1 Corinthians 15:10 (NIV) But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
The Apostle Paul came to know Jesus in a much different way than did the other Apostles. He had not walked with Jesus, and although we don't know what he was doing during the time of Jesus' earthly ministry, we do know that he greatly persecuted Christians after the Church was established. He had a lot of zeal for stamping out what he thought was an aberration of the Jewish religion. But then he had a personal "burning-bush" experience with Jesus Himself on the way to persecuting Christians in the city of Damascus. After that encounter, he became a follower of Christ. Not too long after, he became a leader and an Apostle. He acknowledged that he didn't walk with Jesus as the other Apostles did and considered himself "the worst of sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15) who had been saved by grace. In light of this, he never stopped working to advance the Kingdom of God. He was a man on a mission, and he didn't let anything get in his way, including the threats of death that he constantly lived under.
What is interesting about the Apostle Paul's declaration is that although he felt that he had worked harder than anyone else in spreading the gospel because of his gratitude for the love that Jesus demonstrated to him, he didn't take any credit for it. He said that he worked harder than anyone else, but it wasn't him. He did it, but he didn't do it. It was something else that was at work in him causing him to do it. He was working hard through the grace of God that was in him. In Colossians 1:29, he speaks about struggling for the gospel, but with Jesus' energy. He had not only learned to operate on God's strength and energy and not his own, but he had also learned to recognize that it was all God doing those things through him.
When we do anything for Jesus, there are two ways we can do it. We can do it in our own strength, which leads to little or no fruit, or we can do it in the strength and energy that God provides. Doing it that way yields great results and prevents getting burned out or running ourselves into the ground. Each one of us that has been saved by grace as the Apostle Paul was has access to that same grace and that same energy that comes from Christ in us to do what the Lord has called us to do. There is no reason why we should do anything for God in any other way. Rely on the grace of God in you as Paul did and reap the rewards of fruitfulness for the Kingdom and for your life as well.
Pastor Joey Vazquez