The apostle Paul was an exceptional individual. He was a devoted person, whether it was to Judaism or to Christianity. He truly was a great example of what it means to be a Christian who was sold out to Jesus Christ.
However, I’ve heard so many people say that he was the greatest Christian who ever lived! I wouldn’t say that. He was not a superhero; he was human just like you and me. Now, before you start throwing stones at me, I’m not saying that he wasn’t a good Christian! Definitely a much better Christian than I am!
But, to say he was better than everybody else? What about all the people who have suffered for the cause of Christ and have not wavered? I would put them in the same category as Paul.
In the midst of all the work he did for Jesus, Paul was not without his faults. I read through the book Acts not that long ago for my devotions. Chapters 21 through 28 is the result of a not-so-wise decision Paul made. Here’s the gist of it:
The Holy Spirit warned him twice not to go to Jerusalem for the passover, once in Tyre (v.4) and again in Caesarea (v. 11). Did he listen? No! Agabus told him in the second warning that the Jews would bind him and deliver him to the Gentiles. His response was “…I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (v. 13)
I commend him for his courage and devotion, but that still doesn’t negate the fact that he was disobeying. If we only saw the second warning, then that’s what it would sound like: a warning. You can go if you want to, but this is what is going to happen if you do. But when we look at vv. 4 and 11, we see that the Holy Spirit did not want him to go. He told him not to go in v. 4 and then told him the consequences in v. 11.
Please understand that I am not bashing Paul. God used him mightily in spreading the Gospel and writing most of the New Testament.
Did Paul regret the decision later on in Jerusalem? I wish the Bible had this information, because Paul was never again a free man and it would have been interesting to know what he thought when he was alone.
But this is the point. He made the most of his situation. Even though it wasn’t wise, he used the opportunities that God still gave to him.
This is where I have trouble sometimes. I make a bad choice and then I suffer the consequences for it. I tend to live in regret over my foolishness, which takes my eyes off the job I have to do right now, which then causes me to make more foolish decisions because I am not in communion with Christ like I should be!
Why does this happen? It happens because it is easier to wallow in the failures of the past than it is to accept God’s forgiveness.
And this is where the book of I John has been such a blessing to me. It is important that I not allow my heart to continually condemn me, even when God has given me complete forgiveness. Because if I allow my heart to continue to condemn me, God cannot answer my prayers the way he would like to. (I John 3:19-22)
What regrets do you have? Whatever they may be, set them aside. Realize that God is bigger than your bad choices. If we allow him to, he can work through us like he did with Paul.