I want to love like Christ … but many times I love myself more. I want to live for my Savior, for the one who gave His life for me, but honestly, most days I live for myself—for my comfort and my temporary pleasure. I too easily lose sight of my call to know Him and make Him known. Because here’s the thing, I have the power, in Christ, to do all that my faith prompts me to do. Therefore, the question is never "can I do such-and-such", but rather, "will I"?
In Ephesians 3:1, Paul said, in his letter to the ancient Ephesian believers, “For this reason, I Paul, the prisoner of Christ for the sake of you Gentiles …”
Can we stop there?
We’ve probably all experienced love that came with an agenda. I have, and it hurt. For a while, it left me jaded.
About ten years ago, our family moved to a small town in Missouri, about thirty minutes from Kansas City, and we joined a local faith community. The leaders seemed so kind- like they genuinely cared about me and my family.
I thought we were building relationships when in truth, they were simply building their congregation. This became clear when another family joined our group, and we were no longer the newbies. Suddenly, our phone stopped ringing and the invites stopped coming. We were basically forgotten, relegated to the “already caught list.”
Perhaps you’ve experienced something similar. I suspect we all have. I also suspect we’ve all caused others to feel that way as well because honestly, we’re mixed motives people. But hopefully, we’ve all also experienced the sacrificial love of Christ, poured out to us from one of His children.
That was precisely the type of love Paul offered. His words weren’t catchy slogans designed to entice the Ephesians to convert. Oh, he wanted them to receive salvation, absolutely, but not because he wanted to build a prestigious ministry. He wanted them to experience the same emotional and spiritual freedom he had- because he loved them. So much so that he truly was willing to lay down his life so that, through Christ, they might find theirs.
He’s our model as surely as Christ was his. So how did he do this? How was Paul able to overcome the selfish desires that cause me to seek comfort and self-protect? First, he understood the responsibility he carried—that God had entrusted him with the gospel, with the very words of life and death. That is a heavy weight to carry, one given to him by Christ Himself, to be distributed as God willed.
This leads to my second point. Paul understood his assignment came from God, that it was part of God’s great plan set into motion when time began. He didn’t have to figure out every step; He simply needed to keep walking, with his eyes on Christ and his ears attentive to God’s voice.
Paul also realized he was empowered by God. He didn’t have to convince anyone of Christ’s deity or the gift of salvation He offered. And finally, Paul carried a beautiful combination of humble confidence. He understood how unworthy he was of the grace he received, and therefore no better than anyone he encountered, no matter how sinful or hateful they appeared.
But he also knew he’d been chosen, commissioned, guided, and empowered by the Creator of the universe. His understanding of his need for grace kept him from pride and entitlement. Similarly, his deep assurance of his call, and who had called him, annihilated any sense of insecurity that could’ve twisted his words or caused him to seek man’s approval over God’s.
You and I are called as well, not to a life of comfort or self-protection, but to fully surrendered obedience. We’re called to give our all for the One who gave His all so that we might live. That’s a hard call, I know. A call that is sometimes scary and often uncomfortable, but man, oh, man, so worth it. We can spend our time binge-watching Netflix or scrolling through social media, filling our brains with content we won’t remember a month, perhaps even a day, from now. Or we can join God’s life-changing mission knowing, with every surrendered and obedient act, we’re helping to change history for eternity.