Point of Reference
by Fred Price
What would the world be like without people who are unafraid to take on difficult tasks and get things done, even if they occasionally fail; knowing that refusing to try guarantees failure? The Apostle Paul would seem to be such a man.
The problem with some of these terribly active over-achievers is that they tend to be so much more task-oriented than prayer-motivated in anticipation of activity. The Apostle Paul’s phenomenal success was rooted in the fact that he was not merely goal-driven but compelled to act, at least in part, because of his active prayer life. He was extraordinarily accomplished physically, intellectually and spiritually; leading me to believe that his physical and intellectual abilities were derived from his spiritual discipline. His spiritual discipline being rooted and finding fruition in the God in whom Paul believed.
In the preface to his book, A Prayer Journey with the Apostle Paul, Michael Green writes “Nearly everyone believes in a God of some sort. Some have faith in a mysterious force that set the world going, if nothing more than that. That was not the God to whom Paul prayed. Many see God so far removed from us that he could not possibly bother about our concerns. That was not the God to whom Paul prayed. An increasing number of people these days identify God with the natural world in which we live, and see the mountains and seas, the flowers and the birds, and above all, ourselves, as divine. That was not the God to whom Paul prayed. Paul’s God was much greater and more wonderful than any of these understandings of the divine.” 1His was a personal God who not only created us but who wants to involve himself in our individual lives. He is an ethical Being who cares deeply about right and wrong – good, better and best – embodying justice and mercy. A trustworthy God who doesn’t change who he is or what he expects depending on the times or circumstances we experience. He is the One and Only – the ultimate source of all things. That’s the God Paul believed in and prayed to. Beyond him but somehow alongside him. At no one’s beck and call but interested, concerned and involved in our lives – when we let him be – because of his great love for us. A God we develop depth of character in and an equally deep sense of commitment to; a relationship grounded, in large part, through our prayer-life.
Mr. Green goes on to list eight aspects of God that stand out clearly in Paul’s writings; bedrock principles of the Christian faith.
1. God is the creator of the universe and all that is in it; a premise so obvious as to be self-evident for all who do not deliberately suppress the truth. “…since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Romans 1:19,20
2. God wants to be known, consistently revealing himself throughout scripture, which is, “…God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so all God’s people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:15-17
3. Paul’s God was Jehovah – I AM WHO I AM – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; fully revealed in Jesus Christ. He who is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) The God revered and worshipped by Paul’s ancestors, “…from (whom) is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all,…” Romans 9:5 Which instilled in him a strong sense of continuity – a connection – with all God has done and promises to do for Israel and its descendants, secular and spiritual. As we “…are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:28,29
4. Paul’s God cares enough to do everything within his power to save us – short of imposing his will on us – by becoming a man, Jesus Christ. “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” As such, “…he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:1-8
5. He is the God who saves us from the sins of our own self-centeredness, releasing us from the curse of his judgment; taking that judgment upon himself. (Galatians 3:13) As, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men…” 1 Timothy 2:5,6
6. With this confidence comes the realization that God is not far away or removed from our lives because of his death on the cross, but rather alive in our hearts, by means of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:11) Who, “…helps us in our weaknesses.” Particularly in our prayer life, when “We do not know what we ought to pray for… the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” Romans 8:26,27
7. That having been said, Paul was still well aware that God remained the Judge of the world. In fact, he looked forward to, “…the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ,…” Romans 2:16 Never taking God’s mercy for granted, Paul remained humble and zealous in all aspects of his life, realizing that, “…we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done in the body, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10
8. And as with the parable of the prodigal son, at the end of our journey is an expectant Father, which should calm our fears and rekindle excitement in our lives; granting us confidence as we – like Paul – become “…convinced that neither death nor life,…angels nor demons,…the present nor the future, nor any powers; neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38,39
If we genuinely believe that, our faith will inspire a relationship with God that won’t merely allow us to pray to God but communicate with him on a level and to a degree that won’t happen otherwise. Allowing us to,”…approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
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Fred Price - married (49 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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