Growing up in the days before there were video games (we had pinball machines and pool halls but were forbidden to go there!) As a youngster we played outside nearly every minute the weather would allow. We occupied our time with kick the can, softball, basketball, tag, red rover, mother may I, and occasionally we would play a game of follow the leader. It wasn't difficult, the rules were simple…watch the leader and do everything that they did.
As believers, it isn't a game…it is a way of life. God has given us examples in His Word of individuals that we might learn. We have negative examples and we have positive examples. Paul wrote to the church of Corinth, not in pride, but knowing the value of a personal example. He tells them and us that we should follow him…as he follows Christ. Let's follow the leader!
Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)
I. What Makes Paul a Good Role Model?
A. His relationship to Christ
1. For approximately ten years he criss-crossed the world of his day evangelizing the lost, discipling the saved, and organizing churches.
2. God used him to write a great portion of the New Testament during this time as well.
3. These accomplishments were achieved under very trying and difficult circumstances.
4. Paul's health was poor and he experienced countless other adversities.
5. Recognizing his weakness, he relied totally upon the grace of God.
6. Too often we look at our weaknesses and see them as hindrances to a life of service for God, but God says that they are the secret of our strength.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
7. Like Paul, when we acknowledge our helplessness to live the Christian life and to serve God effectively, we find strength.
8. But the strength we find is not from ourselves, but it is in Christ!
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
B. His relationship to the local church
1. Paul was not the "Lone Ranger".
2. He recognized the importance of others in his life.
3. One particular church maintained a very close relationship with Paul throughout his ministry.
4. Note: In Ph. 1:3-8 we find at least four evidences of this close relationship.
a. Paul was thankful for them every time he thought of them. v3
b. Paul prayed for the church. v4
c. They were in fellowship throughout his ministry. (The church gave as Paul went) v5-6
d. They were bonded together by a mutual love for one another. v7-8
C. He reminds us of the importance of having a strong relationship with our local church.
1. Remember, God has given us the means to reach our goal of becoming like Christ.
2. One of those means is our local church and other believers to be an encouragement and help to us.
3. We need each other!
4. Woe to the believer who tries to live for Christ without the local church!
II. What Made Paul the Man He Was?
A. His Passion: to magnify Christ.
According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:20-21)
1. Paul wasn't timid about his relationship with Christ. "with all boldness"
2. He was consistent. "as always"
3. He was more concerned that Christ be magnified than with what happened to him. "whether it be by life, or death"
4. His passion was not daunted despite negative circumstances (he was in prison at this time).
5. Nor was his uncertain future a factor.
B. His Pattern: follow Christ. cf Ph. 2:5-11
1. He pointed others to Christ's example for others to follow.
2. Christ's way of thinking. v5
3. Christ's humility, service, and obedience. v7-8
C. His Prize: to know Christ. cf Ph. 3:10-14
1. It was not enough for Paul to magnify and emulate Christ.
2. Paul wanted to "know Him".
3. He longed to know Christ in his day-to-day experience.
4. To Paul, the prize of knowing Christ was worth all the cost expended in achieving it.
D. His Power: the indwelling Christ.
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:13)
1. Through Christ Paul had the ability to be joyful at all times.
Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)
2. Through Christ Paul could experience peace in all troubles.
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Php 4:6-7)
3. Through Christ Paul learned to be content in all changes.
4. Circumstances will change, but our commitment to live for Christ should not be governed by those circumstantial changes.
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Php 4:11-13)
5. Through Christ Paul could count on the supply of all needs.
But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God. But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:18-19)
III. Application for Us
A. We bring nothing to God but our realization that we are sinful and in need of His salvation.
B. Just as we acknowledge our helplessness at the time of our salvation, so we need to continue to recognize our weakness after salvation.
C. When we walk in the Spirit's power we manifest the truth of 2Co. 4:7.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)
D. Paul's life was one of desperate dependence - not independent desperation!
The same power that was available to Paul is available to us as well. It is all wrapped up in a Person: Jesus Christ. Do we want to be spiritual? Then we must choose to avail ourselves of God's power by connecting with Him; by reading His Word, praying, fellowshipping with other believers, and consciously depending on the Holy Spirit.