Paul had the heart of a champion, and he displayed it clearly. He understood his calling. He knew that life had ups and downs. He depended upon prayer. He let go of his grudges. He saw things with God’s perspective. And he knew where he lived.
Paul had a very clear understanding of where he lived. He knew that this world was his home, for a time. But he also knew that this world was not his permanent destination, and he understood clearly that there was much more than just his day to day life.
He maintained a clear vision of the eternal, even though he lived daily in the temporal.
Read what he wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Paul did not lose heart. Even though this world had thrown a lot of things at him, many of which would have destroyed someone who wasn’t secure in his relationship with God, Paul remained steadfast in his unwavering commitment.
One of the prayers that I pray for my own spiritual life and growth is centered on seeing as God sees: seeing people as he sees them, seeing my circumstances as he does, and striving to see the big picture of his plan for my life, at least as much as I am able.
Seeing as God sees is an important part of having a heart like Paul did, the heart of a champion. Seeing things from God’s perspective helps us stay centered on the things that are important and helps us feel a connection with God that we might otherwise miss.
When we feel connected to God and his church, we have a greater sense of the Kingdom. We are able to understand just how God desires to build that kingdom by building people. And we sense the urgency that comes with the knowledge that he could return at any time.
Developing and deepening that closeness and connection with God is one of the ways that Paul displayed his strength of character. Look at what he says in 2 Corinthians 3:18 and 4:1:
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart…
When we stay connected to God and develop the closeness he desires, at least four things happen.
Sometimes I wonder if the easiest thing that we can do is hold a grudge. In our culture of the easily offended, this seems to be the strongest trait of a lot of people.
Holding a grudge is not something we should be proud of, nor is it something we should do at all. It’s a killer to our character, and if you want to have the heart of a champion, you have to let go of the grudges.
The apostle Paul had the heart of a champion. And in his letter of 2 Corinthians, he describes what this looks like. As we have looked at what the heart of a champion looks like, we have identified three things so far: Be clear about your calling, understand the ups and downs of life, and depend on the prayers of others. Letting go of your grudges is the fourth thing we can see in Paul’s letter, and it may be the hardest one yet.
Take a look at what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 (NASB):
But if any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow not to me, but in some degree—in order not to say too much—to all of you. Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. For to this end also I wrote, so that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.
Paul reveals here that the actions of one individual have caused a lot of pain, grief, and difficult circumstances for Paul and his ministry to the Corinthian church. And yet Paul speaks in almost hypothetical language here, and refuses to put a name to the individual. What this indicates is that Paul has forgiven the person, and publicly shaming him would be of no gain whatsoever.
Developing the heart of a champion is not something that you can do on your own. It requires a lot of people. And it requires a lot of prayers.
Undoubtedly, Paul had the heart of a champion. But he didn’t develop this on his own, all by himself. He knew where the source of his strength came from: It came directly from God. And it came directly as a result of the prayers of others for Paul and his ministry.
Paul depended upon the prayers of others to sustain him. He knew, that without these prayers, his work would be ineffective. To be sure, he prayed on his own, and did so frequently and fervently. But he also recruited partners in prayer to help lift him and his efforts before the throne of grace continuously.
Tale a look at his own words from 2 Corinthians 1, in the latter half of verse 10 and verse 11 (NASB):
And He will yet deliver us, you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.
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.