His origin story isn't what you would expect
We love a good origin story, don’t we? A movie does well in the box office and instead of providing us with what happens next, Hollywood is ready to film a “prequel”. We want to watch these backstory accounts because they help us get to know a character better, and they explain a character’s motivation and influences, for better or worse.
We want to hear how someone “came from nothing” and bettered himself. We want to know how she “beat the system”. Stories like that give us hope that, somehow, some of us will “make it” and be successful. But it’s the impossible-odds stories that really make us sit on the edge of our seat and silently wonder: I’m not sure I could have done what they did. That much effort, for that long? To risk like that?
We have the same tendency to revere mature Christians like that. From a distance, they look like peaceful giants; yet we have a sneaky suspicion they could pray for thunder on a clear day and God would answer with a downpour.
However, when we drum up the courage to ask them about their faith’s origin story, how they learned to trust Jesus as much as they do…their answer has very little to do with themselves. Instead, their focus is much like Paul explained to Timothy:
1 Timothy 1:12-16
I give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, appointing me to the ministry – one who was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an arrogant man.
Notice how all of Paul’s “I’s” and “me’s” point back to Jesus. Everything that Paul has done as a missionary found its start in Jesus:
thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord…[He] has strengthened…He considered…[He] appointed…
The only portion of his origin that Paul contributed was his actions as a blasphemer (someone who either credited God’s work to Satan or wrote it off as simply evil), a persecutor (someone who actively sought to harm and kill Christ followers), and his own arrogance (being full of pride and insolence).
As Paul continues, he will marvel at this contrast and Jesus’ acceptance. For reasons unclear to the human eye, Jesus was willing to accept someone with that monstrous of a history…and then strengthen him, because Jesus considered that Paul would be trustworthy for, of all things, ministry!
A modern day equivalent to Paul’s origin story would be the leader of ISIS becoming a missionary for Jesus. Can you even imagine it? Paul knew that Jesus was entirely responsible for his backstory, and he wanted Timothy to share that with the believers in Ephesus.
Since the Ephesian believers only saw Paul during the missionary and letter-writing phase of his life, they could have been tempted to believe that Paul had always walked closely with God or that being a Christian came easy for Him. However, Paul dispels that notion and doesn’t gloss over who he was without Christ.
So if we’re tempted to think the mature Christians we know have had it easy, or that they survived because of how strong or good or caring they naturally are…just ask them about their origins. And then listen for all the ways Jesus moved in their life.