All of us make major investments. The greatest investments we make are investments of ourselves. We invest ourselves in two primary ways: through intense interest and through time.

When it comes to the investment of self, we all make basic investment decisions as we live our lives. Some of us make major investments of ourselves in our families. The wife, or the husband, or the children are a major priority in our lives. Nothing is more important than family.

Some of us make major investments of ourselves in our jobs or our careers. Nothing is more important than succeeding in our job or career. We literally define who we are by the level of success we experience in our career.

Some of us make major investments of ourselves in our lifestyles. The house we live in, the car we drive, the circles we move in, the people we know are an extremely important measurement of who we are. If we cannot use these means of defining ourselves, we think we do not amount to much.

Some of us make major investments of ourselves in our pleasures. The form of pleasure differs greatly from person to person. But, having fun, enjoying life is extremely important. Whatever is necessary to reach a pleasurable high is considered reasonable.

No matter how each of us invests life, the moment always comes when we must ask, "Is it worth it?" Because people now live longer than people used to live, more and more people are asking themselves, "Was it worth it?"

A necessary question everyone who seeks to be a Christian must ask: "Is investing my life in Jesus Christ worth the investment?" Is living for God worth it? When my physical life approaches its end, when I look back at my past and I ask that question, what will be my answer?

  1. This morning, I would like for us to consider Paul's answer to that question. [I challenge you to look at Paul's life and consider his answer.]
    1. The early part of Paul's childhood was spent in the Roman province of Cilicia a few hundred miles north of Israel.
      1. His childhood was spent in the city of Tarsus, which was the principle city of that area (Acts 22:3).
      2. Tarsus, when Paul lived there, was a very old city--it was an important trade city 2000 years before Paul was born.
        1. During Paul's lifetime, Tarsus was the capital city of the province.
        2. Tarsus held a position that many cities envied and aspired to: it had autonomy as a free city; it could govern itself.
      3. Tarsus was an important city.
        1. On an earlier occasion, Anthony met Cleopatra there.
        2. Caesar Augustus exempted Tarsus from Roman taxes.
        3. It was a university city whose school devoted itself to the study of liberal arts and philosophy.
        4. It was a wealthy city that had a reputation for its linen and a special material made from goats' hair.
    2. Childhood in Tarsus probably provided Paul an interesting environment for personal development.
      1. He grew up living in an important place.
      2. The trade that he learned [a trade he used as a Christian adult to support himself as a missionary when circumstances required self-support] was tent-maker which perhaps meant he knew how to use the special cloth made from goats' hair.
      3. Far more important than those two, he was a Roman citizen by birth (Acts 22:25-29).
        1. That means that at least his father had been awarded citizenship or had been given opportunity to purchase citizenship.
        2. Roman citizenship was a highly prized possession that was not available to everyone.
          1. A citizen was guaranteed a fair public trial.
          2. A citizen was protected against certain forms of punishment.
          3. A citizen could not be executed simply by the wishes or command of a local ruler.
      4. He was a curious mix of influences, because he also referred to himself as being a "Hebrew of Hebrews" (Philippians 3:6).
        1. According to the Jewish law, he was circumcised as a religious ritual when he was eight days old.
        2. He was a member of the Jewish tribe of Benjamin, the tribe which hundreds of years earlier produced the first Jewish king, King Saul.
        3. Though he grew up in a prominent city known for its prosperity and having a university, he grew up as a "Jew's Jew."
        4. That indicates he and his family were among the most committed, devout Israelites.
        5. It likely meant that he spoke Aramaic, the spoken language of Palestine (Acts 21:40; 22:2; 26:14).
        6. He grew up in a home that kept the traditions and practices of the homeland.
    3. At some point as a young man he moved to the city of Jerusalem to study as a Pharisee under the influence of the very prestigious Jewish Rabbi Gamaliel.
      1. In his studies he was very strict in his commitment and dedication (Acts 22:3).
      2. He was very zealous for God.
      3. In fact, he wrote of himself (Galatians 1:14), ... I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.
      4. He was a Pharisee, and his father was a Pharisee (Acts 26:5).
      5. Paul was an "up and coming" influence in Israel, and he had all the right credentials and connections.
        1. He served a role in Stephen's execution, and he was the leader of the first persecution of Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 7:58; 8:1-3).
        2. He was so "connected" that he could ask the high priest for authority to travel to another country and arrest Jews in the Jewish synagogue who believed in Jesus Christ (Acts 9:1,2).

  2. Paul (his Greek name) or Saul (his Hebrew name) was absolutely certain of two things: (1) the man Jesus was not Christ; (2) those who believed Jesus was the Christ were a serious threat to the nation of Israel and God.
    1. Then this man met the resurrected Jesus in person (Acts 9).
      1. In an instant, in a quick moment, this man realized he had been completely, totally wrong in vicious, unpardonable ways.
        1. The person he said was not the Christ was in fact the Christ God promised Israel for hundreds of years.
        2. He who claimed to be a devoted servant of God had encouraged the executions of fellow Israelites who knew Jesus was God's Christ.
        3. He instantly knew that if he received what he truly deserved, God would kill him.
      2. All Jesus instructed him to do was to go on into the city of Damascus where he would be told what he must do.
        1. Years later Paul said Jesus gave him this explanation:
          Acts 26:15-18 And I said, 'Who are You, Lord?' And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.'
        2. In a short time Jesus sent a man named Ananias to talk to Paul and instruct him.
        3. When Ananias hesitated and protested, Jesus made this statement:
          Acts 9:15,16 "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake."
        4. Years later this is what Paul explained to Timothy why he received opportunity to serve Jesus Christ:
          1 Timothy 1:12-16 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.
    2. When Paul became a servant of Jesus Christ instead of a persecutor of Jesus Christ, it cost him everything.
      1. Israelites who considered him a promising leader in Israel's future immediately hated him enough to seek his death.
      2. Jewish Christians in Jerusalem distrusted him, and some of them resented his efforts to teach Christ to people who were not Jews.
      3. Some Christians who were not Jews rejected him, verbally attacked him, and did all they could to discredit him--they did not appreciate his teachings.
      4. The man who had all the right connections and knew all the right people suddenly became the man many people hated--all because he knew Jesus was the Christ.
    3. I want to read to you two statements Paul wrote about his hardships and his decision to follow Christ.
      1. This statement was written because some Jewish Christians were making Paul's life miserable as they opposed his work and teaching:
        2 Corinthians 11:22-31 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ?--I speak as if insane--I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern? If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.
      2. He wrote this statement to explain the absolute sufficiency of Jesus Christ.
        Philippians 3:4-1 I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
    4. There is one obvious question we must ask Paul.
      1. "Paul, you made phenomenal physical sacrifices to invest your life in Jesus Christ."
      2. "Was it worth the investment?"
        2 Timothy 4:6-8 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and 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 the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

"Paul, was it worth the investment?" "Yes! And it will be worth the investment to you, also, if you are willing to trust and love Jesus' return."

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 9 June 2002

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