When Paul became a Christian, God gave him a mission for life — take the Gospel to the world. This grand goal is for all Christians yet Paul’s mission was a specific call. He knew his purpose and spent his life fulfilling it.
I’ve not had that same sense of call, at least not for the ‘doing’ part of living. I’ve not sensed a call for a career or a specific goal like doctor, lawyer, or missionary either. Perhaps one reason is that God knows me — if I am given an assignment, I focus on it like a bulldog with a bone. I also tend to jump in without prayerful preparation.
Today I noticed that Paul wasn’t the first person to know God’s plan for his life. God spoke to Ananias while Paul was still blinded by the light of the risen Christ. He told Ananias to go to a certain house where “a man named Saul” waited for him to come and have his sight restored.
Ananias was worried. He said, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.”
But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.” (Acts 9:13–15)
Ananias obeyed. Saul was baptized, regained his sight and soon had a name-change. He spent time with the disciples and much to their amazement, preached the gospel. Many listened, but there was a stirring of resistance. Soon the Jews were persecuting the Christians as Paul had once done. He and others moved to Antioch . . .
Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:1–3)
These men were fulfilling Paul’s mission which the Lord first told to Ananias. On this first missionary journey and during the next two journeys, Paul preached first to the Jews of the region, then to the Gentiles. He was sometimes in Jewish synagogues, or before city leaders, or in prison. He used the Old Testament or found ways to point his listeners to God their Creator who loved them and sent Jesus to save them. But eventually Jewish resistance increased:
The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. (Acts 13:44–49)
Jesus told them they would be witnesses in Jerusalem, then Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8) and this prophecy was coming true. Eventually Paul would say, “For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.” (1 Thessalonians 1:8) Paul fulfilled God’s goal for him.
My walk with God has been more of a step-by-step process, a ‘do the next thing’ rather than a life-long mission, yet He did give me a life-goal. It is found in Romans 8:28-29 where He says He will use all things to transform me into the image of His Son. These words were written on my heart right after I was saved, a goal so lofty that there is no way I could jump in and simply run with it. Yet being like Jesus cannot happen without prayer, obedience and time. He uses the events of life as tools to shape me and I need to pay attention.
Jesus, I don’t know what was written on Paul’s tomb. I can imagine it had something to do with his life mission and that You were pleased to use him in such a grand way. The Word of God spelled out Your plan and he followed the directions You gave him. I don’t know what will be written on my tomb, but I’m thinking “Step-by-Step” would be okay or maybe, “Jesus carried her all the way.” Thank You for taking my hand and for fixing my eyes on Jesus. He is my incredible goal. Also, thank You for giving me peace with whatever happens. If I knew what You wanted me to deal with tomorrow or next week I would likely let go, run ahead, try to tackle it myself and just make a mess of things!