On the way out to the Purdue Sing, Katelyn and I put all of Paul's 13 letters in chronological order. I'm certainly open to correction, but here is what we came up with:
2. 1 Thessalonians
3. 2 Thessalonians
4. 1 Corinthians
5. 2 Corinthinas
12. 1 Timothy
13. 2 Timothy
Katelyn said it was mentioned at a recent bible study that as Paul progressed through his letters, he became more and more humble in what he considered himself. I believe first he started off as calling himself, "Paul, an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ," developed into a "servant of Christ," and then ended up by calling himself the "chiefest of all sinners."
Isn't it interesting how Paul's view of himself changes as he matures... and his self-image seems to get lower? Yet, it's not his self-worth that is faltering... it's his humility that is increasing.
In 1 Corinthians 15: 9-11 (NIV),
"For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed."
My Life Application says,
"As a zealous Pharisee, Paul had been an enemy of the Christian church--even to the point of capturing and persecuting believers. Thus he felt unworthy to be called an apostle of Christ. Though undoubtedly the most influential of the apostels, Paul was deeply humble. He knew that he had worked hard and accomplished much, but only because God had poured kindness and grace upon him."
Paul calls himself the least of the apostles, undeserving of even being called one. We see why if we look in Acts 9:1-6,
"Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners in Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
'Who are you, Lord?' Saul asked.
'I am Jesus, whom you are persectuing,' he replied. 'Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.'"
Paul went from persecuting God to becoming an amazing instrument of His. Without Paul, 13 precious books of the Bible would be missing. If we would know someone like Saul today, we would probably shake our heads and wave him off, thinking, "this man's salvation is hopeless." Yet just LOOK at what God did with Saul! He can do the same for anyone you know today... and I doubt most unbelievers you know today were to the extremity that Paul was. So take heart! God can and will change hearts!
Going back to humility, here are the sentences that wrapped up my Life Application statement from 1 Corinthians:
"True humility is not convincing yourself that you are worthless, but recognizing God's work in you. It is having God's perspective on who you are and acknowledging his grace in developing your abilities."
You can love yourself without being in love with yourself. At ISU Bible Study the other night, one phrase that I took with me is, "You don't have to impress anyone when your security is in Christ." This all comes with being humble. It's all in a little package. If our self worth is placed in Christ and Christ alone, and we lean fully on Him to develop our character through His grace and mercy, we will be focused enough to realize that HE is the only One we want to please and glorify... and with that kind of attitude, we are being HUMBLE!
That works out nicely.
True humility is hard to attain, and for some of us, it may be a life-long journey. It's a good thing God gave us Paul... a man who developed true humility where it is clearly evident throughout the letters he wrote.
Sometimes, when I feel like I need to be humbled, I just think of the Cross. I think of Jesus. I think of God... I think of those characters in the Bible who fell face down in the presence of God.
I have a childhood dream of Jesus. I was in Sunday School at church, and Jesus was there. I met Him. I just remember seeing him and being SO relieved, and running over to embrace Him.
Thinking of Jesus and His Cross is humbling, yet isn't it great to know He is always there, waiting to give you a hug?
I love you all,