Life Lessons: The Easy Way or the Hard Way?
Learning life lessons can be tough. “Experience is the best teacher.” is just a nice way of saying you usually have to mess something up really bad before you can actually get it right!
Thankfully, the Bible is full of stories from other people’s lives and the lessons they’ve learned, complete with their successes as well as failures. God includes these lessons for our benefit and if we are wise, we can glean some real gems. Hopefully we will learn their lessons well, and avoid some of their mistakes. Another way to say it would be their pain, our gain.
“Their pain, our gain“
So, in that spirit, here are seven takeaways. Seven life lessons that can help us in our life, from Paul’s life. Thanks Paul!
1. No lost causes
Paul was a tough-as-nails Pharisee. He was “mangling the church like a wild beast.” If anybody was a lost cause it was Paul. What chance was there that somebody so zealously hateful of Christianity could ever become a Christian? And yet, in one moment everything changed.
Any life lessons here? Absolutely. Pray and love the people who are the meanest to you. Pray for the ones that seem the furthest from God. Get your hopes up, even if you don’t see anything positive coming from them. We don’t know what lessons they may be learning and we certainly don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, “under the hood” so to speak, inside the workings of that person’s heart. Your prayers may catapult them into the Kingdom before they even know what’s going on!
2. God doesn’t waste a thing
Before he became a Christian, Paul was a Roman citizen, strict Jew, highly intelligent, highly educated, and highly motivated. After he became a follower of Christ, God used each one of these in powerful ways. The lesson here? If you give it to him, God will use everything for his purposes in his plan for your life – Successes, failures, pain, brokenness, skills, gifts, and personality can all be uniquely cultivated and used for his glory.
3. Be committed and be passionate!
When Paul was an enemy of Christ, he was very passionate for his cause.
When he came face to face with Truth itself, he became unstoppable.
The truth we know about Jesus – What he’s done for us, and what he can do for the world – should ignite a fire in us to reach the world.
4. You can have physical sight and still be blind
Here we have one of the greatest life lessons we could ever learn, and it’s this – We don’t know all that we think we know. The moment we stop becoming teachable we develop spiritual blindness that can cause us to stop growing. The Bible is our ultimate authority on how we live this life. A good question to ask ourselves is, when something in the Word of God challenges our doctrine, dogma, or presuppositions, are we humble enough and flexible enough to admit we are wrong? Are we committed enough to make changes as needed?
5. Your past doesn’t disqualify you
If God would have judged Paul based on his past actions, Paul surely would be disqualified from being used by God. The good news is that when God forgives, he also forgets and gives us a fresh start. The bad news is that sometimes we don’t do such a good job of forgiving ourselves. Don’t fall into the trap of self-condemnation. Learn the life lesson of self-forgiveness. When it comes to my past, I have found it very helpful to apply these two principles.
- Forget about it! – The Word says “But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Phil 3:13-14) Do you have sin from your past still operating in your life? First – Admit it to God (Confession), Then – Quit doing it (Repentance), Finally – Forget it! Do yourself a favor and move on, leaving that baggage at the foot of the Cross. God will never hold that sin against you – don’t you continue to hold it against yourself. Do what they do in Brooklyn and fuggedaboutit.
- Never forget about it – You might think, “I thought you just told me to forget about it. What do you mean never forget about it.?” What I mean to say is never forget the love and mercy God showed you when you were at your lowest. Never forget to give that same love and mercy to others who may not deserve it. Paul never forgot how much God forgave him and that created a love and mercy in him that drove everything he did, and is a key reason he made the impact he did. Paul loved people, and people who knew him knew it. We should “go and do likewise”.
“Admit it, Quit it, and Forget it“
6. Don’t freeze people in their past
Whether it’s our family or our friends, we have a tendency to remember their mistakes, or their old behavior patterns. There is nothing more discouraging to somebody who is in the process of changing than when we begin to hit them with all the things they’ve done wrong. One of Satan’s titles is the “accuser of the brethren”. One of the greatest lessons we can learn is to never do Satan’s work for him! Ananias was nervous to go to Paul based on who he thought he was, not on who he was now. Release people to grow by encouraging them in the changes they are making, not by throwing their past actions right back in their faces.
7. We need the Holy Spirit
As Ananias laid hands on Paul he told him that Jesus sent him there so that he would be able to see again and “be filled with the Holy Spirit.” This is something that cannot be overstated or said enough – If we are going to do what God wants us to in this life, we are going to need power. It’s not easy to go against the flow of modern culture and thinking to declare that Jesus Christ is still the only way to receive salvation. We need to cultivate our relationship with the third member of the Trinity and receive power. We need that power to become, and to do all He’s calling us to.
There you have it. Seven life lessons from the life of one of the all time greats. Hope they encouraged you as much as they encouraged me.
Until next time, may the blessings of God be upon you and yours!