Five Reasons to Love St. Paul!

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!

Joy

By Joy Caroline

I’m Joy Caroline, a Seventh-Day Adventist Christian who’s proud to be a daughter of the King! I am a teen writer with a passion for all things Jesus. I write Biblical fiction because my greatest desire is to help teens, including myself, to realize Bible figures were people with feelings just like ours. When I’m not writing, you’ll find me either reading or eating. I LOVE books, especially Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Marjorie Holmes’ Two from Galilee trilogy. And as for food, I’ll eat practically anything as long as it’s dessert! My motto is Eat, Pray, Write, Repeat! Hope to see you around!

17 comments

  1. Ooh, I LOVE THIS LIST. Man! There are so many things to love the apostles for! It’s incredible!
    Congrats on starting the second draft! *cookies**cake**lemonade* I hardly ever even finish a FIRST draft, so you’re very impressive. Hats off to you.
    “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). Gonna have to agree with you there, I am actually deathly afraid of physical pain. Like, I hate it. Along with hyenas. There’s this magazine me and my Mom are subscribed to, it’s call The Voice Of The Martyrs. Have you heard of it? There are tons of true stories about pastors and missionaries being killed for their faith, like one woman who was in a church suicide bombing, or a pastor who was murdered in a horrible, horrible way because he wouldn’t reject Christ. These people… they are amazing.

    1. Hi, Ally! I’m so sorry I haven’t replied to your comment! For some reason, WordPress marked it as spam, so I just now saw it. Sometimes WordPress is tough to deal with *raging
      Yes! There’s so much to learn from the apostles. Another prophet I really like would have to be Hosea. I would love to write something about him some day. I actually have an idea for a novel from the perspective of his daughter, but I want to focus on The Apostle’s Sister right now.
      Aww, thanks! To be honest, first drafts are full of so many mistakes they make me want to bury my face in the sand, LOL.
      Yes, I totally get what you mean! I’m terrified of physical pain. I think I have heard of that magazine. I know… it just makes me feel chilled to think of those people. The person that comes to my mind is William Tyndale burned at the stake for translating the Bible into English. Sometimes I wonder if I could be that courageous if I were called on to be.

  2. OH MY GOODNESS, GIRL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You’re just so VERY welcome!!!!!! THANK YOU for all the support and encouragement you’ve given on TWN!!!!! You’ve been a true blessing to me!!!!!!!! And I’m just BEYOND happy to hear I’ve been an encouragement to you!!!!! You are just TOO SWEET!!!!!!!! Much love to you! <33 <33

    As always this post was BRILLIANT!!!!!!!!! Paul was such an inspiring person. He has inspired me in my own life for certain reasons. I've discovered the importance in humility, and it's something I've been working on in my own life – to be more humble. So, how's working on the second draft been going? For me, this past week was a little slow in writing, probably more that my mind needed a tiny break, but I'm all pumped and ready to get started on the next thing!!!!!! *throws both fists in the air* I'm trying to cram EVERYTHING in to my short little break from school. XD

    1. So glad I found TWN! You guys make it such a positive community.
      Yeah, I think being humble is one of the things I struggle with most 😂 To be honest, the second draft is not going too well right now 😦 I was so excited when I started and I thought there was potential in, like, the first 10 pages, but after that I got so discouraged. I cannot believe how terrible my own writing actually was, when I thought it was a little bit good. *crying There were only a few parts I really liked. After writing this I’m actually going to struggle on to keep reading, after I almost finished an entire season of When Calls the Heart. But yeah, did you feel this discouraged when reading through your first draft?

      1. Girl, I’m sooooo glad you found TWN, too!!!!!!! God is sooo good to us!!!! Aww, I try SOO HARD to make sure it’s a positive community for writers and I know the other gals are the same way!

        SAME!!! Grace from Vibrant for Jesus actually did a post on humility you should read it. It was VERY convicting for me! Oh, no. I’m SUPER sorry it’s not going as planned. Actually, I don’t read through my first drafts. What I do is open up a document and have my first draft (which is usually in a notebook) beside me. Then I REWRITE the story. I’ve done the reread thing before and it just makes me feel discouraged ’cause it’s like I have SOO much to fix. But if I come to rewrite I already know I have to write the story a second time so if I come across something I dislike I have the opportunity to reword it or make it better. And not save it as something to do later. Then I have less discouragement and more of a feeling of accomplishment. But that’s how I write, that might not be the same for every writer, though. Hang in there, ’cause it will get better. It’s not as bad as you think. Get through those rougher scenes, ’cause there are really beautiful ones tucked in it all. YOU’VE GOT THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        1. Oh, you don’t read through your first drafts? YES, YES, YES! Maybe I really shouldn’t. It’s made me feel soooooo disappointed. I really, really hope there’s still some good in this novel. Because honestly, I really love the story, and the last thing I want to do is toss it away. I’ll just have to keep trying, I guess 🙂

          1. Girl, this story is AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!! Don’t toss it all away right now, because I KNOW it’s awesome even if it doesn’t feel that way right now. I have TOTALLY been there before in my second drafts. But I just keep moving forward in the story, knowing that if need be, I can always do a third draft. Don’t toss it away! First drafts are NEVER valid enough to prove if a story needs to be tossed. They are not meant to sound awesome, they’re meant to be the ground that you build on. The foundation is the very thing you rarely see in anything you build but is important if you want it your creation to stand firm. Same with your first drafts. You’re EXACTLY where you need to be right now with The Apostle’s Sister. IT IS AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And if you want me to go ahead and look over the first few chapters, I can. But if you still wanna wait that’s TOTALLY fine, too!!!!!!!!!!! YOU’VE GOT THIS!!!!!!! If I of all people can write a second draft then you TOTALLY can!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

            1. Oh my goodness, this whole comment is just full of so much wisdom! I LOVE everything you just said about foundations. Maybe I should think of the first draft as more of a (very long) outline instead of the actual novel. Thank you so much! I shall try not to lose faith, because honestly, this is the book I would love to be my debut novel.
              And actually, if you don’t mind, I would send the first chapter this week. It’s mostly flashbacks, but I was actually pretty happy with those parts when I read them. I’m just throwing in some quick edits, so after I’m done with that I would love for you to look at it! I’ll send it through the TWN contact form by Friday. Thanks!!! 😃

              1. I’m soooo happy I could give you a bit of wisdom!!!!!! YES! The first draft is ONLY a stepping stone to the novel! And you’re doing WONDERFUL with it all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! <33 I think this book has every single potential to be your debut novel!!!!

                No, I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT mind!!!!!!! I CAN'T WAIT to read them!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂

  3. Joy Caroline, I absolutely LOVED reading your post!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was amazing!!!!!!!!!!! I was sitting here and I was like WOW!!!!!!! This is incredible!!!!!!!!!!!!! The verse 2 Corinthians 11:30 really just blew me away! I had to take a moment to let it sink in. I am now even more determined to be more humble like Paul.

    Good luck with the second draft of The Apostle’s Sister!!!!!!!!🍀 *waves pom poms* I know it’s going to be great!!!!!! Don’t give up! I’m cheering you on!!!!!!!!!!

    Oh my goodness!!!!!!!! You are so so so sweet!!!!!!!!!!!!!😊😊 That was quite a surprise when I read where you said “thank you” to us at Teen Writers’ Nook! Thank YOU for all your encouragement too on Teen Writers’ Nook!!!!!! I am so blessed to have met you!!!!!!!!!!! You and all the other commenters on TWN really inspire me to keep writing! Love ya, girl!!!! <3333

    1. Yay! Glad you enjoyed the post! And yes, I absolutely love that verse! I honestly struggle with humility. It’s something I need to work on.
      Thanks! I shall try not to get too discouraged. Just to let you know, sometime this week I will be sending Chapter 1 of The Apostle’s Sister through the TWN contact form for Maggie to critique. I wanted to let you know in case you want to read it, too. I would welcome the feedback! You totally don’t have to, but I wanted to let you know in case you want to take a look.
      Thank you, thank you, thank you to TWN! You guys totally deserve the thanks. *waving pom poms back at you

      1. I would love to read Chapter 1 of The Apostle’s Sister!!!!!!!!!😃 Thank you so much for letting me know!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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