But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being.
There are two ways to please my wife, Mary Ann. The one that I think about is where I do something that meets a need, or say something that makes her smile. When I bring in a glass of iced tea in the morning with toast slathered with butter and jelly, that’s sure to please her.
But there is another way for Mary Ann to be pleased. When she finishes sewing something, she holds it up and smiles at the work of her hands. Or when she picks a big, delicious tomato from her garden. She holds it up to the sky, letting the morning sunlight twinkle on the morning dew, she smiles.
Here we have the second form of pleasing God. Sometime in the past, God made a plan to devote Paul to a special purpose. This happened before Paul was even born. And this pleased God.
As modern people, we don’t like this. We want to be in charge of who we are and what we do. We want to choose our education, our careers. We want to decide for ourselves. After all, who knows best about us than us?
And since this was such a big job, there should have been an interviewing process. How do we know that the best, most qualified person was picked for the position?
Paul says that God choose him for a special purpose even before his birth. Think about this for a second; whenever there is a choice for something, you are also choosing against everything else.
There’s not an ounce of pride or arrogance in Paul’s words. God didn’t choose Paul because he was smarter or taller than everyone else. It wasn’t because Paul studied longer, worked harder, or got better grades. And there weren’t any payments under the table either.
God chose Paul out of his loving grace. It had nothing to do with Paul and everything to do with who God is. And the same is true with you and me. God has chosen us to be his children; loved, cared for, trained to grow up into the godly men and women he wants us to be, doing the good works he wants us to do.
And part of God’s choice was to focus Paul’s life toward one thing: preaching to the gentiles. All his life, Paul was taught that gentiles were dirty, hated, to be avoided at all costs. They were cursed by God, not one of God’s chosen people.
Paul could have done almost anything. He was smart, well educated. He could have been a famous newscaster or internet personality, run a Fortune 500 company, making lots of money. But instead, Paul agrees with God that he was chosen to preach to gentiles.
Which brings up two very important questions.
First, what’s the one thing that God has made you for? What’s that one thing that you’ve been chosen to do that no one else can do? Perhaps it’s doing something that no one else wants to do. Or something that just makes everyone else turn their heads from the stink.
Let’s assume for a minute that you know your purpose. What are you doing to get better at it? How are you spending your time and money to become more skilled at your purpose?
And second, are you focusing on this one thing, or are you spreading your time and talents all over the place? Are you doing too many things instead of that one thing that God has called you to? Made you for?
It’s easy to be distracted all over the place. Email, text messages, screen pop-up ads all over our lives. Or the desperate call of some need that just has to be done. “Well, someone has to do it, or it won’t get done. We can’t just let that important ball fall.” Or can we?
No, we’re not the Apostle Paul. No, we’re not going to be called to preach to the gentiles like he was. No, we’re not going to plant churches all over the Roman Empire. No, we’re not going to write most of the New Testament.
But that doesn’t mean that God’s will for your life is unimportant or unexciting either. You were made by God for a unique purpose that only you can fulfill. Only you can play the part that you were made for.
Paul was willing to step up to the plate and be the person God called him to be. He didn’t think he could do it on his own. Just the opposite, Paul desperately needed God’s power, protection, and provision all along the way. Just like you and me.
So, what’s stopping you from moving forward toward God’s purpose and goal for your life?
What has God “set you apart” for? What were you made for?
Where do you see the focus of your life?
Where is that focus taking you?