A man of lesser character, less stamina, less boldness and less humility would never have been able to evangelize the Gentile world.  Look what Saul, later called Paul, had to overcome in the very beginning of his Christian life before he could be the fearless witness that he was for Jesus.  He had spent his energy and resources to put an end to Christianity by persecuting and causing the death of every Christian that he could.  He had license from the Sanhedrin to annihilate anyone he found in “The Way.”

“As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and hailing men and women committed them to prison” (Acts 8:3).

He had given consent for the stoning of the first Christian martyr, Steven, even watched the deed as the stones fell upon him.  It was his burning mission to see that none of the Jesus-followers remained alive.  How did he live with himself with this on his conscience after he found out he was wrong?

With papers to make it legal to arrest Christians, he was on his way to Damascus to further decimate the followers of this “false” Messiah, Jesus, who had disciples that were gathering Jews from their established religion—and even Gentiles were taken in by Him!  With his entourage, he was well prepared to rid the world of this scourge that Jesus had left when was crucified.


What an experience, what an awakening Saul had waiting for him on that road!  A light brighter than the noon sun shone on him and a voice he didn’t recognize thundered from the heavens, “Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”  What must have gone through his mind?  “Me? Persecuting?  Don’t you see, I am doing God’s work?  Who are You?”  An immediate transformation took place when the answer came: “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.  It is hard for you kick against the pricks (as thorns on the plows to discourage the oxen from kicking back when they were working).”  With uncharacteristic humility, he asked, “What do you want me to do?”  An open-ended question.  The old Saul died there that day, and stayed in the darkness for three days after blindness struck him . 


We have to look at the parallel here.  After Jesus’ death, he was in the grave three days and then came out alive, victorious over death, hell and the grave.  The grave could not hold Him.  Similarly, the old murderous-minded Saul died on the Damascus Road and was blind for three days until God spoke to a Damascus Christian, Ananias, to go and lay hands on (now-named) Paul that he could receive his sight.  New sight, new life!  He never looked at life the same again.  He never looked at Christians as enemies again, but as brothers and sisters.  His original goal to kill the influence of Jesus was changed to convert the world to Him.


With fearful reluctance after the Lord appeared to him in a vision, Ananias, a disciple in Damascus, went to Paul, prayed for him, baptized him; and with restored vision Paul was on his way to become the greatest world evangelist the world has known.  What other evangelist do we know who was beaten regularly for preaching about Jesus?  He wrote to the Corinthians that the Jews gave him 39 strips five times (195 times), three times he was beaten with rods, stoned once and left for dead.  He was shipwrecked and “in the deep a night and a day.”  He was constantly on a journey from city to city disregarding the “perils of waters, perils of robbers, perils by his own countrymen, perils by the heathen, perils in the city, the wilderness, the sea and perils among false brethren.  In weariness and painfulness, in watchings (to stay alive) often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness” (See 2 Corinthians 11:24-27).  There had been times that his friends had to let him down over the city wall in a basket to escape those who desired to kill him.  In addition to all these trials, he felt the burden of shepherding the churches that had sprung up with his help.


“Receive us, we have wronged no man, we have corrupted no man, we have defrauded on man”

(2 Corinthians 7:2).

Paul’s statement to the Corinthians that he had wronged no man is astonishing!  He who was one of the most vicious persecutors of the early church had wronged no man?  How could he say that?  The answer is simple and applicable to us.  He was speaking of the new, born-again, innocent Paul who had been cleansed and forgiven for every sin in his past.  The old Saul was dead; remember?  We, like Paul, can say the same thing when we come to Jesus and allow Him to cleanse us from every sin we have ever committed.  We are a new person, like Paul. 

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:  old things are passed away; and behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).


Some have looked at Paul and decided he was arrogant because of his boldness (and statements like the one above), and they miss the basic principal of being committed and so focused on serving Jesus in whatever they have been called to do that it swallows their lives.  Some look at Paul’s decision to forego marriage and a family as negative, but he was married to the cause of Christ.  He said he could have had a wife, but what kind of life would she and any children have had when he was traveling all over the world preaching and making converts to Jesus Christ?  His singular focus was serving the Lord Jesus Christ who had claimed his life, which he freely gave after his conversion


It is a mistake to confuse confidence with arrogance or pride.  Someone who is confident in their ministry, who knows what they are to do and pursue it diligently even when they make mistakes that have to be corrected, may appear to someone less committed as “prideful” or arrogant.  Unless we have that kind of singular vision for the Lord, we may misunderstand that one with a clear vision who goes full-speed ahead, not looking to the right or the left to accomplish their mission.  Paul was one of those.  He knew whom he had believed and said, “I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him…” (2 Timothy 1:12).


No, this man of God was not arrogant as some have supposed; he was committed, singularly focused!  He had one vision, one goal; and that was to serve Jesus whom he had at one time persecuted.  His plans included evangelizing the whole known world at that time for His Master.  He had received a direct call from Jesus and he determined that nothing and no one would deter him from his mission.  Like Abraham of old, he had mapped his path toward the “City not made with hands,” and he looked straight ahead toward the finish, not one furlong short of it.  In addition, he was determined to gather as many as he could to make the journey with him.


Do you feel tired and weary just reading about Paul's “Christian walk”?  It certainly was not a cakewalk.  And it didn’t end even when he was imprisoned.  From his place of incarceration in Rome, he ministered to those who came to him as well as keeping in touch with his beloved brothers and sister in distant churches.

What a throng will surround him when rewards for faithful service are passed out.  Everyone who helped him on his way will share in the glory and rewards.  I can’t help but wonder if the ripple still reaches to the modern day Christian.


How can we possibly relate to this great man who is responsible for the majority of the books of the New Testament?  First, we all at some time in our lives will have our Damascus Road invitation; though it probably will not be as dramatic as Paul’s.  Most of us will not have to ask who called us (though it is possible that some might), but we will all have to answer an RSVP.  How we answer will change the rest of our lives.  We can answer affirmatively and come out of the darkness as Paul did or we can turn away sorrowfully as the rich young ruler did from Jesus (Matthew 19:20).

Let us not get lost in the past, but look toward the future.  That’s where our life is now—an eternal future with our Lord.  We are just passing through here on earth to our heavenly home.


Few of us will have to answer a call to service as stringent as Paul’s, but we will be required to be faithful over whatever we are called to do.  It may not be very visible or seem as important as someone else’s duty, but faithfulness will be the norm for everyone.  God will not measure how much, but how well we did.  We might not see any results of our labors, but if we have been faithful, it will be great in God’s eyes.

“His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord

(Matthew 25:21).


Let us check our focus, correct it where necessary to see singularly our call and be faithful to perform it.  Everything else will then fall into proper perspective.  This is the formula for a New Year’s resolution that we can achieve.

Have a Blessed and Happy New Year!



Music playing: "I'd Rather Have Jesus" (and I would!...RDA)

@ There's Good News January 2011

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