Many Christians say they want to be like Jesus – the only downside is, of course, that Jesus ended up on a Cross – at this point a lot of the initial enthusiasm wanes.
Others want to be like the great apostle Paul. Become famous as a great preacher, church planter and missionary. When, however, they take the time to read 2 Corinthians 6 and 11, and consider the extreme opposition and frightful experiences Paul had to endure, their enthusiasm to be like Paul also dissipates fast.
When Paul wrote to Timothy about finishing the race, he was doing so from the vantage point of seeing the finishing tape. He was not just six steps from the starting blocks. No, he knew what he was talking about. He had endured extreme hardship for the sake of telling others the Good News of Jesus. He had risked his life time and time again, in order to tell those who had never heard about Jesus – about His life, His death and His love.
He claimed to be “poured out like a drink offering.” In other words, he had withheld nothing of his energy or breath in order to expend his life for the sake of others. He would carry on to the end in his mission of evangelising the nations, whatever the cost to himself.
Why would he do that? Well, I don’t think he would go that far for something that was a lie, do you? He was an intelligent man; learned, articulate and a good communicator. But he didn’t do it for the money, either. Many con artists have come and gone proclaiming their deceptions and making enormous amounts of money in the process.
Not Paul. He was a servant of others. He gave his life that others might come into the freedom that only an intimate relationship with the Creator of the world can give. Paul didn’t encourage people to follow him. No – He always pointed people away from him and onto Jesus.
He never forgot that he had been a murderer of the followers of Jesus. He wanted everyone to know that he had been wrong – sincerely wrong. Jesus was who He claimed to be – the Messiah of God, the Christ, The Son of God, our One and Only Saviour.
There was no-one else who can forgive us our sins. Jesus alone paid the price for our sins and Jesus alone opened the Way back to God, so He became once more our Loving Heavenly Father.
Why was Paul prepared to risk so much? Why was Paul ready to offer up his life and breath for Jesus? How did he maintain his determination to tell as many people as possible that there is salvation in no-one else but Christ Jesus? Where did he get his strength and determination from?
Jesus was all the inspiration Paul needed. When Paul examined Jesus’ life, he saw in Him Someone who gave up everything for what He believed in. Jesus gave up His home, He gave up His family, He gave up His time, He gave up His energy, He gave up His reputation, He gave up His relationships, He gave up His friends, He gave up His power and authority, He gave up His rights, He gave up His love and He gave up His life – for you and me.
Paul recognised that and so decided he could do no less. He just hoped and prayed that his life would cause others to look to Jesus and to find in Him true satisfaction, true fulfilment and undying love.
The call comes from Heaven again – Who will go for Us? Paul would say to us – What are you waiting for – respond like me – Here am I, send me.