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What Would Paul Do?

Okay, I know, I know. It creeps me out too.

But it’s difficult to overlook Paul in the roll call of tour guides for the spiritual destiny of this planet.

Paul could have easily developed his own personality cult. Hands down. Instead, it drove him crazy when people said, “I follow Apollos…I follow Paul”. I have a feeling that some Christian personalities with grandiose organizations named after themselves—“The (insert some name here) International Ministry”—would cause Paul embarrassment for the Body of Christ. And while no single personality so shaped the embryonic theology and ecclesiology of the Church, Paul consistently pointed to Jesus as the One deserving focus and worship, even giving his own body for Him…after having it beaten and abused for decades. It’s as if the reward he personally experienced was greater than any debt he felt owed to the One who gave His body for him. As maddening and puzzling Paul’s writing can be, it’s hard to ignore the spiritual chutzpah and risk it took to say to the contentious Corinthian church, “Imitate me…just as I also imitate Christ.”

A couple of times in my pastoring I had gone on multiple-weeks fasts. I’m not a “fast-er” by any sense. I really like to eat. Once, when we launched into a six-week series on the poor, I sensed God wanting me to fast. And so for three weeks I had zero food. Just water, tea and watered-down orange juice. A year later we started a challenge to raise money to primarily create a holistic center for under-resourced and marginalized people in our city, I once again felt compelled to fast. When I told my wife, she asked, “For how long?” I told her I think until God says to stop. Little did I know it would last over three weeks with no food. On the Sunday we had the financial pledges come in, Anita and I headed to Nashville afterwards to visit our daughter…and I felt I was done.

We stopped at a Frisch’s restaurant in Louisville and I had my first food: a bowl of vegetable soup.

In these two cases, I fasted because of two things: I was desperate to see God move at our church…and I was passionate about our mission.

In Acts 23, we find this same kind of desperation and passion applied…but in a dark way:

In the morning some evil people made a plan to kill Paul, and they took an oath not to eat or drink anything until they had killed him. There were more than forty men who made this plan. They went to the leading priests and the elders and said, “We have taken an oath not to eat or drink until we have killed Paul. ACTS 23:12-14 NCV

Can you imagine having forty men strategizing your murder? And so determined and passionate about it that they vow to fast until the job is done? Religion can do some strange things…as we know in our current global troubles. And any leader that has a contract on him is doing something different. Just reading about that event in Paul’s life causes me to think about my own sense of mission. Earlier while in Caesarea, a prophet takes Paul’s belt, ties his own hands and feet with it and says, “The Holy Spirit says, if you go to Jerusalem, the owner of this belt will be tied up and handed over to the Gentiles.” The people there saw this and pleaded with Paul not to go. Paul told them, “Why are you making this hard for me and breaking my heart? I’m not only ready to go to jail, I’m ready to die for Jesus.”

That’s powerful. Not only is he getting a premonition by the Spirit of what’s coming, he sees no reason to avoid it. This guy is on a mission.

When one becomes so unconcerned about their own safety that they can genuinely respond like that, it challenges me to want to get to know them…and to imitate them at some level.

What would it take for every leader in the Church to genuinely and honestly say, “Imitate me”?

It starts with a compelling mission

Dave Workman | The Elemental Group


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