Paul’s Incredible Juxtaposition

I love the book of Acts.  It’s an adventure story, full of leadership lessons, a lot of interpersonal drama.  After countless incredible miracles and moments, churches being planted, and the Good News spreading from Jerusalem to the capital of the Roman Empire, the unlikely hero, the apostle Paul, nears the end of his life.  While the book itself ends on an upbeat note, with Paul preaching in his home under guard, history notes that his life ended much differently.

The book of Philippians, written while Paul was in jail, and the book of 2nd Timothy, where Paul writes his final words, shows that he was in a unique place in his relationships.  In Philippians, Paul speaks clearly about rejoicing even in the middle of his toughest situations.  “Rejoice in the Lord, always!” he says, even as he sits in a Roman prison.  But in 2nd Timothy, we see Paul’s anguish as he worries about the future, his loneliness and longing for someone to come see him.  Yet, in spite of that, he says, “I have fought the good fight,” and he looks forward to getting a crown of righteousness from Christ himself.

This incredible juxtaposition—being alone and imprisoned, yet full of joy and looking forward to the future—is something unique to the Christian faith.  Throughout history, there are countless stories of heroes of the faith who faced incredibly hard moments, difficulties, and even death, with peace, joy, and even hope.  How is this possible?

Paul models this for us.

“Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20b (CSB)

That is the key to Paul’s incredible ability to be happy and hopeful even when facing the end.  This is the key to anyone who calls themselves a Christ-follower wanting to be filled with hope and joy, even in darker and more difficult times.  Paul knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Christ was always with him.   In good or bad times, Paul wasn’t alone.  Christ lives in me.  It’s both amazing and wonderful to realize that the Son of God, the risen Savior, who Paul says “loved me and gave himself for me” lives within anyone who calls Him Lord.

How can we face tough days?  How can we help those around us find hope even in the middle of the storms of life?  By remembering that God is Always With Me.  He promises to never leave us or forsake us.   The next time we are filled with worry or fear about the future or our situation, we need to be like Paul.  We need to stop and remind ourselves, Christ lives in me!

There’s an incredible old prayer, said to have been written by St. Patrick, that actually uses this phrase to make it even more clear how much we are surrounded and covered by the living Christ.  Take a moment and read these words, perhaps even pray them for yourself and your friends and family this week, and be reminded of the power of the Savior—who lives in you.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

 

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