Feb 01

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One of the things we learned early is to count, one, two, three, etc.; however, this is not the type of counting of this article. The type of counting which is to be addressed here is not so easy to do. Most children are taught to count, as in numbers, very early in life, but the counting in mind here requires spiritual maturity. Some never reach the required maturity to “count” as did the apostle Paul.
What do we know about the man Saul, best known as Paul, an apostle of Christ? He was born in Tarsus of Cilicia, a free city; he was a Roman citizen, he was educated in Jerusalem by the highly respected teacher of the law, Gamaliel; he excelled above his contemporaries in Judaism; and was a tent-maker by trade. He writes of himself that he was a Hebrew of Hebrews (Meaning both is parents were Hebrews.), of the tribe of Benjamin, circumcised the eighth day, as touching the law, a Pharisee, concerning zeal, persecuting the church, touching righteousness which is in the law, blameless (Phil. 3:5-6). In all these Saul had a bright future in Judaism to look forward to. However, this future would never be fully realized.
Saul is introduced to the reader of the New Testament in the following: “Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen …” (Acts 7:57-59). From here, Luke gives us the following: “And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem, … As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison” (Acts 8:1,3). Just how high in the Jewish religion he would have reached no one knows, but his leadership and respect among the Jews is unquestionable! It is to these that Paul writes: “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ” (Phil 3:7). Paul relates the word “gain” to those things of the Jewish religion and his station among the Jews. It is here that the idea that spiritual maturity is required in order to honestly “count” such “gain” as “loss for Christ!”
A few words about the word “count” which is the Greek “hégeomai” and means as used here to consider; Paul in his spiritual maturity had learned to consider all his former life among the Jews as something he willing gave up. The word in Greek is in the middle voice, which means, he did this himself for himself. It was a personal action to benefit him! Salvation requires a personal action which benefits the one doing it! It is like what Ananias said to Saul: “And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). The words might be translated: “And now why tarriest thou? Stand up and get yourself baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Saul was to get himself baptized for his own benefit! Therefore, in the same way, Paul was able, in his spiritual maturity, to “consider” all he had “gained” and might have gained in his former life, “loss for Christ!” Paul was able to count!
On the other hand, just as spiritual maturity is required to “count” gain as “loss for Christ,” spiritual maturity is required to “count” our spiritual blessing received in Christ. In a world filled with heartaches, family problems, bad health, loss of jobs, murders in our neighborhoods and shopping malls, and now acts of terrorism; how is one able to count his spiritual blessing? Yes, it does call for spiritual maturity! It also requires that we allow our mind to go back to earlier years and just start counting: one, two, three, etc. As the beautiful song, written by Johnson Oatman, Jr. rings out: “When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.”
Yes my brethren, stop and count your many blessings and name them one by one!

— Frank R. Williams

(Oatman was born April 21, 1856, near Medford, New Jersey, and died September 25, 1922 in Norman, OK. And wrote the lyrics for 5,000 songs, some of which are: Higher Ground, The Last Mile of the Way, No Not One, just to name a few.)

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