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ZERO, ZILCH, NIL, NADA


 


 

BIBLE READING

 


ACTS 9:23-25

 

After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.

 

2 CORINTHIANS 11:23-33

 

I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?


30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. 33 But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.

 

ZERO, ZILCH, NIL, NADA

 

Just imagine this, here Paul was, equipped to “win the day” for Jesus Christ. The intense drive to persecute and arrest Christians was now an intense drive to show the how much he could do for this new Master that had stepped toward him on the Damascus road. However, instead he finds himself humiliated, cast off, rejected, renounced. His own new friends finally have to take him at night and let him down over a wall. He walks away, escapes. I wonder as Paul walks away into the darkness what is he feeling? Failure? Defeat? Discouraged? Fearful?


The amazing thing is that many years later, as he is writing to the Corinthians and looking back over his life, he recounts this experience. He says, You ask me to boast about the most important event in my life? The greatest event in my life was when they took me at night and let me down over the wall of Damascus in a basket. That was the most meaningful experience I have ever had since that day when I met Christ... (2 Corinthians 11:32-33).

Amazing, don’t you think? Why would this be the most meaningful event? I wonder if through this experience the apostle began to learn the truths which he records for us in the third chapter of Philippians, where he says, Whatever gain I had, I learned to count as loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus... (Philippians 3:7-8 RSV). I take that to mean, that all the things that Paul felt were so necessary to do what God wanted, he had to learn were useless, worthless. He did not need them at all. Everything that he thought he had and needed to serve God he had to learn he didn't need at all. The beginning of that great lesson was the night they let him down over the wall in a basket. There h began to learn something. In this experience Paul began to learn that God didn't need his abilities; he needed only his availability. He just needed Paul, as a person. He didn't need Paul’s background, he didn't need Pau’s ancestry. He didn't need his knowledge of Hebrew. He didn't need his great understanding of the Law. God didn't need these at all. In fact, as we shall see in the story of Pau in Acts God did not have any particular intention of using them to reach Paul’s own people, the Jews, he was going to send him to the Gentiles. And though Paul did not understand everything fully, he began to learn something that Jesus Christ says every one of us must learn as disciples.


Jesus tells us what the purpose and plan is: I am meek and lowly in heart... (Matthew 11:29b KJV). Ambition and pride as driving forces in our lives must die. We learn that we do not live to magnify ourselves any longer. We live only to be an chosen instrument, a witness of what it looks like when Jesus Christ is at work. And we must learn the truth thatJesus taught his own disciples when he was with them in-person, “Without me you can do nothing...” (John 15:5b). You can do what? NOTHING! We may do a lot in the eyes of the world. What we do might be respected, revered, and honored there. But in the eyes of God if these are things that drive us, then without him it amounts to nothing, it means zero, zilch, Nil all for naught. This is what Paul began to learn.


He writes, in Philippians 3 about confidence in earthly things and says:

“I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.


7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.


The escape? Was the formative experience of his learning and discovery. Isn’t that powerful. I wonder if this is not the starting point for all followers of Jesus, to learn and recognize that Jesus steps toward you for YOU! Like Paul, we too must discover that by holding all things loosely, that by recognizing as Paul that


“all we once held dear, built our life upon

All this world reveres and wars to own

All I once thought gain I have counted loss

Spent and worthless now, compared to this


Knowing You, Jesus
Knowing You
There is no greater thing
 

God, I pray that I will learn the lesson, and that I will be willing to be a person no longer holding onto control of the plan myself but quite willing to follow where you lead, and to trust in your life in me to be all that it takes to do all that needs to be done.


Lord we express our love to You

In worship and praise before Your throne

Blessed be Your holy name.

AMEN


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