. . . but now, with no further place for me in these regions, and since I have had for many years a longing to come to you, whenever I go to Spain — for I hope to see you in passing. (Romans 15:23-24)
We know that Saul of Tarsus was a 'can do' man — a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to the righteousness through the Law, found blameless (Phil. 3:5-6). While Saul was in the very act of persecution the Lord Jesus arrested him on the road to Damascus, striking him blind, asking him why he was persecuting him (Acts 9:1ff). Ananias was told by Jesus to go to Saul and to give him a precursor of what was to come, that Saul was to bear Jesus’ name to the Gentiles and to the rulers and those in authority, that he would suffer much for the privilege of doing so (Acts 9:11-16). Immediately following his conversion Paul began preaching Jesus to the people in Damascus. When the Jewish leadership severely opposed him, seeking to kill him, his friends lowered him in a basket to expedite his deliverance (Acts 9:23-25). He then travelled to Arabia to make sure he had the gospel down, not consulting immediately with flesh and blood (Gal. 1:16-17). Three years later he was in Jerusalem to consult with the fathers of the church, again to confirm that his gospel was the true gospel (Acts 9:26ff). After several years, waiting on God for direction for his ministry, Paul was fetched by Barnabas, having brought Paul to Antioch (Acts 11:25-26). And from there we know the elders set apart Paul and Barnabas for the work of missionary service (Acts 13:1ff). Following Paul’s itinerary for his three missionary journeys, plus his trip to Rome, evokes wonder and amazement. He was relentless. It is not as though he hopped on a jet and was in his next destination in a few hours. The trips by sea and land, not to mention the continual opposition, persecution, imprisonments, and physical hardships (2 Cor. 11:22ff) no doubt took their toll on the man, but he still was able near the end of his life, as he faced execution at the hands of Nero, to say, 'The time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight. I have finished the course. I have kept the faith. In the future there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me, and not only to me, but to all who have loved his appearing' (2 Tim. 4:7-8). Paul was always looking to push the gospel further. He told the Romans at the end of his third missionary journey, while at Corinth, around 57 AD that he hoped to see them on his way to Spain, the end of the world, as far as people in his day were concerned. In spite of all his hardships he still was able to tell the Corinthians, 'Though we are afflicted, we are not crushed. Though we are perplexed, we are not in despair. Though we are persecuted, we are not forsaken. Though we are thrown down, we are not destroyed' (2 Cor. 4:8-9). Indeed we can emphatically say that Paul went far, fast, and furious with the gospel. To be sure he was strategic. He was not haphazard. He had a plan and he worked it (he went first to the Jews, and by his second journey he was going to the big cities in Europe and Asia Minor) but he was able to tell the Corinthians that he would gladly spend and be expended for their souls (2 Cor. 12:15).
What was it that drove Paul? Why did he do what he did? Why did he go far, fast, and furious? Simply put — he had been arrested by the gospel. He knew it was true. It had been given to him by divine revelation (Eph. 3:1-3), and he had received a clear, divine call from the Lord Jesus to preach this glorious message of eternal salvation and reconciliation. Like Peter and John, he could not stop speaking what he had seen and heard (Acts 4:20). After giving the Romans eleven chapters of divine indicatives, he transitions into the kingdom imperatives of all out consecration by saying, 'I urge you brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice to God' (Rom. 12:1). This command is in the aorist tense, meaning that it is once and for all, never to be repeated, like a couple who gets married once. They continually look back to that day of commitment to each other. It defines their relationship going forward. And so it is with Jesus — total surrender of everything to him, once and for all, at the time of conversion. This is the norm for the believer. This is not merely something for the super spiritual. Our lives ought to be marked by consecration of the highest order. We are to follow Paul’s lead (Phil. 3:17).
What, practically, does it look like to go far, fast, and furious with the gospel of grace, especially if you are at home with children, work a sixty hour work week, or have many other demands on your time? I could give you suggestions on the use of your time — how to budget it, how to cut things out of your schedule, how to prioritize, etc. However I will not do it. That’s because this approach would be far too mechanical. Besides, you have read books and attended your seminars on how to manage your time. However I will tell you this — gain the heart of Jesus for the nations, his vision of having all the tribes of the world represented before his throne, giving adoration to him (Rev. 7:9-12). Get a new vision of why you are in the world — to make disciples of all the nations, regardless of how you pay your bills. Paul told the Corinthians that the love of Jesus consumed him, dominated him, motivated him (2 Cor. 5:14-15). He went far, fast, and furious because he was in love with Jesus. He adjusted his schedule accordingly. Granted, Paul was not married, and he could devote all his time to gospel work. You likely do not have that situation. There are times that you must slow down for your spouse. However, having said that, keep in mind that you were dead in your sins, that you were children of wrath, that you were without hope and without God in this world, but God has drawn you near by the precious blood of Jesus. So begin every day, giving yourself afresh and anew to Jesus, saying, 'Here I am. Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to thee.' Expect the Holy Spirit to redirect your schedule, the events of your day, bringing people into your life with whom you can share the gospel of grace.
1. The eighth of eight core values for life and ministry. The first seven are Scripture saturation and meditation, adoration, supplication, sanctification, propagation and proclamation.
Rev. Allen M Baker is an evangelist with Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and Director of the Alabama Church Planting Network. He planted (2003) and served as Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in Hartford, Connecticut, until December 2011. His weekly devotional, 'Forget None of His Benefits', can be found here.
If you would like to respond to Pastor Baker, please contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.