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Looking back on your life, have you spent your time well?
In Romans 15.17-22, Paul reflects on his life so far with evident satisfaction:
Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation. Rather, as it is written:
“Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.”
This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you.
Notice several things about Paul’s remarks.
First, he interprets his life in terms of Jesus. “I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God.” Indeed, Paul attributes all his success to “what Christ has accomplished through me.” We ought to do the same. Do we work for Christ’s glory? Do we rely on his power for success? If we do, we have spent our time well.
Second, Paul has a clear sense of his life’s purpose, namely, “leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done.” Paul was a missionary to Gentiles. That was his life’s entire purpose, what God saved him for and called him to do. God does not necessarily have the same purpose for your life. Each one of us has a unique spiritual gift. Do you know what your spiritual gift is? Do you know the purpose for its use? And do you use it? How you answer those questions indicates whether you’ve spent your time well.
Third, Paul shows that he pursued his purpose ambitiously. “So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.” Illyricum was a Roman province located in the vicinity of the modern-day Balkan states of Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, and Slovenia. Basically, Paul is saying that he pursued his evangelistic purpose throughout the entire eastern half of the Roman Empire. “My ambition,” he writes, “[was] to preach the gospel where Christ was not known.” What matters is not merely knowing your purpose in life, but ambitiously pursuing it. Whether you are doing so reveals whether you have spent your time well.
Now, contrasted with the Apostle Paul, I do not believe I have spent my time well. There are parts of my life I still need to turn over to Jesus. And while I know my God-given purpose, I don’t always pursue it as ambitiously as I should. Chances are you’re in the same boat. So, Paul’s personal example can be a bit discouraging. Until you remember that for the first half of his life, Paul didn’t honor Christ, had an anti-Christian purpose, and zealously pursued it. All that changed when Jesus appeared to him on the Road to Damascus (Acts 9).
Maybe you haven’t spent your time well so far. But your past is no more a predictor of your future than Paul’s was. There’s nothing that keeps you from ambitiously pursuing Christ’s purpose for you from this moment on.