Good Monday morning to you. I wonder what you are up to today. As for me, we begin Summer School today as well as our planning for next year. For this morning though we are going to spend a bit of time with Romans 15.
Without a doubt the Apostle Paul accomplished much in his life time. Although many of the churches he helped to plant have long since disappeared Paul's great revelation of Christ continues to shape the Church today. He was a unique man called to a unique ministry at a unique time. Yet this is what he had to say about it:
I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. vv. 18-19
Perhaps the reason Paul met with such success and was used so mightily by God was because of his attitude and how he trusted the words of Jesus. Did he really do anything more than what you and I could accomplish if we had the same mindset? If we isolate just a section of these two verses we see that Paul understood that he was not just a worshiper of God but he was a worker as well:
by what I have said and done
Paul could have been satisfied with going to the synagogue and taking part in worship, then the next day returning to his tent making and enjoying life as a worshiper of Jesus. But there is more to being a follower of Jesus Christ than worship. Paul recognized his part in the work by what he said and done but he also realized it was only a part of the work. He was an instrument used by God to bring salvation to the Gentiles. The real work was being accomplished by God, through the Holy Spirit:
what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God ... through the power of the Spirit.
Paul had no illusions of grandeur here. He saw what Christ was accomplishing and he constantly acknowledged that what he did he was only able to do through the power of the Spirit. Without the Spirit he was just another preacher, teacher, user of words, philosopher. Without the Spirit there was no conviction behind his words that grabbed at the listener's heart. Without the Spirit there was no understanding or purpose. Without the Spirit there were no signs and miracles.
Paul recognized he was only a worker in a greater plan, empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the Father's bidding. Because of this much was accomplished through Paul. The question begs to be asked, if he accomplished so much by being empowered by the Spirit, why are we attempting so much without the Spirit? Are we honestly operating in the Spirit or are we doing our own thing for God?
What I mean by our own thing is, are we deciding for ourselves what we can and can't do for God and are we decideing it on our own time and terms? Paul did not choose any of this for himself. He was specifically called by God and set aside for this ministry. He was empowered by the Spirit to work signs and miracles as he worked among the Gentiles. He was called and he embraced that calling with all his energy but he remained captivated by the Spirit, always obeying the Spirit. Because of this obedience the Spirit took Paul beyond the ordinary.
I wonder how much of what we do is our own work and not that of God? I wonder how much would change if we stopped telling God what to do and started asking questions? I am convinced that we have all been called to the extraordinary in every ministry and service imaginable but we simply are not listening. We need to lose control of everything in our lives including work and finances. We need to turn complete control and guidance in our lives over to Jesus. We need to surrender to the Spirit. We need to allow him to possess us. And, we need to learn to obey. Then perhaps we will say with Paul:
I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me.