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Posts tagged ‘Paul’

The Day Before ‘The Next Day’

And the night the Lord stood by him (Paul), and said, Be of good cheer: for as thou hast testified concerning me at Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome. And when it was day, the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. And they were more than forty that made this conspiracy.

Acts 23:11-13

What God has said, He will do. Be reminded of this in your life. There is nothing that can stop God’s plan. Not even 40 blood-thirsty men determined to kill you. Such was Paul’s situation when he work up the next day. Imagine discovering that kind of news in your own life. Think about it: 40 religious men, some of whom you may have known, who are fasting to see the end of you; fasting for your destruction. Perhaps in your own life the news is somewhat different. Maybe it is someone bent to ruin your reputation. Perhaps it is a situation where someone is working behind the scenes to make you fail on the job. Or, it might be an attack from a family member, religious person, or former friends.

Whatever the case may be, we must consider the day before. Why is the day before so important? God often speaks to our hearts the day before ‘the next day’. That is why the day before is so important. Consider the context of Paul’s threats to his life. The night before the Lord was with Paul comforting him and reminding him of where he must go – to Rome. The Lord comes to strengthen, remind, and encourage each one of us concerning his plans for our life. He often comes the day before ‘the next day’ because he knows that we need to hear his reassuring voice confirming his plan for our lives for His ultimate glory. Yes, His grace is sufficient for each day but such moments like these in our lives – where the comforting voice of the Lord is so clear- seem to have a spill-over effect.  We can always look back in whatever we are facing and recall the ‘day before’ while we are living in the ‘next day’. As we do that, we trust God and walk in his plans for us. Moreover, just like Paul, he has places for us to go and people testify to concerning the gospel.

Later in the book of Acts, as it turns out, Paul was protected from the plot to kill him and eventually made it to Rome just like the Lord had said. Along the way, Paul faced numerous situations that were life-threatening (ship wrecks, a snake-bite, the courts) . Yet, it was what the Lord said that Paul held on to. Later in Acts 27:24, the writer records the same message from the Lord (You will testify before Caesar) delivered by an angel to Paul while he is lost at sea due to a storm.

I do not know when you will face a day like ‘the next day’, but I do know that the Lord wants to speak to you. He wants to let you know where he wants you to go and with whom he wants you to share the gospel with. And when you find yourself in the midst of ‘the next day’ you must still recall the Lord’s promises from the day before. For in doing so, you can walk into ‘the next day’ and every day after with joy, peace, hope and strength.

The Litmus Test For Christian Maturity

In a test-obsessed society where we measure learning outcomes by standardized assessments, we often fail to instill the long-term value of learning, personal growth, and life-change. But really, what is a true measuring stick for personal growth? How does a mentor, teacher-leader know if his or her time is not spent in vain?

On occasion, I will watch the show the biggest losser. I find it fascinating to watch the contestants submit to the intensity of the trainers. The trainers work with them and push them to achieve a goal that the contestants themselves may not see. Yet, the trainers see the end result and methodically work to see their vision realized in the individual’s life. Yet, it is not the time spent on the ranch that displays the contestants true lifestyle change. Instead, it is the aspect of the show where they are sent back home again to spend a week without their trainer, making choices on their own.

The success of any coach, leader, or mentor is tested when the mentor is absent.  The Apostle Paul alludes to this in Philippians 2:12-16.  The NET translation says it this way:

So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence, for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort—for the sake of his good pleasure—is God. Do everything without grumbling or arguing,  so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without blemish though you live in a crooked and perverse society, in which you shine as lights in the world by holding on to the word of life so that on the day of Christ I will have a reason to boast that I did not run in vain nor labor in vain.

The Philippians obeyed the gospel in Paul’s presence. In fact, he applauds them for their efforts. Yet, now he encourages them to obey with greater diligence in his absence. In one sense, this is a simple request because it is God who is producing the desire for sanctification (the Greek word here is energeo, and suggests energy, work). Yet on the other hand, it is a difficult request because the believers at Philippi were in living in a ‘perverse and crooked society.’  The pull of temptation when a mentor is physically gone is unmistakably real. Whether Paul goes on to die in his labors for the Lord and is removed from the earth, or if his physical separation is only temporary; Paul urges his disciples to continue on in the faith. Otherwise, if they did not keep the faith and dispense it freely, his effort as a disciple-maker at Philippi would be in vain. Therefore, the litmus test test for discipleship is determined by how the disciple functions when the mentor is away. Even when absent, the disciple is to live like the teacher is present.

On another note, how do leaders prepare for success in the wake of their absence? 

1. Trust the Holy Spirit: Paul is confident of the Spirit’s work in maturing the saints at Philippi. It is God, through the Spirit that is producing the work of sanctification. So, as a leader, we trust God!  In fact, Paul does not even give them a formula for their spiritual growth, but entrusts their sanctification to God.

2. Give them simple instructions as you leave: I like how Paul leaves the Philippian believers with a small list at his departure that is both practical and profound. He tells them to do all things without complaining so that they will reflect the glory of God in a dark world.  As they act this way, they will bear fruit for the Gospel; extending life to those who would receive it.

3. Remind them of the Day of Christ: Functioning in a leadership capacity, we cannot go wrong when we remind people of the Day of the Lord. Just as Paul will see the day of the Lord, the believers at Philippi will as well. When we, as leaders remind people about the day of the Lord, it provides them a goal in which to live for; helping them learn, grow, and change with the expectation of standing before God complete in Christ.

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