‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.’ Galatians 2:20a
Actually, Paul had a good life before. As a Pharisee he was a tentmaker by trade, but his learnedness and authority among the Pharisees also gave him high esteem among the common people. All this ended when - on the road to Damascus - Paul encountered Jesus. From that day forward, his life was filled with hardships: imprisonment, floggings, mortal danger, hunger and thirst, nights without sleep, and so on (2 Corinthians 11).
In the letter to the Corinthians he writes, ‘For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!’ (1 Corinthians 9:16). But what compelled him to this?
Part of the answer to this mystery we read in Acts 14. Paul traveled further and further, but also came back to the people he had preached the gospel to, to ‘strengthen the disciples and encourage them to remain true to the faith, and to tell them that we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God’ (:22). These were no fake pious words. Paul himself had glorified God in all his hardships and he had experienced that everything had brought him closer to the kingdom of God.
He had left behind his peaceful life as a tentmaker/Pharisee to travel the world as a tramp of God. For - in all his trials and tribulations - Paul knew he was no longer his own master. God had bought him at the price of the blood of the Son. When Paul and his companions returned from their missionary journey to the church of Antioch, from where they were sent, ‘they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them…’ (:27).
When we may report, do we report what we did for God? Or could God do something through us?