Paul was no silent disciple, no half-hearted follower of Jesus. He was not ashamed of his Lord. He was glad to say, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith" (Romans 1:16).
Why was Paul bold to say, "God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Galatians 6:14)? Why was Paul so emphatic in saying, "I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2)?
The answer is very simple and straightforward. He was a man who had been grasped by the power of the Gospel. Through the power of Christ, Paul was no longer his own. He belonged to Christ. This was why he was able to write to the Corinthian Christians, "You are not your own; you have been bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). He was a man filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. This was why he was able to challenge the Corinthian Christians: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? ... So glorify God in your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). He was a man grasped by the power of the Gospel, a man filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. What kind of men and women are we? This is the challenge of Paul's life for us.
Paul's life was not easy. His life story was not always a glowing success story. He suffered persecution because of his faithfulness to Christ and the Gospel. He spent time in prison because he refused to compromise his commitment to Christ. How was he able to remain faithful to Christ in such difficult circumstances? The answer is quite simple: the Holy Spirit. How did the Holy Spirit work in Paul's life? How does the Holy Spirit work in our lives? The Holy Spirit empowered Paul to be a disciple of Jesus. The Holy Spirit empowers us to be followers of the Lord.
The word, "disciple", is very similar to the word, "discipline." This is no accident. The life of discipleship is a life of discipline. This is the point which Jesus made, when He said, "If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me" (Matthew 16:24).
This is the lesson which Paul had learned when he said, "For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!" (1 Corinthians 9:16). When Paul said, "Necessity is laid upon me", he was not speaking of a shallow or superficial emotion. The Holy Spirit works within us so that we might learn the discipline of discipleship.The discipline of discipleship - this is the challenge which Paul's life sets before us. Are you a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ?
When your pathway is covered with snow, what do you do? Do you clear the path because you feel like doing this? Do you clear away the snow because it has to be done? Discipline - this is what we need if the pathway is to be kept clear.
When your living room is in a mess, do you take out the vacuum cleaner because you feel like doing this? The discipline of the 'housewife' has much to teach us if we are to learn the discipline of discipleship, which is called for by Paul's words: "your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit ... So glorify God in your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
The discipline of discipleship highlights for us the "I have to do this" dimension of the Christian life. Let me tell you a story about a woman in her sixties, a slim woman about five feet tall. One evening, she sat in her living room, waiting for her husband to return from his work in the fields. Suddenly, she noticed, at the window, the face of a burly stranger. She controlled herself, laid aside her needlework, crossed the room and pushed the piano against the door. When her husband returned, he called in a neighbour and, together, they pushed the piano back into its place. To this day, every once in a while, the man will look up from his newspaper and ask, "Who helped you move that piano?" The point is that she had to move the piano. He didn't have to move it back.
When Paul spoke of the discipline of discipleship, he compared it to the discipline of the athlete: "Do you not know that, in a race, all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable" (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).
For the athlete and the disciple, the prize is different. Both require the same commitment - "self-control in all things." Paul committed himself to the discipline of discipleship - " I pummel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others, I myself should be disqualified (laid aside as of no further use)" (1 Corinthians 9:27). How much do you and I know about the discipline of discipleship?
If we are to be true disciples of Christ, it will only be done through the power of the Holy Spirit: "God did not give us the spirit of fear, but the Spirit of power and love and self-control" (2 Timothy 1:7). When we are controlled by the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be both blessed by God and used by God.