We oftentimes “DIS” the negative things in our life that are most likely our greatest advantages.
The Apostle Paul had every reason to “DIS” (to criticize or speak disrespectfully about) his past and his present situation. He could have made decisions that would have greatly disrupted his future… and I think we could too.
He could have Disassociated from his Past
Paul went through a lot in his life, both as a Christian and before He was a Christian. He knew what it was like to feel regret over decisions he made in past. He knew he actively was trying to destroy the very thing that God created him to promote. As a believer, he struggled with doing what he knew was the right thing to do but couldn’t always do it. He also faced such a list of terrible “setbacks, and hang-ups” than certainly could have been discouraging.
Galatians 1:13 – “how I violently persecuted God’s church. I did my best to destroy it.”
Galatians 1:23 - 23 All they knew was that people were saying, “The one who used to persecute us is now preaching the very faith he tried to destroy!”
Acts 8:3 - But Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison.
Acts 26:9-11 – “I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene.[a] 10 Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers[b] there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. 11 Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus.[c] I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities.
Romans 7:15 - 15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.
2 Corinthians 11:23-27 - 23 Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. 24 Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. 26 I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not.[c] 27 I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.
Yet Paul took it all to God and God used these things for Paul’s and His advantage in many ways.
2 Corinthians 12:8-10 - 8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
He could have Disengaged from His present
Paul made the most of sitting in a jail cell. He wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon while in jail. He also had stories of singing and sharing the gospel with people in jail with him. He even led a jailer to Christ! He also may have been at a disadvantage with his eyesight. He wrote in large letters and there are some interesting stories of not recognizing the high priest and the generosity of others desiring to give him their eyes. Not seeing well would have made writing hard but he had people write for him. He also wasn’t considered a great speaker (by others and himself). So, he did what he could do and that was write. (which you have to agree was pretty effective!)
Acts 16:24-30 - 24 So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks. 25 Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. 26 Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! 27 The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. 28 But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!”
29 The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
Galatians 6:11 - 11 Notice what large letters i use as i write these closing words in my own handwriting.
Galatians 4:15 - 15 Where is that joyful and grateful spirit you felt then? I am sure you would have taken out your own eyes and given them to me if it had been possible.
Acts 23:2-5 - 2 Instantly Ananias the high priest commanded those close to Paul to slap him on the mouth. 3 But Paul said to him, “God will slap you, you corrupt hypocrite![a] What kind of judge are you to break the law yourself by ordering me struck like that?”
4 Those standing near Paul said to him, “Do you dare to insult God’s high priest?”
5 “I’m sorry, brothers. I didn’t realize he was the high priest,” Paul replied, “for the Scriptures say, ‘You must not speak evil of any of your rulers.’[b]”
2 Corinthians 10:10 - 10 For some say, “Paul’s letters are demanding and forceful, but in person he is weak, and his speeches are worthless!”
2 Corinthians 11:6 - 6 I may be unskilled as a speaker, but I’m not lacking in knowledge. We have made this clear to you in every possible way.
He could have Disrupted his future.
God would do more through Paul’s life than maybe any other Jesus follower ever. He’d start more churches and write more books of the Bible than anyone else during his time on this earth. What he wrote in the prison cell still continues to transform people, churches, and movements of people around the world today. What if he let his circumstances determine what he did? What if he was a better speaker and relied on his speaking gift more than writing and never wrote his letters down? What if he didn’t build a great team of people around him that kept the mission going even when he couldn’t go anywhere. Instead of making a decision that would disrupt his future negatively he chose to bring what may have seemed like disadvantages to God and God disrupted the world in a great way for the gospel because of his faithfulness and love for Jesus and perseverance in the mission.
Here are some outcomes of Paul not disrupting his future by letting what may have seemed like disadvantages hold him down.
Paul invested in Silas, Priscilla & Aquilla, Titus, Epaphras, Timothy. All of these people invested in reliable people who invested in other behind them.
2 Timothy 2:2 - You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.
One of Paul’s students in Ephesus, Epaphras, most likely planted the church in Colossae during his training in Ephesus.
The seven churches found in the book of Revelation were most likely planted by people who trained in Ephesus with Paul.