Life lessons from the Apostle Paul – where do we even begin? There are so many to choose from! Today, we’ll look at four lessons from his life that we find in the first chapter of Philippians.
The Apostle Paul. How to describe him?
I can think of one way: completely sold out. Whatever he did, he did with confidence, conviction and complete focus on the task at hand, didn’t he?
When we first meet him, his name is Saul, and he is feared by the early church because of the zeal with which he persecutes Christians. The book of Acts tells us that when he met Christ “at once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.” (Acts 9:22)
He didn’t hold back.
Paul was confident and independent, too. In his letter to the Galatians, he reminds them that when he became a believer he didn’t seek to learn from others, writing that “when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia.” (Galatians 1:15-17)
You’d think he was under the impression he didn’t need other believers, wouldn’t you?
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Life Lesson #1 – No man is an island.
Though Paul was independent, he developed deep and lasting relationships with the other believers he met as he journeyed through his life.
Look at what he wrote to the Philippians:
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:3-8)
Those are not the words of a man who lived like an island!
They are the words of a man on the move – a missionary.
One of the hardest parts of life on the mission field is the constant coming and going. You can be tempted to keep newcomers at arm’s length because you know they will be temporary. Or maybe you will. Either way, eventually, everyone leaves. They move on.
But Paul never let that stop him. He dug deep into relationships, and we should, too.
When I read his words, I always think of so many of my Kenyan friends and the mission family I became part of when I lived in Kenya many, many years ago. Like Paul, I often “long for” them. And, like Paul, often all I can do is pray.
I give thanks for my friends spread far and wide, acknowledging the work God has done and the work he is still doing and overflowing with gratitude that I get to be part of it, that the gospel partnership includes me.
I thank him for you, too.
Life Lesson #2 – God can use anything to make his name known!
Today’s technology has enabled God’s people to connect with each other no matter where they may live. I’m thankful to be part of the blogging community, which I believe is partnering together to further the gospel. God is using technology to reach people around the world.
Because He can use anything to make his name known.
That’s a lesson Paul knew well.
He wrote, “Now, I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.” (Philippians 1:12-14)
Paul recognized that God works all things together for good (Romans 8:28).
I once knew a missionary who lived in Southern Sudan, 200 miles from the nearest source of electricity. He told the story of a bush fire that spread quickly toward the compound on which he lived. He and the people he worked with decided to put all of the petrol they had in the middle of the compound and pray somehow it would be saved.
When the fire came, it went in a circle completely around the compound, burning nothing within.
It was the only green spot for many miles, and the elders of the local, unreached tribe came to the compound and sat at the feet of the missionaries and said, “Tell us about your God, for only he could have done this.”
Paul would not have been surprised.
He expected God to work through all things, even the hard ones.
Life Lesson #3 – Someone is always watching.
That’s why he wrote, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Philippians 1:27)
He knew that every occasion was an opportunity to be a witness, and that was his ultimate goal.
Life Lesson #4 – Keep your priorities straight.
Paul had decided what was most important, and that was Christ.
He said, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:20-21)
Paul kept his priorities. Actually, he kept his priority because he only had one – Christ.
As believers, we need to have that single-minded focus, too.
What would our lives look like if everything really did come back to Christ? How would that affect our parenting? Our friendships? Would our work ethic change? Or our careers?
If we truly keep Christ in mind, I think we will begin to live like Paul encouraged the Corinthians to do when he wrote, “whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
I know I want to live that way. Do you?
Today, I’d love to hear how you keep Christ as your first priority – whether in your heart or your home…or wherever! What helps you focus your mind and heart on Him?