Paul started out as Saul back around 10AD. Born in the historic city of Tarsus in south-central Turkey, he was raised in the Jewish faith. He was also an official Roman citizen. As the son of a Pharisee (Philemon 3:4-6), he was well educated and devout. Saul was a dynamic man, full of faith, strength and conviction.
But, those Christians running around the countryside proclaiming a resurrected Christ irritated him. After all, they were promising salvation to anyone and everyone, regardless of converting to Judaism or not! And to Saul, that was just not acceptable. While most first-century Jews didn’t go so far as to persecute these born-again believers, Paul had always been an over achiever.
He hunted Christians for sport (Galatians 1:13-15).
Saul was part of a gang that stoned the apostle, Stephen, to death (Acts 7:57 to 8:1). After that, Saul stalked and arrested as many followers of Jesus as he could find. He became obsessively fanatical in his mission. On an insider’s tip there were Christians in Damascus, he went to the chief priests, begging to take a few
henchmen traveling companions and go round them all up…for the cause of course.
But a funny thing happened on the way to Damascus.
It was on that road where Saul had a life-changing moment. A brilliantly bright light flashed around him in a knock-you-to-the-ground, life-changing moment. Consider it Saul’s very own holy-two-by-four-upside-the-head moment.
As he laid there on the ground trying to figure out who the #*$$ had blindsided him, he heard a voice say, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? (Acts 9:4). And if that wasn’t freaky enough, when he opened his eyes to see who was talking, he found himself blind. His
henchmen traveling companions weren’t privy to what was being said in the Saul/God spiritual realm, but must have thought they were all losing it as Saul talked to a disembodied voice.
Saul never saw the resurrected Christ in the flesh. But he certainly heard him. Loud and clear. Realizing he wasn’t dealing with just any garden-variety god, he asked what he could do for him. Get up, and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do. (Acts 9:1-31)
Oh, and by the way, I’ll be changing your name to Paul in the future. Why? Because I’m big-G God…and I can.
So do you wonder why God chose someone like Saul to help establish the Christian church? After all, he was the furthest thing from a Jesus Freak. He hated Christians with a passion. Perhaps that’s what God saw. Passion. As soon as he was convinced to join the movement, there was no stopping him. But there was one small caveat.
After that awkward incident on the road, Paul carried some kind of affliction with him the rest of his life. We don’t know exactly what it was, but it was something a strong, viral, man would have thought made him look weak. I believe God did this for a specific reason. Saul/Paul was a prideful, conceited man by nature. This new-found affliction kept his foolish pride in check and ensured he would need to be totally dependent on God for success in this new career path. Paul had to have an attitude adjustment…of epic proportions.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13) became Paul’s battle cry. God took the high and mighty and turned him into the the meek and lowly to prove a point.
A few more hit singles from Paul:
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21)
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” There is nothing you have to do and nothing you can do to earn it. Not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
[The Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor 12:9)
For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Cor 1:25)
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)
Paul was perhaps THE most influential missionary in establishing churches throughout Asia Minor and Greece. He is credited with writing 14 of the 27 books of the New Testament. His life came full circle as he was arrested, tortured and imprisoned numerous times for the very “crime” he pursued in his younger days….boldly spreading the news about Christ. He was beheaded by Emperor Nero in Rome around 67AD.
Passionate? Yes. You could say that.
Have you ever had a “road to Damascus” experience?
Are you trusting in your own intellect and skills for success?
How is God adjusting your attitude during times of affliction and suffering?