Paul’s journey through life was more dramatic than ours may be, but his life is a rich example of what is also true for us; God will always be at work in everything to mold our character and conviction. He will make it possible for us to say at life’s end, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
1. ENCOUNTER WITH CHRIST
On the road to Damascus, Paul encounters Christ Jesus in a flash of light that strikes him blind. His entire life is changed for eternity by answers he receives to the two questions he asks Christ: “Who are you, Lord?” and “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:8, 22:10).
Have you established in your life the twin foundation stones of always seeking to know Christ, and always seeking to know what he wants you to do?
2. GROWING STRONG
As a new convert in Damascus, Paul grows strong in his faith by immediately sharing it with others. “At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). He “grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 9:22).
Are you flexing your spiritual “muscles”—not hesitating to reach out in your world to make Christ known to those around you?
3. STANDING FIRM
Facing hostile Jews in Pisidian Antioch on their first missionary journey, Paul and his companion Barnabas announce publicly their conviction about who they will evangelize: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46).
The Jews expel them from the region, but Paul and Barnabas are not defeated. “They shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:51-52).
How do you respond to opposition and persecution? If you have not yet experienced it are you prepared to face it and overcome it in the future?
4. MISUNDERSTOOD, THEN REJECTED
After Paul and Barnabas heal a crippled man, the people of Lystra hail them as gods, calling them Hermes and Zeus. “But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed into the crowd, shouting: ‘Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them'” (Acts 14:14-15)
Is your sense of integrity and humility strong enough that you will never seek glory for yourselt or let success in Christian work go to your head?
After instigation by outsiders, the crowds in Lystra later stone Paul and drag him outside the city, thinking he is dead. But he is undaunted. “After the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe” (Acts 14:20).
Then he and Barnabas strengthen and encourage the new believers with these words forged from their own experience: “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
Are you convinced that hardships will be a normal part of your life in this world?
At their home base in Antioch, Paul and Barnabas have such a sharp disagreement about whether to take along John Mark on a second joint missionary journey (John Mark had left them once before) that each goes his own way (Acts 15:36-41).
Many years later, Paul—who had opposed taking John Mark along—apparently has become more accepting of him: “Get Mark and bring him with you,” he writes to Timothy, “because he is helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).
Do you see your life’s journey as a learning experience? Will you learn from the past or become bitter about hard experiences?
6. VISION IN THE NIGHT
A dramatic vision in the night provides specific guidance for Paul in Troas, and he quickly obeys. “After Paul had seen the vision,” writes Luke, “we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:10).
Are you constantly seeking God’s step-by-step direction—and responding obediently to all he has told you?
7. SEEING THE WORLD
While he visits Athens, a center of ancient culture and learning, the world’s depravity leaves a strong impression on Paul. “He was greatly distressed to see that the city was fall of idols” (Acts 17:16). Paul nobly and clearly presents the gospel to the worldly philosophers of Athens.
How will the world affect you? Will you recognize the world’s tragic state, and respond by living and speaking the truth?
In Corinth the Lord again gives Paul specific guidance as well as encouragement, and Paul obeys. “One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.’ So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God” (Acts 18:9-11).
Are your eyes and ears open to receive the quiet promises of God that keep you going and help you defeat discouragement?
9. READY TO DIE
Paul’s companions and the Christians in Caesarea try to persuade him not to proceed on his trip to Jerusalem—where he faces great danger. Paul responds, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13).
Do you desire to accomplish what you know God wants you to do, even when those who love you do not entirely understand?
10. STAYING CALM
Destined for shipwreck in the stormy Mediterranean, Paul tells the others on board, “I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost, only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar, and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me” (Acts 27:22-25).
Will you keep your cool when things are rough—and be a source of stability and courage for those around you? Will you hold on to your faith even in impossible situations?