Do you ever wonder what Paul was like in person? Until I actually studied the New Testament as a whole I pictured him so pious and judgmental. After reading all of his letters and really considering what his life looked like, it’s impossible to remember how I got to those assumptions about him.
I do remember being vastly comforted by the book of 2 Corinthians. I felt he must have been writing to people like me. When I discovered that the Corinthians were actually super critical of Paul, the humility with which he wrote becomes a hundred times greater. Standing in the face of those who say you are weak and explaining how much deeper your weakness goes than they could ever know… Well.. it has shown me what a deep trust and love Paul had for Jesus; how much his identity was based not on what men thought of him, but based solely on what the Father had done for him….
“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.”
2 Corinthians 1:8-10
“On him we have set our hope.” I often worry about what people think of me. I wrestle against that worry, though it stalks me tirelessly.
But Paul says,
“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Cor. 4:5) and … “we have this treasure (the glory of God) in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Cor 4:7)
I’m so grateful for what God revealed about himself through the writings of Paul. Paul, a man I know now was just a man; just a man, but so deeply loved by Jesus.
Lately I’ve been hearing lots of people say, “I’m God’s favorite.” The funny thing is that I’ve had people also tell me, “Peggy, you are God’s favorite.”
If it weren’t for my mom, I don’t think this could make sense. My mom loved all three of her daughters (up to the sky and down again) equally. It wasn’t a Communist kind of equality, it was this overflowing abundance that fell on whomever she was with. She would hug me and whisper in my ear, “You’re my favorite.” As a kid it made me squirm and I would respond, “Don’t say that, mom!” (actually, when I was upset with her I would call her, “mother.”) I knew she didn’t have favorites and for a while it felt unfair…. Until I realized that she was doing this with my sisters as well.
Somehow it has begun to make sense. Somehow I do really believe that I’m God’s favorite (and my mom’s favorite, too). Not because I’m so amazing. I’m just a jar of clay like you. But you? You are God’s favorite, too. His love is so big- so much bigger than we’ve even begun to search out. Books like Ragamuffin Gospel and What’s So Amazing About Grace? give glimpses. But I think it is really God himself who has to reveal this in a way that makes it as real as our flesh and blood.
Because, beloved? It is as real as our flesh and blood. More real, actually. Paul knew this, which is why he prayed,
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:14-19
He prayed that you would have God’s Spirit in you so that you could understand God’s love for you… and, understanding that love, you could be filled with all the fullness of God.
This is not the prayer of a harsh man, this is the prayer of a son who has experienced such forgiveness and grace upon his life and wants so much for his friends to experience it, too. I am praying with him for you, my friend, that you know God’s love in a deeper way today. I pray that you discover today how to believe God’s words about himself and about who he created you to be in him. I pray that this overflowing, extravagant, joyful gift of being God’s favorite would fill you up right now and you would overflow this love onto your spouse, your parents, your kids, your friends and your neighbors.