Like his story ours starts with a before , then a testimony that marks the turning point, followed by the persecutions, the respites, the time out , the fatigue, the isolation, and the frustration at the slow spiritual progress in self and others. Only relatively few people are called to a life like that of Paul, but his description of his life is how we all feel at times when we are embroiled in the struggles of our own journey, because we all have times where life seems too hard.
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If we follow Christ we will suffer, but we can join Paul in agreeing it is when we are hard-pressed that we are strong in Christ. From this conflict he repeatedly gave two messages to the churches he planted: to rejoice in the one and to persevere in the other. When Paul was having time out in jail he was irrepressible as he witnessed in triumph, as illustrated in this famous verse, Rejoice in the Lord always.
I will say it again: Rejoice! The attitude these words reflect is all the more amazing because he wrote from jail when he was in chains, and probably had little in the way of comfort, food, company, or sanitation. Paul wrote the most inspiring verses exhorting us to persevere. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, 2 Tim. His disappointment is palpable in this verse: You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? We need that essential ingredient of perseverance because we are running no quick sprint but a marathon race, and the finish line is uphill.
There are the downhill stretches and the water handed to us as refreshment on the way, but much of it is overwhelming fatigue, blisters, and pain while others seem to bump us out of the way as they run effortlessly past us or over us. It can seem pointless and hopeless. Heartbreak Hill at the end is both the worst and the best as we grind up that hill that seems impossible and endless in our own strength, but is neither when Jesus is with us.
In the Olympics we see the runners a moment before they enter the stadium aware of nothing but a fog of weakness, isolation, and pain, as they wobble around on the track with buckling knees. Then as each one enters the stadium the crowd spots them coming through the gate and erupts in a roar of welcome. In an instant the body language and expression of the runner is transformed by pure delight as spirit and body are lifted on this wave of recognition and support. Each runner realizes in amazement he has got to the finish line and that all through the race everyone has been following his progress and willing him to keep going.
Our reception in heaven will be even better. Jesus brings each repentant prodigal son safely home on this final leg of the journey—it is the culmination in each person of what Jesus died for. It is his triumph and his glory, and our joy. In the cheering crowd surrounding us will be the great figures of the Bible we have read about, other Christians, the angels, and our loved ones.
All heaven roared with joy when we turned back to God, and the eyes of heaven have been glued on our progress ever since and preparation made for our welcome home, For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.
Song of Myself (1892 version)
Luke We are also told the greater our struggle has been to stay in the race, the greater the reception we will be given. Our moment of conversion is only the beginning and must lead on to the race. For some people it becomes a camping site and our testimony can become a cause for competition and pride. We all really love it when we are selected from the throng and given positive personal recognition in some way. Flattered by the personal revelation instead of humbled by it, we bask in the recognition but forget the grace.
Like every precious thing God gives us it has to be used to his glory, which means it has to be followed up by a life expressing our relationship with Jesus. Otherwise, it becomes a monument not to triumph but to the tragedy of what might have been. Our testimony is in the past, so in a sense can fixate us there, instead of boosting us into the future. Many of us linger there when we should be forging ahead, or we stop altogether.
We allow ourselves to be overcome by the distractions of life and fail to progress on our spiritual journey. Paul gave his testimony to Festus and King Agrippa after his arrest by the Jewish authorities.
Agrippa, challenged by the gospel Paul presented, told Paul he could not expect him to be persuaded in such a short time. Paul replied, Short time or long—I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains. Acts He never slackened or lost the plot. The road to Damascus was both a turning point and a beginning for Paul. From there he worked selflessly, ceaselessly, and sacrificially without complaint and full of praise in a life dedicated to God.
Following his example, we rightly tell others our testimony of when God through his personal love and grace first arrested our attention. It is accepted as routine evangelism that every Christian can and should do. But there has to be a meaningful after to our story; there should be clear evidence of Jesus in our lives and the huge changes his presence brings about in us. People should see a change in our attitude and behavior for the better. They should see Jesus in us. Of what value is recounting a vision, a dream, or any other revelation from a spiritual armchair, when instead we should have been galvanized into action like Paul?
Rather it will be a total turnoff because our words are only validated by our behavior. For some time the personal testimony of love God gave me made me feel very comfortable and I basked in the warmth of it. However, I have become aware it was not given to me for this reason alone, but also to pass on, not just by describing it in recounting the tale, but by living it.
Being convicted by the Holy Spirit feels as I imagine it would feel to suddenly find oneself naked in a public place. A woman who had had a close association with the church for decades gave a moving description of a vision she had had about compassion. This was her testimony and underpinned her conversion. She went on to describe another meeting she had had with a man whose lifestyle had been suddenly turned upside down for the worse following loss of health and independence. The woman presented him as a humorous grumpy figure and criticized his negative attitude, and we, the Christian audience, joined in the joke.
Not only did we all show an amazing lack of sensitivity, but we were without excuse because we had just heard a life-changing lesson on compassion. It was tragic that this woman could be so affected by a revelation, which she obviously still considered one of the most important things to have ever happened to her, and yet at least on this occasion was not able to incorporate true heartfelt compassion into her response to someone in need. Similarly, we in the audience warmed to the story of her revelation, but not to the man who should have benefited by it.
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We should have been putting up our hands to find out how we could help him or people like him. We all fail to make the connection at times. We should continually return to our conversion experience to see what God is trying to tell us.
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Having understood, we should then concentrate on the hard part, which is getting his message into our hearts and from there we should act on it. Some Christians never have any landmark conversion experience, rather they start without fanfare and grow steadily into their faith. How our journey starts must depend on many circumstances unique to each person, but we all end up at the same place. I wonder if the people who have wandered the furthest from their God-appointed path have the most dramatic kick off—literally.
The further we are away from God the greater our pride, our rebellion, and false self-sufficiency. Paul was charging away in exactly the wrong direction with great zeal. In the Scriptures he bears forever the shame of his despicable act when he stood by and abetted the cowardly mob-stoning of Stephen, who by contrast so shone as the Christian ideal. Paul needed the baseball bat treatment to arrest his flight from God, whereas those not far off course may only need a nudge—although probably no one escapes the bat altogether, because even the best of us are so far away from him.
The manner of our conversion experience may also be related to the ministry required of us on the remainder of our journey. But through the story of the thief on the cross we are told all this is beside the point. Our righteousness in Jesus is absolute whether we acquire it as a child or on our deathbed. Children born into Christian families may be more often in the non-dramatic group. There are all degrees in between.
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In whatever manner we come, there is no room for complacency. We need to be sure we hit the ground running, and in the right direction as soon as possible. Some of those without a conversion experience may not be saved. Many who miss out on salvation are the good-living decent people, who wander along aimlessly unsuspecting and unprotected until Satan picks them off. In this group in great danger are the nominal Christians who dwell in a Christian crowd following the church traditions, while never comprehending the eternal truths, or the need for a baptism of repentance through the forgiveness of sins.
Mark They have religion in their heads but do not have God in their hearts. I was there; I know what it is like. It is tragic, and we in the organized church need to reach out to this large section of the congregation more strenuously than we do. Although the strength drawn from the social structure of the church is a good thing, it can masquerade as faith, or keep faith small.
This is particularly a disadvantage for those growing up in the church or having a long-term association with church life. We can have false confidence in our faith when we are in these sheltered confines amongst other believers. I have found even a holiday away from these supports is a challenge, even though most of my life was spent in secular surroundings. I get the same feeling I get when I watch a colony of ants intent on some project, while completely unaware of the big picture and their place in it. When I am out there in the world at large it can seem like business as usual in this changed environment without God, where money and power rule, and I find myself wondering if I am the one person marching out of step with a rational world.
Going into unfamiliar places and environments should first test and then strengthen faith. Staying afloat spiritually. This action might not be possible to undo.
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Are you sure you want to continue? Upload Sign In Join. Save For Later. Create a List. Summary Norma Jean Duncan found God following a personal revelation of his love. This question, of course, cannot be answered. Some Christians claim that the doctrine of human deification is unbiblical, false, and arrogant, and that Latter-day Saints believe that they will one day "supplant God". The Father is the one true God. This thing is certain: no one will ever ascend above Him; no one will ever replace Him.
Nor will anything ever change the relationship that we, His literal offspring, have with Him.