Romans 11:13-18 (ESV) – 13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?16 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.
17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.
The apostle Paul’s mission was incredibly tough. Imagine going to a group of people who you have spent most of your life thinking are beneath you, telling them to worship a God with whom they have no historical context, and all the while ticking off your old tribe… and doing so, hoping beyond hope, that your old tribe will be jealous of the new found spiritual depth of the people they had spent generations despising and turn to a new way of thinking.
That was Paul. Born a Jew, educated to be a Jew’s Jew, an outright, violent opponent of the “Jesus-people,” and then coming to faith in Jesus to reach people who were absolutely not Jewish – the Gentiles – but maintaining contact with Christian Jews who were trying to unpack this whole Messiah-thing in light of their old laws, traditions, rituals, and deeply held historical beliefs.
In light of this impossible mission you would think God would at least grant him some of the trappings of success; instead, Paul paid dearly. Sure he planted churches and saw droves of converts, but he was consistently beaten, run out of town, imprisoned, mocked and ridiculed, imprisoned, caught in riots, imprisoned, shipwrecked, imprisoned… oh did I mention he did most of his writing from PRISON. And the craziest part of all of this is that Paul knew what he was getting into. When he was converted he was shown how much he would suffer for the name of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit confirmed this on a fairly regular basis.
So, what the heck do I have to complain about?! I love what I do. I work with a great team at a wonderful church that is experiencing wonderful stability, peace, and is planning for a future of growth… But I admit that I get tired and stressed and overwhelmed… Sometimes I feel like I’m a weakling… because every once in a while I think about what Paul endured for the sake of Christ, and all so that he might win some.
You might be thinking, “hey he was Paul! An apostle. With special apostle-super powers! Give yourself a break…” Sure, Paul is different than me or you or anyone else on this planet, and he had a deeper relationship with the risen Christ than anyone else may have ever had… But the truth is the same Spirit which worked in Paul is available to all who follow Jesus. So, in reality I need to toughen up and pray for a strength that not only does the work of Jesus’ church, but does it with greater fervor, energy and excitement… understanding that whatever I have to endure it was put there for me so I may be a witness to the power of God.
Lord God of strength and love… give me more of your Holy Spirit so that I can be the kind of person you want me to be. Give me more endurance and joy, and help me to have an attitude that seeks to do all I can that I might win some. In Jesus name and for his sake, AMEN.