"The Apostle Paul's Destiny Introduced"
Last week I referred to a list of “Spiritual Gifts,” most of them listed in the books of I Corinthians and Romans. The gifts listed in I Corinthians are those distributed by God to believers. He disseminates these gifts to his children as He sees fit in order for the church to be most effective. However, we are told to desire the greatest gifts and pray to receive them.
We have also discussed other talents or abilities or strengths that are bestowed upon us by God at conception. They are a part of “who we are.” These are oftentimes, I find, to be closely linked to our personalities and our desires. They are inherent within us.
Hopefully by reviewing these Spiritual gifts and innate strengths or abilities, we are better able to contemplate how we can contribute significantly to the advance of God’s Kingdom of love, peace, and righteousness through Trinity Church and beyond. Likewise I hope that we have broadened our perspective on these “gifts” by including many more than the standard, few specialized areas of ministry like pastor or missionary. Besides those I have mentioned previously, Tom Rath in his bestselling book StrengthsFinder adds such abilities as arranger, command, deliberative, empathy, focus, harmony, self-assurance, and others to the catalog of unique strengths to celebrate. I bet we would never have included one of these in any list we might have created.
Let me provide a couple examples of those who may or may not have utilized their strengths and gifts in order to fulfill their redeemed purpose.
The Apostle Paul was a primary persecutor of followers of Christ in the first century A.D. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christianity had spread throughout the city of Jerusalem and, in addition, advanced into regions beyond. Paul considered it his personal religious duty as a devout Jew to put a stop to this crazy religious sect…by any means necessary. This included deception, intimidation, imprisonment, physical punishment, and yes, even death if necessary. Paul brandished the weapon of “authority” approved by the Jewish religious hierarchy. This is the man we find in the book of Acts watching and, more than likely, instigating the brutal stoning of godly believer Stephen.
This is the same man God called into ministry to take the gospel message to the gentiles (in addition to the Jews) throughout the world. In a spectacular conversion experience, Paul was personally introduced to the risen Christ. He was now thoroughly convinced, without doubt, Christ was real and alive! Paul, who was previously fervent in his persecution of believers, was now a believer still filled with the same amount of zeal but now utilizing it to spread the life-saving message of Christ throughout the world.
Let me pause at this very moment in the story. Paul was given a particular personality and strengths/abilities at birth. Before his conversion he had used these God-given strengths for personal advancement into the upper echelon of the Jewish religious hierarchy in a relatively brief period of time. He was also using those same God-given gifts and abilities in an attempt to thwart the cause of Christ. So yes, there are plenty of people throughout the world who are using God-given gifts for their own selfish pleasure or gain or to promote the kingdom of darkness.