, when I will have a Christmas post out for you guys!
I probably won’t be posting this week except Friday because tomorrow I am officially beginning the second draft process of The Apostle’s Sister! I’m going to read the entire book as quickly as I can, making notes in my spiral notebook and everything. I’m a little nervous, but actually really excited, and I am planning to devote a ton of time to the manuscript since I am now on Christmas break. So I probably won’t be spending much time on this blog, other than responding to your comments, because you have no idea how happy I get when I see them! So don’t shy away from commenting. There just won’t be posts on Tuesday and Thursday, most likely. I know you guys understand, especially because, after all, a lot of you are writers yourselves!
So now that I’ve got that all explained, time to jump into today’s post – Five Reasons to Love St. Paul!
Now, this is by no means – no means at all – an exhaustive list. If I tried to list all the reasons I love St. Paul, I’d have you guys reading for days, LOL. So I’m doing five reasons. (Anybody notice I do “five” a lot on this blog? I mean, like, “Five Awesome Bible Verses from St. Paul” and “Five Amazing Book Recommendations.” I guess because five is such a good number. Four seems like too little and ten seems like an insanely long blog post, so five is perfect!)
Anyway, as you guys know, I love St. Paul. I mean – duh – I’m writing an entire novel about him. Besides Jesus, no one has changed my life or shown me love the way he has. St. Paul is not just a writer of the Bible and an apostle who lived 2,000 years ago – he’s a friend. A good friend. A best friend. Now, how is he a best friend? That’s what I’m about to tell you through these five reasons. So why don’t I just start already…?
But wait, before I start, John Piper, a pastor I greatly admire, has a GREAT series on his website called “Why I Love the Apostle Paul” as well as an equally awesome book called Why I Love the Apostle Paul: 30 Reasons. I definitely recommend checking them out! I will be referencing Pastor John a few times in this blog post.
So, let’s start on my list!
1. His teachings about learning from your past and accepting Christ’s forgiveness.
Everyone has a past they regret. St. Paul certainly did. Before he became Christ’s most influential apostle, he was a persecutor of Christians. He was “ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison” (Acts 8:3). And when Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was stoned for his testimony about Jesus, who was holding the cloaks of his murderers and giving approval to his death? You guessed it (Acts 7:58, 8:1). But then his life completely changed when Jesus sent his light and love into it on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:3).
Although he knew he was forgiven, Paul never forgot his past of persecuting the church, and always condemned himself for it. The guilt he felt never left him. Consider 1 Timothy 1:13, where he uses some incredibly strong language for the man he was back then: “blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent.” And he calls himself “the foremost of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).
I think this quote from Pastor John summarizes it very well: “He never stopped feeling the sting, the horror, of being a Christian-killer and a Christ-killer… here’s something so horrible in Paul’s life, in his background, that he did that he never, never stopped taking it into account. He never got beyond it. He never stopped thinking on it and its implications; it never stopped playing any emotional role in his life.”
I have a past I regret. There was a time I thought I could never be forgiven, and could never be a born-again Christian. Until God used St. Paul’s beautiful truth to touch my life and make me realize, once and for all, that he is loving enough to forgive even me!
Look at what Paul says after condemning himself for his past: “But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:13-16).
These are the words that finally set me free from punishing myself.
I realized that I’m not alone. St. Paul had a regretful past, too, but he didn’t let it destroy his life after he had been changed. I found so much encouragement in knowing that Christ’s most influential apostle also had a past that caused him guilt. I didn’t feel alone anymore. These words are the most beautiful I’ve ever heard. Paul said his conversion is for me, so I would know that Jesus can and will forgive me.
This is a BIG reason why I am so grateful to St. Paul. He taught me to learn from my past and accept Christ’s forgiveness. He taught me that there are some things we simply cannot forget – and that is the mark of a truly repentant person. An unrepentant person would immediately forget a guilty past. God doesn’t force us to forget our former selves. He wants us to look back on ourselves and realize how merciful he is. St. Paul taught me to realize I am a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), and to look forward to a great future (Philippians 3:13).
2. His life of unspeakable suffering.
St. Paul suffered horribly. His life was filled with it. I mean listen to this:
“Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:23-28).
The one and only word that comes to my mind when I read that is – Wow. Just wow.
I just don’t understand how you can endure that much suffering – scourging, stoning, hunger, imprisonment, and all those other horrible things he listed – and not be angry at God. I mean, isn’t he supposed to protect people who witness for him? How can you endure this much suffering and not walk away saying, “I’m done”? How can you endure this much suffering and keep going back to the very people who scourge and stone you and toss you in jail, knowing they will do it again? I don’t know anyone who suffers like this, much less uncomplainingly. Because being honest, I think as soon as someone came at me with a stone, or after the first blow of the whip, I’d be like, “Please, please stop and I won’t talk about Jesus ever again!” But Paul didn’t do that.
He continued his ministry, knowing these things would happen to him again and again and again, and God did nothing to stop it. He continued, knowing that again and again and again he would be brought to the brink of death. Again and again and again he would nearly die from blood loss and organ damage, or from hypothermia, or heat exhaustion, or drowning… but still he continued.
Some excellent quotes from Pastor John about Paul’s life of suffering: “So, when Paul suffered in the path of faithful obedience to Jesus, he did not accuse Jesus of bait and switch. He did not criticize his ways or murmur against his sovereign wisdom. He did ask for deliverance. Sometimes it came (Acts 22:25–29); sometimes it didn’t. One time in particular, when deliverance from suffering did not come, was especially difficult for Paul. He called it a ‘thorn… in the flesh’ (2 Corinthians 12:7) and tells about it: ‘Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:8–9).”
(Fun Fact: The Bible never says what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was. So no one knows for sure. I had a lot of fun imagining what it might have been: in The Apostle’s Sister, it is recurrent fevers.)
How can you not love and admire a man like this, who suffers without complaining, all because he loves the word of God and the people of the world that much?
3. He was incredibly humble.
One of the first things you’ll notice about St. Paul is that he was incredibly humble. In fact, the most humble person I know after Jesus. He always put himself below everyone else. I mean take a look at these Bible verses:
“Though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them” (1 Corinthians 9:19).
“For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:9-10).
“Though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me” (2 Corinthians 12:6).
Remember that chilling list of sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28? I don’t know about you, but if I somehow endured stuff like that without walking away, I would want everyone to know about it. I would practically shout it from the rooftops and make sure people pity and admire me for being so self-sacrificing. But Paul hated boasting. He hated it so much that writing that list of sufferings was torture to him.
False apostles had arrived in Corinth and were telling the Christians there to turn away from Paul and the Jesus he preached. The false apostles boasted of things like their Jewish race, their eloquent speaking, and the visions they allegedly received from God (2 Corinthians 11:6, 11:22, 12:1). So the Corinthians demanded to hear what Paul had to boast of, or else they threatened to turn their backs on his gospel message.
Paul had no choice. He had to boast to save the Corinthians’ faith, though he hated boasting (2 Corinthians 10:17-18). So he wrote this list in intense embarrassment:
“I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not as the Lord would but as a fool. Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves!” (2 Corinthians 11:16-19)
“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (2 Corinthians 11:30).
“I have been a fool! You forced me to it, for I ought to have been commended by you. For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing” (2 Corinthians 12:11).
Paul even visited heaven, brought there by Jesus himself (2 Corinthians 12:1-7). But never did he mention it to anyone. That is just – wow. If you were caught up to paradise, would you keep quiet about it, and only tell it because you were driven to it? I wouldn’t. I would tell everyone. But Paul went to the third heaven and never told anyone; when forced to finally divulge the glorious experience, he even spoke of himself in the third person:
“And he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter” (2 Corinthians 12:4).
Very, very few of the many sufferings on Paul’s list are mentioned in the book of Acts. St. Luke, the author, recorded only a few of the things that had happened to Paul by the time this list was written. If Paul was that embarrassed to write that list for the Corinthians, and only did it because they forced him to, he certainly wouldn’t have written them all out in glorified detail for Luke, even though Luke was a very close friend.
Can you imagine suffering that much and even visiting heaven, and yet telling no one? Paul really did hate boasting. He never shared any experience – any trial, any vision – with anyone unless it was to encourage them or show them his own fear and discouragement and the glory of Christ.
4. His own people rejected him, but he never stopped loving them.
One of the most beautiful parts in the life of St. Paul was his relationship with his own people, the Jews.
And why was it beautiful? Certainly not on their end. Thirsty for his blood, they hunted him from region to region, scourged him in their synagogues, convinced a mob to stone him, beat him nearly to death in front of the Temple, imprisoned him… and so much more. And the reason why this hurt so much was not because of the physical pain, but the emotional pain. Paul could deal better with the persecution of the Gentiles because they were outsiders. But the Jews were his own people.
Could you keep loving your enemies and calling them your own when they’ve done so many horrible things to you? I don’t know if I could. But look at this passage from Romans. This has to be one of the most powerful passages in the Bible ever:
“I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:2-3).
WOW. Paul is saying that he wishes he could take the Jews’ place in hell so they could take his place in heaven. And he calls them his “kinsmen.” Again – WOW. I just can’t imagine this kind of love. It’s the kind of love Christ had for us, when he died on the cross for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8).
It was said of Jesus himself that “he came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11). Next to Jesus, this was truer of Paul than of anyone else.
Would you call the Jews your “kinsmen” and your “own people” after all they had done? Would you volunteer to go to hell for them? There’s very few people who would – and Paul was one of those extremely rare people.
5. His heart for family and friends.
In this blog post, we’ve talked mostly about Paul’s love for his enemies. But although he had great love for his enemies, his love was certainly not limited to them. He also treasured his family and friends, and loved them very much. He knew and appreciated their importance, and gave thanks to God for them.
I love the way Paul refers to his friends, his family in the faith. Such as calling Timothy and Titus “his true children in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2, Titus 1:4). Or referring to Luke as “the beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14). Or Phoebe, a deaconess, as “our sister” (Romans 16:1).
And, of course, St. Paul had the biggest heart and a special place for family. Listen to his strong beliefs about family relationships:
“Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Timothy 5:1-2).
“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).
Paul’s affectionate way of calling the believers “brothers and sisters” (Romans 10:1) reflects how highly he esteemed relationships with family and friends.
We know about Paul’s own family from the Bible – his sister and his nephew, the son of his sister (Acts 23:16). After reading Paul’s strong instructions to Timothy about taking care of family, it would be unthinkable to suggest he would not care for his own sister and nephew. Timothy undoubtedly took his cues from Paul. If Paul said something but didn’t do it himself, why should Timothy listen?
There is no doubt in my mind that Paul loved and treasured this sister and nephew. Which, of course, is the entire basis for my novel, The Apostle’s Sister.
That’s it for today!
I know this post was probably a bit longer than usual, but I wanted you guys to have something until I post again on Friday. I had a lot of fun writing this blog post. I really hope y’all enjoyed it!
So, let’s chat! Feel free to share with me any thoughts you might have about this post or my novel. And I really want to know how everyone’s writing is going. Have you evil authors killed any characters? Maybe you’ve been nice for a change? (I hope not…) Give me all the details!
Thank you guys so much for all the encouragement on this blog! It hasn’t been around for very long, but already I’ve gotten so much support, both with the blog and with my novel. I especially want to thank the lovely ladies at Teen Writers’ Nook for all their help and encouragement. Without you, I highly doubt I would be ready to start on the second draft process of The Apostle’s Sister tomorrow. So thank you!
You know the drill – eat, pray, write, repeat!