Friday, March 16, 2012

A Lenten Journey: Climbing to the Cross - Day TWENTY-ONE

1 Corinthians 9:16-27, The Message 

Still, I want it made clear that I've never gotten anything out of this for myself, and that I'm not writing now to get something. I'd rather die than give anyone ammunition to discredit me or impugn my motives. If I proclaim the Message, it's not to get something out of it for myself. I'm compelled to do it, and doomed if I don't! If this was my own idea of just another way to make a living, I'd expect some pay. But since it's not my idea but something solemnly entrusted to me, why would I expect to get paid? So am I getting anything out of it? Yes, as a matter of fact: the pleasure of proclaiming the Message at no cost to you. You don't even have to pay my expenses! 

Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn't take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn't just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it! 

You've all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You're after one that's gold eternally. 

I don't know about you, but I'm running hard for the finish line. I'm giving it everything I've got. No sloppy living for me! I'm staying alert and in top condition. I'm not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.


Nobody can call the apostle Paul a slouch.

The man worked HARD. Whatever he did, he put his shoulder to it. Before the blinding light and the pleading voice of the Savior on the road to Damascus, Paul put that shoulder to eliminating all the followers of The Way - those Jews who chose to follow after Jesus of Nazareth.

After his own encounter with the resurrected Christ, all that energy shifted -  
     to life, rather than death; 
     to hope, rather than despair; 
     to winning the confidence and the hearts
          of the people he met and mentored 
          rather than screaming accusations 
          at those he feared and mistrusted.

And this is what I love about the transforming work of Christ in the lives of those who choose to follow the Jesus Way: who we are is never lost; instead, we are deepened, enriched, stretched, and re-focused. 

Paul doesn't become a mild-mannered, laid-back kinda guy. 

He is still Paul. 

But he becomes a richer Paul, 
     an other-focused Paul, 
          a mentoring, life-giving Paul. 
No more the bully, 
     the fear-mongerer, 
          the zealot with the murderous gleam in his eye.

Instead, he earnestly and passionately pursues people with the Good News, the message of hope and peace and joy that comes with Jesus alone. 

He is a deeply changed Paul - but he is...
     thanks be to God!...
          still PAUL
     that uniquely crafted, gifted human person 
          created first in the mind of God, 
               then molded by the Spirit of Jesus 
                    to look more and more like God's original design.

Paul is willing 
     to go anywhere,
          to do anything,
              to become anyone
so that the life-changing Word can do its work in the lives of as many people as possible.

All of that drive, energy, intelligence, commitment, ability to work hard - all of it becomes a fine set of tools with which to 'be all things to all people' so that some might be saved. He runs the race well. Very well indeed.


Sometimes, Lord, I think Paul has gotten a really bad rap. I see those rough edges, the ones that rub people the wrong way sometimes. But I also see so much heart, so much joy! Lord, I want to be wholehearted, I want to be a joy-bringer. As we wander through this Lenten wilderness, help me to trust that you'll work with me - just exactly as I am at this moment. Encourage me to believe that you designed me, wacky as I am, and that your deepest desire is for ME TO BE ME, but a me that by some outrageous miracle, looks a whole lot like you, too. Wow. And thank you.