In “Father Please Let Him Live”, there was a process that started our journey that continues to be one the most humbling, life-changing, eye-opening experiences of my life. And I often think about Saul (who later became the Apostle Paul). It seems he had a lot going for him. He was a young, highly intelligent man – respected among his people as he was not only instructing an army of men, but they looked up to him so much so, when they were killing Stephen, they were laying his clothes at Saul’s feet (Paul). I would guess he was the one these men wanted to please – wanted to impress. I would also guess in his esteemed position, Saul (Paul) was a young man that carried a great deal of pride inside of himself. When others rally around our accomplishments and look up to us as a person of leadership… well it makes us feel like we’re doing the right thing to accept such praise among men. And the story is deeper than I think I even realize. Why were they persecuting followers of Jesus? Well, I think they thought they were following God’s will. Perhaps it would be like us today working to drive out and destroy people we label as evil – or against God. To me, this is evident of Saul in his encounter with God on the road to Damascus. The Lord asked “Saul, Why are you persecuting me?” And Saul’s reply was “Who are you Lord?” And He said to Saul, “I am Jesus.” As Saul was blinded in that moment, there were other symptoms of his distress that followed this encounter with God. He didn’t speak for 3 days or eat for 3 days. I wonder if Saul was numb to himself… disgusted with himself.. depressed… shocked.. My mind just wanders in attempting to visualize and empathize with what Saul saw and what Saul felt in these moments.
Saul became Paul and God spoke over his life in a message to Ananias that “Paul would suffer many things for His name’s sake” – for the name of Jesus. His ministry in Christ became the majority of the new testament and I just love reading the stories and epistles of Paul. But in talking about the change that God made in him – as Saul was transformed into a selfless lover of Christ above all things (especially himself) and even given a new name, I can’t help but think through the similarities of the process in my own life. I thought I was doing all the right things. I thought I was a living a life pleasing to God and I even thought I knew the Lord Jesus – gaining knowledge from other believers of what that even means….. to know Jesus. We can say that it’s as simple as a name, but even in that you’ll find so much controversy over the name of Jesus – no doubt a work of the enemy. I ponder Paul’s question when he was struck down and blinded by God… “Who are you Lord?” And I come to the conclusion that Paul (Saul), THOUGHT that he did know God.. and was shown in that moment how wrong he had been in his thoughts.
We can easily draw this story up in our carnal minds as black and white – Well, it’s simple… Saul was killing Jesus followers, therefore he was evil. Sounds easy, right? But, did he know what he was doing? He was brought up into a system, just like we are today. His people followed a set of laws that they believed were righteous (were good). For example, stoning Stephen… Well their law required that people be stoned for committing certain acts that were NOT GOOD. You know how the bible says that people will call evil good and good evil? God didn’t proclaim this because we’d all be KNOWINGLY choosing the wrong team, he proclaimed it because we would be under a delusion that is so strong, even the elect would be deceived if it were possible – meaning GOD will open the eyes of the elect.. but the rest of the world won’t get it – they’re not going to see it or understand it, in fact they will see things opposite as the elect.
I feel like God is striking down many today, in order to give them eyes to see. And in this process, eyes are set on the Father and hearts are set on seeking the face of Jesus – hope is placed in HIS kingdom and the kingdoms of this world become a moth-eaten coffin, waiting to be dissolved. And I think what bothers me the most is that the temptation of self-pride and the contentment of hearts is at work in the places we least expect.
I went through a short study this morning on Paul’s prayers. And it’s interesting, I can’t find any in focus of earthly gain. I can’t find a single prayer of Paul where he asks the Father to make his beloved church wealthy and esteemed and accomplished and comfortable in this world. Paul prayers were for our salvation in Jesus – for us to receive the truth by His Holy Spirit and for us to find the wisdom of the hope in HIM. And his journey wasn’t easy. I was just reading about his deadly snake bite and about his confession to the church of Corinthians of his physical struggles (perhaps an illness) that he had when he presented to them – and the work of the Holy Spirit as they accepted him anyway. I envision a sick man, no friends (the followers of Jesus didn’t like him because they knew what he’d done to their friends and his own people of course hated him because they felt he betrayed them to follow Jesus) – he was a loner, a poor man, with all kinds of issues and this physical problem (whatever it was – perhaps an illness), preaching the gospel of Jesus and people thinking “Why would we listen to this man, he’s a mess… we don’t want what he’s selling.” But the Power of God opened their hearts to receive the truth and to see in the spiritual, not in the flesh. And even in all the miracles Paul did by the power of God, I can’t find one that was for Paul’s “earthly life” gain… expect one. Paul pleaded with God in prayer for HIMSELF asking God three times to remove the thorn in his side and God said no… He said, “My grace is sufficient for you.” And that thorn that remained in Paul kept him humbled – delivered in spirit.. not in flesh.
So, what is the true message of the Gospel and what is the CHANGE that occurs when someone is struck down in order for their eyes to be opened? I certainly don’t have all the answers and even as I write this with heaviness on my heart to keep speaking what I believe the Lord wants me to, I know that FEW would even want to listen to anything I have to say – a woman who’s life looks like a heap of ruin… Who could possibly want what I have? But the truth is, through these trials all I want is Jesus and if it takes tearing everything away from to give me that burning desire in my heart, well it’s worth it. So, I ask to the Lord to use this mess called me for His Glory, beveling that only the Lord can reveal the truth in each of us at His appointed time. But I also believe we must ask in order for him to answer and we must seek in order to find. I can’t even mutter the prayer my heart cried right before my world was turned upside down – for a later time I assume… And I also believe the truth isn’t popular and it’s not widely accepted and it goes against everything this world is selling us. But what’s impossible for men to do and for men to sacrifice and for men to see…. IT’S POSSIBLE TO GOD.
Ironically, Paul was traveling on a road (the road to Damascus), when he was struck down by God… and it was there that his path forever was changed.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
– Mathew 7:13
Heavenly Father, I just ask today that your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. I ask you to set our hearts on the hope that is in Christ Jesus and Lord only you know what measures are needed for your children to be removed from this world and set apart as Jesus prayed that we would be. Father Your Word warns against men gaining the world and losing their souls, but you also say that no one can pluck us out of Your Hand. Please open the eyes of the blind, don’t let us be deceived and show us the true liberty that’s only found in Jesus. God show us who we are and why we’re here. Strengthen us in you, as we become weak in ourselves and pour out Your Spirit on your sons and daughters. Lord, bring your family together in your love.. the only true love that is and ever will be. Keep us from temptation and remove us from the wide gate and broad road that many will travel – lead us into that narrow gate and narrow path that few will find.
Thank you Jesus.