Thursday, January 16, 2014

Galatians 2:1-2 Fourteen years??

In the second chapter of Galatians, Paul continues building his background story and his credentials before launching into the main message. It would be easy to skip over this section, but the first verse I find amazing:

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. (Galatians 2:1)

What? FOURTEEN YEARS later Paul returns to Jerusalem? What had been doing all that time? Well, Jon Courson puts together a picture of these years, some of which is from Acts 11:19-26.

Following Paul’s conversion, he spent approximately three years in the Arabian desert, where he was personally tutored by Jesus Christ. Emerging from the desert, he spent fifteen days in Jerusalem primarily with Peter. He then made his way to Syria, Cilicia, and finally back to his hometown of Tarsus - where he remained for eleven years. 

During those eleven years, outside the flow of the story transpiring in the Book of Acts, Paul labored quietly making tents - until suddenly people started getting saved in Antioch. Jews by nationality but Grecian in culture and custom, the new believers had a hard time relating to the traditional Jewish believers who had led them to the Lord. Hearing of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Antioch, leaders of the church in Jerusalem dispatched Barnabas to see what was happening.

After surveying the situation, Barnabas believed the solution lay in his old friend with the keen intellect - Paul. So Barnabas tracked Paul down and brought him back to Antioch, back into ministry. (Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: New Testament, P. 1168)

Paul is one of a long line of people whom God seemed to set aside in preparation for their calling. Moses was away from his people for 40 years before God called him back to lead them out of Egypt. Jacob labored for a deceptive father-in-law for 20 years before God was able to get out from under Laban’s control. Even then, he had to wrestle with God before God changed his name from Jacob, meaning conniver or deceiver to Israel, meaning one who prevails with God.

Joseph had been in Egypt for 13 years before God moved him into position as the second-most powerful man in Egypt. David was anointed king by the prophet Samuel when he was about 15, but it was another 15 years before he actually took the throne. And, of course, Jesus was 33 before he began his three short years of ministry.

God often puts us in a holding pattern as He prepares us to serve. Sometimes we get frustrated because we want to be doing more faster. But He knows what training we need to what He’s calling us to do. He knows what character traits need to be worked into us. He knows that we need to have a humble heart before we can serve others. It really is only in hindsight that we can see how God has used the waiting periods of our lives to build us up and strengthen us in Him.

If you are feeling that your ministry is not happening the way you envisioned it, or you are just wondering what in the world God has in mind for you, be encouraged that God has a plan for you, and He will unfold it in His perfect timing.

I was 37 before I finally decided what I wanted to be when I grew up: a teacher. Well, actually, I did NOT want to be a teacher of children, I wanted to be a teacher of women. So when God called me to be an elementary school teacher, I was not a happy camper! I had envisioned a ministry of teaching the Bible to women. God said, “No, I’ve actually been preparing you to work with kids!” Even then, I was 42 before that became a reality! Now, after almost 22 years of LOVING this job (and thinking my "dream" ministry would never happen), I’m finally in a place where I get to do BOTH! Ye gads! I’m now 63, with a limited future ahead, saying to God, “Use me in whatever way you want for however long you want!”

So, I’m feeling very grateful for the fact that Paul, too, needed some seasoning before being sent out to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. It may be that the believers in Jerusalem needed 14 years to get used to the fact that this persecutor of believers had, indeed, become one of them. There is something to say for having credibility. And we will see next how Paul had earned the trust of the other apostles.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome! Thanks for the encouragement as we wait to see where the Lord wants to take us!