“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God.”Romans 1:1, NIV
“It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter too much or too well.” So said Martin Luther about the book of Romans. My own recent plunge into Romans brought that home for me.
Just wading into the first verse led me into deeper waters of thought than I’d expected. Three big questions emerged, questions I knew I needed to ask myself.
That’s putting the cart before the horse, though—or my thoughts before God’s words. Here’s how Paul begins his letter to the Christians in Rome:
“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God.”
Okay. I can hear you now: What’s so profound about that? It’s the way Paul started all his letters, telling people who was writing to them. And, by the way, where are those three questions you drew us in with?
I’ll admit, those questions don’t just pop out at you. I’ve read Romans before and never been led to an in-depth meditation on verse 1. It’s the kind of verse one usually just skips over. But this is where the Holy Spirit stopped me, and these are the 3 questions he led me to ask:
HOW DO I DESCRIBE MYSELF?
Paul could have described himself in many ways. (Check out 2 Corinthians 11:22-28 and Philippians 3:5-6 for some examples.) Here he chose one short phrase: “servant of Christ Jesus.” Paul, whom we view as a giant of the faith, describes himself in very lowly terms: he calls himself a servant. The Greek term, though, doulos, actually means “slave.” Paul calls himself a slave of Christ Jesus.
How do I describe myself? If I could choose only one thing to tell others about me, what would it be?
How do you describe yourself?
WHAT HAS GOD CALLED ME TO BE?
What matters more than how I see myself is how God sees me. What has He called me to be?
Paul described himself as a servant. God called him an apostle. Yes, an apostle does serve the Lord, but apostle is Paul’s specific form of service to God.
So, I have a new question to ask myself: What has God called me to be?
That’s a pretty important question, one I need to answer—for my own sake, for the sake of others, and for the glory of God. If I don’t answer that question, then I can never fully be all that God meant me to be. I’ll always be missing out. And others will be missing out too. If I’m not living out who and what God made me to be, that must surely be affecting those around me. Is there a hole left in the body of Christ and in the world because I have chosen to not live out my calling? Have I chosen not to fill it simply by neglecting to ask who it is God has called me to be?
Not yet sure of the answer to that second question? Check out some of the things God calls His people in the Scriptures: ambassadors, holy people, a royal priesthood… As you read the Bible, take note of those things God has called you to be.
Finally, I must ask:
WHAT TASK HAS GOD SET ME APART FOR?
Paul tells us he was set apart for the gospel of God, and we know from his other writings that God had specifically called him to bring the gospel message to the Gentiles. Those of us who are not Jewish need to be thankful that Paul fulfilled the task God gave him.
What about me? What about us? “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10, NIV). But what are the specific tasks God has prepared for me to do?
Have you ever asked yourself these questions? Have you asked God to show you how to answer these questions?
Soul Refreshers for your week:
- Set apart some uninterrupted time to pray about these three questions and the answers God leads you to. Write down your thoughts. Use them as a guide for how you spend your time this week. Use them as a guide for your longer-term planning and for how you choose your priorities, not just in general but on a day-to-day basis. (Keep in mind God’s promise: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” Matthew 7:7-8, NIV).
- Consider the spiritual gifts God has blessed you with. These tie in with what God has called you to be and what task he has given you to carry out. Spiritual gifts and how they are to be used within the body of Christ would be a valuable thing to study. Prayerfully investigate your spiritual gifts and ask God to show you how to use them to build up the body of Christ.
- Even if you have considered these things before, you may find it valuable to re-visit them. God often moves us from one place to another and from one focus to another. Is it time for you to again ask God what his plan for you is?
- As always, commit to spending some time in the Word. There are many sections of Scripture that help us answer these questions about God’s plan for our lives. Here are a few you might choose from:
- I Peter 2:5, 9-10
- Matthew 28:18-20
- Romans 12:1-2
- Luke 9:23-24
- And remember: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23, NIV).