I know the first question that came to your mind when you saw the title of this post: “who is this arrogant man?” Well, it wasn’t until recently that I was reading the New Testament and noticed something a little strange. There was one man with an incredibly dark past and he was filled with arrogance, anger, and a thirst for righteous law. Then he was saved. And for some reason… he still wasn’t perfect. This man was an apostle. He is a man everyone remembers in the Bible, he is one of the greatest missionaries and preachers of all time. He remained flawed on Earth but God still used him to write letters that change hearts and encourage even today. Reading his words made me think, “maybe it’s time I learn a little something from an arrogant man.”
The man I am talking about is none other than Paul (formerly known as Saul). Yes, the guy who persecuted Christians and boasted of his knowledge of the Old Testament. This is the same Paul that God blinded to show him some new light before returning his vision and salvation. Paul was the man who wrote the majority of the New Testament. I guess he had some bragging rights then, right? Paul was a little cocky, but hey, he was human.
There are many verses in which you can see that while his true heart behind everything was to bring people closer to God and understand Jesus as the Messiah, he threw a little “I” and “me” in there quite a few times. Read how he starts his letter to the Romans in Romans 1:1-11. It makes me laugh a little. I bring all of this up not to criticize or judge a man who fought for Christ at a time when it was practically illegal but rather to say we should all take a second to learn from his wisdom and faith.
In a letter to the Gentiles of Ephesus in Ephesians 3:1, Paul calls himself a “prisoner for Christ.” I was reading my lesson for my Seamless small group earlier this week and thinking I had at least read this verse a couple of times without realizing that he was literally in prison at this point in his life. The book of Ephesians and the book of Philippians are two of my favorite books of the Bible. They are so joyful, encouraging, loving, strong. Yet the man who wrote them wrote these words in chains.
Philippians is a book to remind us of God’s faithfulness. One of my favorite Bible verses of all time (Philippians 4:13) reminds us, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Seems cliché. But when you think about a man like Paul writing these words in prison… they seem a lot more empowering than the world wants to make them seem.
While Paul was not killed for another seven years after these writings, I can’t help but feel the power of a man near the end of a life well served. True, Paul may have been arrogant. Yes, Paul may have had a dark past. But he knew, despite it all, that God’s faithfulness, mercy, and love was stronger than any bondage on his life. God used him to do more and write more powerful words than nearly any other man in history.
No matter your background, your past struggles, your current struggles, God will use you if you are willing. Your relationship with Him will be strong if, like Paul, you praise Him despite your circumstances. Time and time again God has done miracles. When you feel discouraged or like you can’t see the end of the road, remember Paul. Remember that no matter who you are, God is waiting with open arms.