3:17 Brethren, join in imitating me, and mark those who so live as you have an example in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself. 4:1 Therefore, my brethren, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
I do want to imitate Paul in his love for Jesus and his total commitment to running the race to the end, keeping the faith, and surrendering everything in him to the Lord Jesus. But it’s not an easy road. And who ever said it would be?
Back and forth I go, zealous one day and not so zealous the next. I hesitate to say “lukewarm” at times, because that has serious repercussions as John outlines in his apocalyptic treatise known as The Book of Revelation. We risk being “spit out”. But even Paul said “I do the thing I do not want to do, and I don’t do the thing I do want to do, because sin lives in me.” This is just another way of saying, “I’m only human.” So when I read Paul’s letters and look at the ups and downs of his life, the quarrelling and arguing with Barnabas and Peter as well as a few other relationship NO-NOs, I can relax back into my own self, knowing that we are all loved by God despite our messes and mistakes. Except for Jesus, there is not one perfect person in all of Scripture. Imagine that!
"So when I read Paul’s letters and look at the ups and downs of his life... I can relax back into my own self, knowing that we are all loved by God despite our messes and mistakes."
I am not at all like Paul. I’m more like Peter; impulsive, enthusiastic, jumping before looking. If I were a Winnie the Pooh character, I’d be Tigger. Paul is more like Rabbit with a bit of Eeyore. Paul is motivated by one thing and one thing only; the love of Christ Jesus, to know Him and to make Him known. That’s the core, the center of his being, and that’s what I want because I am happiest when I’m talking with and about, my Lord.
I’ve just come through another wilderness period, but there is so much growth in those dark times when I stay centered on the One who loves me and knows me the deepest. That’s what Paul wants us to imitate, and he contrasts it with a picture of how the other half lives. Been there, done that, found it wanting.