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Why the Apostle Paul Is One of My Heroes

Choco De JesúsBy Choco De Jesús

The best example of someone who was called for more and constantly lived out of the more God had for him was Paul. His story amazes and inspires me. When I think I can’t do something or I have to do something I don’t want to do, I remember Paul and go back and read his writings again.

The dramatic encounter Paul had with God transformed him from Saul, the murderous persecutor of Christ-followers, into Paul, the fearless global preacher of the gospel. This powerful change is reason enough to admire him, but it’s not why I return to Paul’s life and writings again and again. The reason I love Paul so much is because he learned that to experience God’s more, we must focus less on ourselves. Life wasn’t about what was in it for him but what was in it for the kingdom. Because he was marked for more and called to more by God, Paul experienced contentment no matter what the circumstances of his life might be.

Writing to the community of Christians in Philippi, Paul concluded his letter by thanking the believers there for supporting him and his ministry, presumably with gifts of money, food, and supplies. But right after expressing his gratitude, he also made it clear that he was fine whether they were able to support him or not:

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have
learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know
what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have
plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any
and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether
living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him
who gives me strength. (Phil. 4:11–13)

The guy writing this is the same man who endured shipwrecks, beatings, imprisonment, earthquakes, and persecution for the sake of the gospel. We don’t know whether Paul had a cushy life before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, but we do know he definitely didn’t have one afterward. When you study Paul’s life, you discover he was the type of guy who didn’t question God when things went wrong. He embraced the storms. He didn’t doubt his faith when events didn’t turn out the way he wanted them to turn out. He always had a greater perspective of his life and his circumstances. He always knew that God was in control. He never lost heart.

Paul addressed people in all spectrums of life and tried to reach them right where they were. He could relate to wealthy leaders and to imprisoned slaves, to Gentiles as well as Jews, women as well as men. He wrote, “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. . . . I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:19, 22).

I remind myself along with those in our church to remember Paul’s humility and willingness to relate to others, regardless of their differences. In our present polarized culture, we would all do well to follow Paul’s example. Our differences shouldn’t prevent us from respecting, relating, and reaching out to one another. Paul made this very clear: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).

Even though he could relate with everyone, Paul never compromised his convictions about God’s truth and the power of the gospel. Paul was sold out to God and loved people enough not to pull any punches. He was tired of the religion thing because he had already done that in his old life as Saul, and it only led to legalism and a performance-based faith that felt impossible to fulfill.

When he spoke, when he evangelized—whether in person or in his letters—he communicated with great passion, conviction, and sincerity. And Paul never told people what they necessarily wanted to hear; he told them what they needed to hear—reminding them of both their sinfulness as well as God’s grace and mercy.

Paul considered himself blameless until he met Jesus. Then he realized that none of us can follow God’s law perfectly and save ourselves. That’s why God sent his Son to die on the cross—because we could not pay the price, because he loved us so much. “For God so loved the world . . .” (John 3:16). Paul moved from life in the law to life in the Spirit. He learned to live by grace instead of works, to extend grace instead of holding people captive in legalism. He learned to let go of who he had been to become who God made him to be.

Choco De Jesús is senior pastor of New Life Covenant Church, one of the fastest growing churches in Chicago. A graduate of Trinity University and North Park Theological Seminary, De Jesús is sought after as a motivational speaker throughout the nation and abroad. In 2013, De Jesús was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. He is an Executive Presbyter with the Assemblies of God Church. De Jesús lives in the Humboldt Park community of Chicago, with his wife, Elizabeth; they have three adult children.

Filed under Books, Guest Post, New Testament