FOLLOWING PAUL -5
In case there be someone who is perplexed or troubled by the thought, or fear, of using merely carnal
energy in this regard of following Paul, let us hasten to append his clarifying word in Col.1: 29 where he
speaks of himself as "striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily". We may always
be assured that the energy for this race is never intrinsically our own, but something entirely "sourced" in
Christ. It is purely and simply His strength, graciously imparted to us through the Holy Spirit, -a
wonderful heavenly "supply" which we may breathe in, moment by moment, as an athlete would breathe
in the air. It is what Paul, in this same epistle, calls, "the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ" (Phil.1: 19).
So, after all, (as in all matters of spiritual achievement), it is basically a matter of yielding to Christ, and
drawing all from Him. You will recall that Paul wrote to the Romans that it is they who "receive
abundance of grace "who "shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ" (Rom.5: 17). Writing similarly to the
Corinthians, he testifies, "...laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which
was with me" (1 Cor.15: 10). The question, then, comes back to this, how much of God's grace are we
willing to receive, and to live by, and, shall we adt1, to "run" by? Certainly no one abhorred carnal
energy more than Paul did, and yet he said, MI press toward the mark for the prize".
We are left, then, with this very solemn question, -are are, or we we not, following Paul in this matter of
the race? Are we, in our day. Evidencing a similar concentration? Have we a comparable heart for the
proffered prize? Are we receiving an abundance of the same grace?
This kind of concentration will surely entail for us, as it did for Paul, a determined "laying aside. of all
hindering "weights", -not to mention the obvious matter of "sins" (Heb.12:2). We hardly need to be told
that if any athlete in a race keeps on his comfortable overcoat, or tries to carry his easy chair, he cannot
expect to gain the prize! Yet, how wedded to our comforts some of us are, and how reluctantly we
surrender them! Nor, of course, can an athlete afford to be weighed down by a large bag of gold! Gold
may be all right in its place, but never in a race! And yet, again, how tenaciously many of us cling to this
world's passing treasures, and yet expect to win an eternal prize! Better far to follow Paul who, having
nothing, yet possessed all things, and, being poor, yet made many rich (2 Cor .6: 10) .Yes, we too, have
to learn this lesson of "laying aside", and then the accompanying lesson of utter concentration in the race.
In all these things we are to be "Followers of Paul".
In concluding our study, there is one further thought which we feel should be emphasized in connection
with Paul's call for "followers", for we sense it touches a matter which is of no small moment. It would
appear, from the actual wording of the call that it was the Apostle's desire and hope that there might be
many at Philippi who would follow him in the various matters we have here considered, and, moreover,
who would do so together. The actual wording is, "Brethren, be followers together of me", and we feel
sure that the insertion of that word "together" was studied and deliberate. Evidently Paul was envisaging
not just one, or two, or more, isolated individuals, who, as such, would rise up to his call, but rather of the
whole church or, at the very least, a considerable nucleus within the church, who would definitely
commit themselves together to come behind him in these explicit matters which he had set before them.
As you will see, this is no small matter, and we should give it some earnest thought and prayer.
We may be well assured that God's servant had some important reason for including that vital word. May
be he was thinking of the great encouragement and strength which such a group at Philippi could be to
each other in the spiritual battle that would inevitably be involved in any following of Paul in these new
ways. More likely, it was a combination of such considerations. In any case, Paul did reach out for a
group, or a fellowship, of those who would faithfully follow him in the matters he had mentioned.
Perhaps it would be timely and appropriate, here, to say that many of us have had to learn that it is in the
disciplines of fellowship with others that we have come to discover the real deeps of our own personal
need, and then the availability of God's gracious supply. That is certainly one reason why God puts us in
churches, and also into groups of fellow -workers in the gospel. The disciplines that are called for will
prove to be His highway (or low way!) to spiritual enlargement.
However, we just return to the fact that Paul's call was for those who would follow him together in all the
matters he had indicated, and we feel that this is something that all of us should take seriously to heart.
Should we not be asking God for something like 1hat in our day; -groups and companies of those who
have seen the King, and who, as a result, are committed to Him, and to each other, in pursuing God's
good and perfect will for His people? What a difference it would make if, for instance, the elders of our
churches could be brought to the place where they are solidly together in following Paul in all the matters
we have here considered.
"But what things were gain(s) to me, those I counted loss for Christ" (Phil.3: 7).
"That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings" (Phil.3:
"I press toward the mark for the prize" (Phil.3: 14).
Needless to say, it still has to begin with the individual, and with individual decisions, -costly, no doubt,
but far more costly, in the end, to the Lord, and to ourselves, if we foolishly turn aside. May God
graciously help us to "follow Paul", -even as he followed Christ.
In these end days the enemy is very active and he uses all kinds of weapons to attack believers, God's
servants and their co-workers. He uses many subtle devices to weaken our faith, bringstrife among us,
make us negligent about spiritual things, fill our hearts with discouragement and bring confusion among
us. As the world powers are inventing more advanced weapons against their enemies, we also should be
fully equipped with spiritual weapons of warfare. God has given us weapons to overcome dejection,
depression, doubt, fear, strife. Jealousy, anger, etc. We should know what these weapons are and learn
how to use them. All these weapons must be used properly. In 2 Cor.10: 4-6 we find some of these
weapons. "(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of
strong holds); Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge
of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to
revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled".
The first great weapon to defeat and confound the attacks of the enemy, is implicit obedience. Whenever
God speaks to us and shows us something we have to obey immediately. Our weakness is due to
disobedience. We are ready to hear but not to obey. Quick and joyful obedience is the secret of the power
of resurrection. See for example, on the early Easter morning an angel told the women who had gone to
the sepulchre, "And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth
before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: 10, I have told you" (Matt.28:7). Verse eight says, "And
they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word".
They were told to go quickly and tell the disciples, and they obeyed immediately, whereas when the
disciples heard what the women told them, they did not believe them and they started to argue. In Luke
24:18-25, the Lord rebuked the disciples saying, "0 fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the
prophets have spoken". Because the women believed what the angel said and obeyed quickly, the Lord
Jesus Christ appeared to them by the way. The disciples lost the privilege of being the first witnesses of
the resurrection. Being men, they had to have the privilege of first telling others about the resurrection,
but because of their unbelief they lost that privilege. Thus quick and joyful obedience gives us victory.
What God shows us, we have to obey quickly. Then our prayers are quickly answered. It is not by our
loud and long prayers that we get answers. Please make sure that there is no disobedience in your life
against the Lord.
The second weapon we have, is to pray always and not be discouraged even when our prayers are not
answered immediately. "...men ought always to pray, and not to faint" (Luke18:1 ). Very often we cannot
concentrate in prayer. We find our thoughts wandering here and there and our body becoming restless.
The enemy can use many many devices to hinder our prayer time. Many times we decide to spend one
hour in prayer. But before we go upon our knees, some one comes and knocks the door. That is the
enemy's device. He can bring worldly friends just at that time. Then we begin to argue, "They have come
all the way to see me". So we give up prayer and spend time in eating and drinking. When we find a
burden upon our heart for prayer we have to persevere in prayer and not allow the enemy to hinder us.