13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus. 18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas[a] and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie. 21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me.
Everybody loves to hear about an amazing over-achiever. I have read a book about a secular entrepreneur named Elon Musk, who founded PayPal, Tesla Cars and also Space-X. Paul the Apostle was even more amazing, but similarly, used the technology of his day to its absolute limit and thought completely outside the box to literally re-write the political and religious systems of the day.
For me, there is a danger though of looking with wonder at an over-achiever. I can idolise their drive, skill, talent and achievements, and I can feel inadequate by comparison. If I am not careful, I also start to tell myself that these over-achievers are “made of different stuff” from the rest of humanity.
But the truth is that this is contrary to so much of what the bible actually teaches. In particular the teaching of Jesus:
– That we will do greater things that even he did as he walked the earth.
– That in order to be great, we must make ourselves humble
– That the first will be last and the last will be first
– That of all the achievements we can have, love is the one most valued by God
In our world of efficiency and productivity, goals and outcomes, stardom and fame, it is actually really easy to start to see ourselves the way that the world sees us, rather than the way that God sees us.
From my reflections this morning, I will continue to read biographies like Elon Musk, but I will also continue to strive to see myself through God’s eyes rather than those of the world. I will see my inspiration from the Holy One rather than an idol.
Lord, thank you for your revelation and the identity that you bring.
Written by Ps. Justin Ware