Fourteen years. Everyone wants to look at the highlight reel, but many of my years have been silent. The Lord prepares us during those times. It may seem like he is inactive, but in reality he is doing the hardest work there is – forming hearts. Character is not forged in prosperity and popularity, after all. Only in loss, in struggle, in pain. The gospel is nothing without the cross of Jesus, and I learn nothing about the power of the gospel unless that gospel is working change in my own life.
Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain.
What is a revelation? It is the Lord choosing to show us those plans which would otherwise be hidden. He always has a purpose behind this kind of revelation; usually it is to encourage those who are suffering persecution for the sake of the name of Jesus.
It was important that I make known that which the Lord had made known to me: that the gospel of Jesus Christ was not just meant for the Jews, but also the Gentiles. The encouragement took the form of the tremendous growth of the church.
But growth can easily come with pains. What changes, and what does not?
But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in – who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery – to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) – those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me.
Do you not remember the story of the Exodus? The Lord – through His mighty, outstretched arm – freed those who had known only slavery. Over and over again, in any kind of adversity, those same people bowed their heads and submitted to a yoke of slavery. But God had in mind a better plan for those whom He had called to Himself. He was compelled to teach them to be free.
On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
It is an amazing thing, when you begin to witness the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ to change lives. Peter, James and John saw that power among the Jews. The Lord blessed Barnabas and me to behold that power among the Gentiles, and even through the Gentiles to reach more Jews. It was worth all the ways the Lord prepared me. It was worth the cost.
It was well worth the wait.