The Apostle Paul knew that wherever he went there would be trouble, pain and persecution. Some of his friends warned him to protect himself and escape. But Paul was not the kind of person to run away from difficulty or challenge.

This is why, in Acts 20:24, he said to his friends "but I don't care what happens to me, as long as I finish the work that the Lord Jesus gave me to do. And that work is to tell the Good News about God's great kindness." (The Promise Bible).

Or, as it is rendered in the Revised Standard Version

"But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may accomplish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God".

Three phrases stand out boldly in this testimony:

    (1) My life
    (2) My course
    (3) My ministry (Works of Service)

Let's look at them individually and try to discover some of the secrets of Paul's courage, devotion and how Paul was able to keep going.

The first phrase is "My life"

Paul said, "Neither count I my life dear unto myself."

He learned this truth from the Lord Jesus Christ. You will remember that Jesus told His Disciples, "He that saveth his life shall lose it, but he that loseth his life for my sake and the Gospel, the same shall save it". He also said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Life is a gift from God. "In him we live, and move, and have our being". (Acts 17:28) Paul knew that God had a purpose for his life and not only for him but also for all of us. Paul understood that his ability, interests, strengths, and even his weaknesses, were all part of a divine plan. God gave us a natural life, but he also gives spiritual life through faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul did not make his own life the dearest thing. It was the will of God that was uppermost in Paul's life. He wrote to the Galatian Christians, "Not I, but Christ liveth in me". (Galatians 2:20).

The second phrase is "My course"

"Neither count I my life dear unto myself, that I might finish my course with joy."

(Not only did Paul finish the course but also he finished the course with joy - with great delight.) Paul often used athletic illustrations in his letters, and this is one of them. No doubt he had seen the athletic games in various Greek cities, and they suggested to him truths about the Christian life. No one could compete in the Greek games unless he was a citizen. Paul realised that no one could run in the Christian race unless he is a child of God, a citizen of His Kingdom.

Paul also realised that when he surrendered his life to Christ, it was Christ who assigned a track for him on the course. Philippians 3 and Hebrews 12, God compares the Christian's life to a race, and He assigns each Christian runner his own special lane. The important thing is that we obey the rules, keep running for the prize, and stay in the correct lane. If we do, then God will reward us at the end of the course. Paul's great ambition was to finish his course. Notice what he wrote in (II Timothy 4:7) "I have fought a good fight, I have finish my course, I have kept the faith."

The last phrase is "My ministry"

"The ministry, which I have received of the Lord." His life was a gift from God. His course was assigned by God. While he was running the course, he wanted more than anything else to fulfil the ministry (works of service in preaching the gospel) the Lord had given him. Each of us has a ministry (works of service) to fulfill. Paul wrote to young Timothy, "Make full proof (give firm evidence) of your ministry (II Timothy 4:5) ."
Literally, that means fulfil your ministry; accomplish in your work the things God called you to do. Paul's ministry centred in sharing the gospel of the grace of God. Whatever ministry of service God has called us to fulfil, it must be to the glory of God. In spite of Paul's trouble, pain, and persecution he was able to keep going and remain positive. We can do the same.

I'd like to finish with a poem, entitled:


          My cross is not too heavy
          My road is not too rough
          Because God walks besides me
          And to know this is enough...

          And though I get so lonely
          I know that I'm not alone
          For the Lord God is my Father
          And He loves me as His own. . .

          So though I'm tired and weary
          And I wish my race were run
          God will only terminate it
          When my work on earth is done...

          So let me stop complaining
          About my "Load Of Care"
          For God will always lighten it
          When it gets too much to bear. . .

          And if He does not ease my load
          He will give me strength to bear it
          For God in love and mercy
          Is always near to share it.

        Dennis Payne

        © 2002

        Speak The Oracles Of God. Click Here.
        God's Sovereignty and Our Healing. Click Here.
        Grace and Law in Ancient Israel. Click Here.
        The Love Of God Click Here.
        The Heart Of God Click Here.

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