The Apostle Paul was one man who displayed the heart of a champion through his life and ministry. And one of the ways this is evident can be seen in the way he understood the ebb and flow of daily life.
Life is like a roller coaster. There are ups and downs all the time, and this is a very natural part of life Paul definitely experienced this ebb and flow of life, and he adjusted his perspective and attitude, as well as his ministry efforts, accordingly. This is very evident in 2 Corinthians 1:4-7:
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.
Paul is very clear in this passage that life gives us ups and downs, and when the downs come, God provides a source of comfort as needed. He then adds that because we have experienced God’s comfort, usually coming from other believers, we can be a source of God’s comfort to others when they experience those hard times. Paul understood that life takes swings frequently. And he also understood that he needed to stand strong in those tough times. But he also knew that the only way he could was because of God’s assistance and comfort.
In order to have the heart of a champion, there are several qualities that you must display. The first and foremost is that you must be clear about God’s calling and direction for your life.
Paul had the heart of a champion. Over the next few weeks, we will look at several of the characteristics that he displayed, but the first and most important one is that he was clear about God’s involvement and call in his life, as well as God’s direction. There was no question about it.
In 2 Corinthians 1:1, Paul states the authority of God’s calling in his life unequivocally as he opens this second letter to the church in Corinth:
This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus… (NLT)
Paul understood the difference between calling and direction. Paul had both of them in his life, but they are not the same thing. You could say that Paul had a double dose of passion for God in his life and ministry.
First of all, Paul was called. His letter says that he was “chosen by the will of God.” But then he adds that he is also directed by God, “to be an apostle,” or messenger, of Christ. God called Paul to what he wanted him to be. And God directed Paul where he wanted him to go.
The same is true in your life and mine. God has called us to be. He has called us to abide. He has called us to be a part of his family. This is the “being” aspect of our faith. But he has also directed us to do. His direction is where he is leading us, what he is equipping us for. It is the “doing” portion of our faith.
There are some people out there who just seem to have the heart of a champion. And when it comes to the areas of ministry or leadership, this is an essential quality to have.
But how do you develop a heart like that? How do you train yourself to serve like that? What does that even look like?
There are several qualities that exemplify a heart that strives to be great. And those qualities can be seen by looking at the life of Paul the Apostle. In this mini series, we will look at several of the different aspects or qualities that make such a great leader.
As Paul described his own life and ministry in 2 Corinthians, and as he longed to serve and lead the church in Corinth, we catch glimpses of his heart and the concern he had for them as he shepherded them. Paul’s perspective was clear, both in who he was, and how he was to relate to the church in Corinth. And, as a result, he displayed a heart that is worth imitating.
I think there are three reasons we must do our best to develop a heart like Paul’s, for Christ, for the church and for others. Such a heart will make us more effective in our work for the Kingdom of God.
One of the most important things I have learned over the years is to identify and establish healthy priorities. As critical as this is, it is surprising how few people actually do this, especially those who are in positions of leadership. Determining what these priorities are is an absolute must for each of us.
While I was in Bible college, I learned a basic principle for priorities: My top priority is my relationship with God. That is followed by my relationship with my wife. My third priority is my relationships with my children, and finally, my ministry and work.
That gives a good basic overview, and is very solid advice. But it still remains somewhat general in nature. In each of these areas, how do I determine what I should be focusing on? How do I set my priorities in each area? How do I establish what that looks like?
I think there are a few questions that we can ask ourselves that can help determine where our focus should be. These are simple questions, but are worth taking some time to consider.
Sometimes, you can learn some great lessons in the most unlikely of places. Like this week’s Vacation Bible School at our church.
This week is our annual VBS. But we are taking a twist on the normal routine and going a bit different than we ever have.
Typically, we do a program that is from one of the major Christian publishers, like Group or Zondervan or Standard. But this year, we took a deep look at it, and decided that our Vacation Bible School program is more of an outreach than anything else. Although we strive to disciple the kids who are a part of our church through events like this, we wanted to reach out to those who may not be a part of a church regularly.
So we decided to do a week that was different than anything we have ever attempted. We decided to do a sports camp style VBS. As we planned it, we knew that this could be a big thing for our church and community. And it could be great, or it could flop.
We started our week on Monday, and we got off to a great beginning. And I am excited to see what the rest of the week holds.
But as we are moving along, I have noticed a couple of things.
One of my strongest spiritual gifts is in the area of discipleship. And the best way that I can achieve that is found in one of my other strongest gifts, teaching. But is that the only way to disciple?
Although teaching, in a classroom setting, or a home study, or even some one on one situations, is often the way that we create and grow disciples, is it the only way? Or even the best way?
I am very comfortable teaching a Bible class or study, and the more I do that, the more comfortable I am. In fact, when I was presented with the idea that we do something different this summer, I was hesitant at first. Simply because teaching is within my comfort zone. Other stuff might not be.
But the more I thought about it, the more I discovered that maybe discipleship happens in several different ways, and not all of them involve a teaching/classroom setting. Sometimes disciples are grown by getting out and doing what disciples do.
To that end, we are trying something new at our church this summer. We are calling it the Summer of Service, and we have a lot of pretty good ideas that can pull all the different ages and groups in our church together to work together as we grow together. It may be a bit uncomfortable for some, but we believe that it will be a valuable summer experience, helping us identify our role as a disciple more clearly, and acting upon it.
Sometimes the hardest time to move forward is when things are going great. I know that sounds kind of crazy, but it is definitely true. Sometimes it is more difficult to move forward when everything is going well than it is when you face tough circumstances.
When times are tough, you have to make choices. You have to implement change. You have to take steps just to get through to the other side of the rough circumstances. You have to move. Everything depends on it.
But when things are going well, it is much harder to take steps that will get you to the next level. Our mentality is, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” And that’s a shame, because times like these are the perfect times to take strides to build yourself, or your church, or your business, to even greater things.
When things are going well, it isn’t time to relax and take a break. No, it’s time to move ahead with excitement and energy.
That is where we are as a church right now. Last year, we faced a pretty tough set of circumstances with some back taxes that had been neglected. On top of that we owed a balance on a couple of properties that the church had bought. We were making it, but God had greater things in store for us, and incredible lessons to learn.