Recently Pastor Miles has taught about our heavenly citizenship. When we decide to follow Christ, we become citizens of heaven and live by heavenly rules, not the rules of this world. Some of these rules govern the way that we handle trials or pain in our lives. Trials can happen simply because we are living in an evil world, because we make mistakes or have poor judgment, or because we are fighting with the Lord – and losing.
Trials can happen simply because we are living in an evil world, because we make mistakes or have poor judgment, or because we are fighting with the Lord – and losing.
In any case, God can use trials in our lives to mold us and change us into the people we are supposed to be. Today’s story, the conversion of the apostle Paul (Saul), illustrates this, as Saul has a traumatic encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus.
Saul was a Pharisee, living set apart by strict Old Testament law. Zealous in his Jewish faith, Saul rejected Jesus, seeking to destroy Christians after Jesus’ death and eradicate the “damage” Jesus and his followers have done. In Acts 9, Paul is seeking letters from high priests to give him the authority to arrest Christians and bring them to trial.
Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the
disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest
and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he
found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound
As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
And he said, “Who are You, Lord?”
Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” Acts 9:1-5
Jesus reveals his followers as His own body, meaning that when Christians are attacked, Jesus Himself is attacked. He also tells Saul, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads,” meaning that because Jesus God, Saul’s persecution of Christians is a battle that he can’t win.
So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” ( v. 6a)
The Bible tells us that the first and best thing we can do is to love God whole-heartedly (Matthew 22:37), and gives the definition of loving God as obeying God (1 John 5:3). With fear and trembling, having been knocked to the ground and having heard the audible voice of the risen Jesus, who he has assumed to be dead, Saul’s only thoughts now are of immediate and utter obedience.
Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and
you will be told what you must do.”
And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Acts 9: 6b-9
In the meantime, God uses a vision to prepare a man named Ananais to receive and baptize Saul in Damascus.
So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called
Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And in a vision
he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.”
Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.”
But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”
And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.
So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.
Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.
Then all who heard were amazed, and said, “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?”
But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ. Acts 9:11-22
Ananais is afraid when he hears God’s plan. He has heard about Saul’s hatred and persecution of Jesus’ followers. Yet he is utterly obedient, laying hands on Saul, baptizing him and calling him “Brother.” As a result, Saul becomes Paul, one of the most influential apostles of all time.
We can all learn from these two men and their responses to Jesus. Maybe you are someone who needs to come to Him for the first time in surrender. Or maybe you’ve been fighting against God’s will and it’s time to simply ask Him what He wants you to do. Take a few moments to ponder the following questions:
- In what ways is your lifestyle opposing the kingdom of God?
- What can you do to build the kingdom of God?
- What change in your life would result if you said, “Lord, what do you want me to do?”