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24 July 2010

Feeling Premature

Do me a favor and read 1 Corinthians 15:7-10.

Now, every time I have read this passage, I have taken the phrase, "as to one untimely born," to mean that Paul is saying that he came along later than the other Apostles. It is like Peter and the rest of the gang had a head start on him, but he was doing his very best to catch up! For all I know, that is the proper interpretation, and I am sure some of you reading this are better scholars than I. But in reading this passage today, I saw it in a new light and thought I would share my thoughts with you.

What if, instead of implying that he was born late, Paul is actually saying that he feels like a premature birth? The "untimely born" phrase there generally refers to the idea of a "preemie" or even a miscarriage. Of course, it is possible, even probable, that Paul is using the term to describe his "late" birth, but how interesting is it to consider the idea that Paul felt premature?

He goes on to state that he is "the least of the apostles" and describes his great need for God's grace, two ideas that fit nicely with the idea that Paul was premature.

But more than trying to make a case for looking at the passage this way, I would like us to consider that feeling: the feeling of not being ready. A premature baby, in many ways, is not ready for the "outside" life they have so recently breathed into their new little lungs. Imagine being Paul: you are safe and secure in your life as a zealous Pharisee, your life is full of purpose as you hunt down the followers of Jesus, and you are growing in power and the respect of your peers. Then suddenly, Jesus appears on the road to Damascus, and you are thrown headlong into a new life. Instead of persecuting, you are persecuted; instead of killing, you are dying. Few people in life have undergone such a radical transformation so quickly!

I have not experienced exactly what Paul went through, but I often feel like I'm not ready for my life! For example, I am pretty sure that this is not what 36 is supposed to feel like. I am certain I should be a lot wiser and have things together a lot more than I do. Many times a problem comes up and someone suggests that I take care of it. I usually say something "brilliant" like, "sure!" Inwardly, I am wondering how I am going to do it!

It is comforting to me to think that Paul might have felt the same feeling of being overwhelmed that I sometimes feel. It is even more comforting to read how he dealt with these feelings. In the above reading he gives me three ways to deal with feeling out of my depth.

First, Paul demonstrates humility in describing himself as unworthy to even be called an apostle. It seems crazy to think that when feeling overwhelmed and inadequate, the first thing I should do is gain humility. But God's word is often crazy from man's perspective (1 Corinthians 1:19-25)! Humility helps me to remember that I should focus less on myself in almost every situation. By being humble I will think less about how I will deal with something, and more about how God can see me through it.

In verse 10, Paul acknowledges that the key to his success was the grace of God. It is grace that makes a life in Christ possible. It is my understanding of grace that helps me to cope when times are tough. Thanks be to God that he continues to shower me in His love and care though I do not deserve it!

Finally, Paul added that he worked as hard as he could to overcome difficult circumstances. I think my temptation is to sometimes "rest" in God's grace. That sounds good, but what I'm actually doing is...nothing! Paul was grateful, really grateful to God for His gracious care, but he did not see grace as a call to apathy! Paul was so grateful, he wanted to get out there and work diligently to serve the Christ that had saved him! I hope I can do the same.

Eddie Legg
January 2009begin_of_the_skyp

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