Endurance (Part 2): Becoming more like Paul

“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus–the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” Acts 20:24 NLT

Part one of this two-part series on endurance was very powerful for me personally. I write these blog posts because I am learning and applying these principles in my own life and I want to share with others what God is revealing to me. I can genuinely say that I am always excited when I am able to write about what God is revealing to me and I feel like it is a shame to not share that with others. If you did not get a chance to read part one of endurance, then STOP reading this right now! Go back and read it so you are not missing out on how these posts are built together.

What I am going to share with you today is building off of those principles mentioned in the first post through the life of one of the greatest Apostles: The Apostle Paul.

To be honest, I did not even plan on having another post about endurance, but God laid on my heart to read about the life of Paul, also known in the New Testament as Saul. Paul is probably most well-known for his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road that radically changed his life from a persecutor of believers to becoming an Apostle and leading so many others to Christ (Start reading in Acts). As great as that encounter was, that is not what jumped out to me when reading through the book of Acts. What stood out to me was when Paul and Silas were put in prison in Philippi. I have probably read these Scriptures numerous times and never even thought about stopping to understand the significance in this situation, but God obviously was showing me something that I needed to understand. I am going to post the Scripture and it is kind of long, but bear with me, it will be worth it I promise! Starting in Acts 16:25:

“Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him. ‘Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!’

The jailer called for the lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.’ And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household.” (Acts 16:25-32 NLT)

Now, the first thing that was brought to my attention was the fact that Paul and Silas were not complaining and asking God why they were put in prison, they were praying and worshipping to God! Why were Paul and Silas doing this? It was almost as if they were prepared to endure in that situation. If you go back and read about Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road, you will see that God CHOSE Paul to deliver the Good News and that he MUST suffer for proclaiming it.

“But the Lord said, ‘Go, for Saul (Paul) is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.” (Acts 9:15-16 NLT)

Paul understood what he faced and still pursued it anyway. He was informed many times that he would be imprisoned but he kept pushing forward because he knew that his endurance would not be for nothing, that there would be good that would come out of it. This brings me to the rest of what stood out to me and it completely shook me to my core. After praying and worshipping to God, there was a massive earthquake that freed them and gave them a way out of the prison. But Paul and Silas STAYED PUT. Let me ask you this question, and it is the very question that I asked myself the minute this was revealed to me:

Have you ever been praying for God to create a seismic shift in your life to change the course that you are on because you did not understand why you were in a current situation?

This question hit me like a ton of bricks. Paul and Silas were in prison, praying and worshipping God, not complaining and asking why like some of us would (I know I would be). They knew they were right where they were supposed to be for a reason. They had a way of escape and could have walked out of that prison and been free to continue on their journey, but they stayed because being in that prison was apart of their journey.

Maybe the seismic shift that you have been needing to happen in your life is the same seismic shift that creates complete chaos in someone else’s life.

So what about the jailer? How does he fit into this? This seems like a rather insignificant part of the journey, but it turns out that this was the most important part, the very reason Paul and Silas were in that prison. You see, the earthquake that freed Paul and Silas was the same earthquake that made that jailer want to kill himself because immediate chaos occurred in his life and he lost all hope. But Paul and Silas never wavered from what their purpose was and PURSUED the jailer instead of fleeing from the confines of the prison cell. They understood that their situation was not about them and God was going to bring them through it no matter what, even if suffering had to occur. Paul and Silas were so intent on spreading the Good News and because of their unwavering faith and courage, they SAVED the jailer and his entire household.


But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus…

This is an extremely powerful passage of Scripture that revealed so much about myself that I need to work on. I want to become like Paul, to know that living a life for Christ is not easy and there will be times of enduring, times of suffering, but also times of celebrating and great joy because nothing is greater than knowing that our lives can be used to finish the work assigned to us by Jesus Christ, which is to bring hope to the lost, spread the Good News of eternal life through believing in Jesus, and making heaven more crowded.

If you are reading this post and you identify more with the jailer and are experiencing a seismic shift in your life that is making you contemplate everything, please DO NOT GIVE UP HOPE. Jesus Christ is alive today and we have that same hope of eternal life that the jailer chose when Paul pursued him. If you have more questions about Jesus or want to know about committing your life to Christ, please feel free to email me using the link at the top of this page, or by going to the contact page on the Home menu. I hope that this message inspired you as much as it inspired me to become more like Paul, enduring through my circumstances to understand that my purpose is not about me, it is about something greater than me.

Life is Hard

I cannot imagine doing life without God. Doing life with God does not guarantee a life free of stress, worry, hurt, or conflict. However, choosing to include God makes going through trials easier, IF we are able to give up CONTROL. This is one area I need to allow God to work:

I need to relinquish control to him because only He knows what is good for me.

This is a big struggle for me because I have OCD and not being in control brings anxiety, stress, depression, and worry. But what am I worrying about? If I am giving up control to the one that created me, then what do I have to be afraid of? Those feelings of worry, stress, anxiety, depression are feelings that the enemy will feed with DOUBT. Satan wants us to doubt God. He wants us to constrict our relationship with God, and when things go south, he feeds our minds with, “Where were you God?”

John 10:10 is a perfect example in Scripture of the roles of God and Satan. Jesus said, “The thief’s (Satan) purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

Life is going to have hills and valleys, but if we choose to include God in our everyday journeys, then we will have a light with us always. Jeremy Foster is the lead pastor of Hope City in Houston, Texas and he spoke about going through the valleys in our lives and how there is always a light with us. Psalms 23:4 says,

“Even though I walk through the valley of the SHADOW of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

The key word in this verse is SHADOW. How does a shadow work? Only in the presence of light! A shadow cannot appear in the darkness. So, when we walk through the valleys in our lives, God is there guiding us, IF we relinquish control to Him.

The enemy is going to magnify our problems and try to tie them to our identity. He only has one purpose in our lives and that is to try and STEAL our JOY, KILL our FAITH in GOD, and DESTROY our HOPE. However, the enemy is not the one that created us. And if he did not create us, then he is NOT in control of us either. Then why is it so hard to give control to God? Well, for one, it is extremely hard to be vulnerable and allow someone else to have control in situations that seem pretty bad. But, the one in control knows us better than we know ourselves!

“I knew you before I FORMED you in your mother’s womb….” Jeremiah 1:5

Do you realize that out of everything God made in creation, human beings are the only thing he put his hands on? God literally spoke everything into existence, but he FORMED man.

Another reason it is hard to surrender control to God is simply lack of faith. It is hard to trust God when we do not know what the outcome will be or even have an idea of what will happen. However, God has plans for us, plans to prosper us to give us a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). When we hit those valleys and it feels like we will never get out, we cannot let the enemy magnify the valley, but we can magnify the one leading us through the valley, which leads me back to the vulnerability problem we have. Magnifying God in all situations is, in its simplest form, WORSHIP. We love to worship God when life seems to be going good, but worship is extremely hard to do when walking through a valley. There are so many other things that we want to do when going through hard times and they are all driven by FEAR. The best thing to conquer fear is faith. Faith in knowing that God is working everything together for our good (Romans 8:28).

“Fear tolerated is Faith contaminated.” Jeremy Foster

When fear seems to be consuming us, one of the best ways to conquer it is to just fall to our knees, open our arms wide, and worship the one that created us, who has good things planned for us. This reminds me of a time in the book of Joshua that is fairly strange to me. The Israelites are being led by Joshua and as they cross the Jordan River, they come to the city of Jericho. Jericho was a city with high walls and was tightly secured like a fortress. This city stood between the Israelites and God’s Promises. And how did they conquer this city? By marching around it seven times and blowing trumpets?……….What? I dug into this a little deeper and I came to the realization that their obedience to God by marching around the walls and blowing trumpets was an act of worship. Even though they did not really understand what they were doing, they had faith that God was going to come through for them.

Oh how this is so true today. When things are going good and life seems to be just right, we can praise God for it and be the most Christian people alive. But when we are in the valleys, we tend to throw up the walls that we think will be secure, but in all reality they are the SHADOW in the valley. When our arms go up, the walls fall down! When we are able to worship God in all seasons, highs and lows, hills and valleys, we have become vulnerable to what God can do in our lives and have surrendered control to him. You see, the Israelites approached Jericho and saw a great city. They could have magnified the city instead of God and chose not to obey (which is very similar to how the spies approached the Promised Land and saw giants, but Joshua and Caleb saw a God who would deliver them to His promises not matter what, but that is for another day), but they chose to magnify God and once they did this, Jericho was just a small obstacle compared to what the Promises of God were for them.

The same holds true for us today. We spend so much time in fearing the unknown, magnifying what is going wrong in our lives that we forget what God has promised us. Read John 10:10, praise and worship God, pray, do whatever you need to do to allow God to have control and work in your lives because God has promised us ETERNAL LIFE through his Son, Jesus Christ. We just need to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that he came to earth to die for our sins, the ultimate sacrifice (John 3:16). Once we believe that Jesus died for our sins, we can surrender control to God because of the Promises he has made to us.

Don’t allow your problems to be magnified in your life. Instead, magnify the one that created you, that put special emphasis on creating you, and that has a future and a hope for you. Don’t try to disqualify yourselves because the grace and mercy of God is not earned, it is given as a gift to receive. Believe that. Again, if the enemy did not create you, he is most certainly not in control of you. So, the next time that the enemy reminds you of your problems, your failures, tells you that you are not good enough, remind him of his future and know that God, our Creator, has everything under control.

Lord, I believe you created me and you know me more than I know myself. I pray that I make it my goal this year to know you wholeheartedly, to deepen my relationship with you. I surrender complete control to you. I pray for strength and wisdom as I allow you to work in me and allow your Will to play out in my life. I pray that on my darkest days I cling to you, I use your light to pull me out of the darkness and lead me on the path you have set before me. Please forgive me for doubting you and allowing the enemy to overtake me. I pray for the full armor of God to be on me at all times and I can develop the fruits of the Spirit within me. Thank you for loving me unconditionally! You are a good father and you work everything together for good. I love you Lord and I praise your name. I also pray for those reading this that do not have a personal relationship with God. I pray that they feel led to allow you to work in their lives, surrendering control, and believing and trusting in you.

Amen.

If you do not have a personal relationship with God, please do not hesitate to reach out to me to talk to you about this decision. I can promise you that it will be the greatest decision you can ever make!!