Sometimes the accounts of the faithful in the Bible can feel a bit intimidating (as you may have felt with Elizabeth’s posts about the Proverbs 31 woman!). You may wonder if you will ever transform into a man or woman of influence. I felt that way when I first began a study of the extraordinary life of Paul. Paul was Jesus’ “chosen vessel” to spread the Savior’s name “before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). And, he did just that! We can be grateful to Paul today that he pressed on to the goal of spreading the gospel around the world.
But, like any human being, both of these spiritual icons had emotional and spiritual struggles. They had ups and downs, seasons of strong belief, and moment of doubts and fears. However, the pattern of their lives was one of obedience, consistency, and faith.
If people were to profile and chronicle the pattern of your life, what pattern would they see? Are there any contradictions? Are there any inconsistencies? Are there some “strikes” against you on your record?
If you’re like me, the pattern of your life probably looks a little rocky at times. Well, are in good company – the company of the apostle Paul. Before his conversion to Christianity, Paul was a notorious persecutor of Christians. And even in the midst of his intense missionary journeys, he faced fears (Acts 14:6), unrelenting trials (2 Corinthians 12:7), and arguments with fellow believers (Acts 15:39).
But, with God, all things are possible and redeemable (Matthew 19:26). He is able to transform you into a person whose life has a lasting impact on others. But, of course, you must be willing to make some changes in your own life. If you want to see a change in others, you must begin with yourself. We see this affirmed in the following words, which appear on the tomb of an Anglican bishop at Westminster Abbey:
When I was young and free, my imagination had no limits.
I dreamed of changing the world. But as I grew older and wiser,
I discovered that the world would not change. So I shortened my sights somewhat and I decided on changing my country.
But it too seemed immoveable. Then as I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me. But alas, they would have not of it. And now as I lie on my death bed, I suddenly realize. If only I had changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement, I then would be able to better my country, and who knows, I may have even changed my world.
Ultimately, neither Paul nor the Proverbs 31 woman set out to change the world or be immortalized forever – they were out to pattern themselves into undeniable followers of the One, true, living God. And, both made the daily sacrifices and choices of obedience, both large and small, which brought them into His presence.
Question: Who are you striving to change, yourself or others? What area of life is God showing you a pattern of disobedience? You must be willing to make some changes in your own life. If you want to see a change in others, you must begin with yourself.
For more insight into navigating the choices before you in life, read my book, A Leader After God’s Own Heart.