All of us in Boise watch what's happening on the Blue Turf faithfully every game, win or lose. Isn't that right? All through Paul's writing, he compares the Christian walk to athlete running a race. If there would have been football back then, we might have seen a whole new group of illustrations. This scripture reading puts Paul on defense of the tremendous work that he is doing for his Lord. But several years before this, I can imagine a scene like this: The door of a house in Jerusalem bursts open and Saul strides in without warning with fellow Jews who rampage through the house, pulling the children out of their hiding places and rounding up all those in the house who are the hated Christians.
He goes to house after house terrorizing the people with his misguided zeal. Saul is sure that he is doing the right thing in getting rid of as many Christians as possible. He is zealous for his God.
On the way to Damascus the earth shakes and a light brighter then the sun blinds him and he is suddenly in darkness as a voice that vibrates to the core of his heart and soul speaks the words we all know, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" And suddenly it all becomes clear as Christ directs him to the place of healing, and a whole new life stretches out in front of him. He's a new man with a new name, directed by God with a new zeal.
Fast forward again to Paul's letter to the Corinthians where he goes on defense for his faith and his evangelism. In the Nelson's study bible, Paul lists his defense. "I speak as a "fool" verse 11:23, Why? A close look reveals the reason behind Paul's words.
He opened his life and ministry for review. He painted a stark contrast between his own ministry and that of his rivals. These false teachers preached another "Jesus" and a "different gospel." Unlike Paul, the imposters collected fees for their service and enjoyed a comfortable and easygoing life.
Paul, in contrast boasted of his weaknesses and suffering that showed the power of God in his life. He was a Hebrew, a descendant of Abraham. He was in prison over and over, five times received forty lashes minus one. Beaten with rods, pelted with stones, shipwrecked, in dangers from bandits, fellow Jews, Gentiles, lived without sleep or food. He was cold and naked. All for the love of the true Christ and getting the message out.
Paul made touchdown after touchdown as he ran his race to the finish. God has given us the power to do the same. I am so thankful to read these words of encouragement to go on in his power backed by all the defense of heaven.