“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.
“About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’
“‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.
“ ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied.
Paul shared his hope, strength, and experience with coming to know Jesus some 20 years after his first experience with Him, while he was under arrest and there was an angry mob.
Think for a minute about how Paul, along with the other disciples, spent their lives sharing the good news with others and how you and I are following Jesus today partly because they did.
God uses normal, everyday people to share Jesus with others. He even uses people who act like Paul did prior to His encounter with Jesus—doing the wrong things, hanging with the wrong crowd, and being stubbornly convinced that Jesus was bad news for him, the Jewish people, and the Roman empire. God uses messy people to tell His story because that’s all He has to work with. Messy, broken people aren’t a problem—we are the whole point!
Paul’s testimony is all about the good news and the path he took to come to know the love of God.
Some of the pieces we can pull from his road to Damascus experience are:
1. Religion doesn’t equal reconciliation with God.
Paul is talking to a group of Jewish people. He was Jewish and had studied the scriptures, followed the rules of their religion, and was so passionately opposed to Jesus that he was killing and persecuting Christians. Paul could relate to the crowd because he once was them. There’s probably a little bit of Paul in all of us. We have incomplete or inaccurate information about how God feels about relationship and think that religion is the way to His heart. He simply wants our hearts. Paul is “preaching to the choir” that he used to sing in.
2. Salvation isn’t on our own merit or will power.
Salvation is through grace and mercy and Jesus alone. We cannot earn our way to heaven. We can never do or be enough of anything to be good enough. When God literally knocked Paul (still Saul at the time) to the ground, it wasn’t because Paul was on a winning streak. It wasn’t punishment, wrath, or judgement. It was unconditional love. Sometimes God has to do drastic things to get our attention.
3. We must be humbled before we can fully understand or receive His mercy.
Paul most definitely wasn’t headed to Damascus on a mission of mercy, and he didn’t have a humble heart. He was on a path to destruction and self-righteousness. Even though he didn’t follow Jesus or claim to know Him yet, he sure seemed to be afraid of what Jesus was doing. Instead of marching into Damascus the way he had planned, he was literally led by the hand because he was totally blind. He had to be humbled the hard way.
4. We are born with a purpose and we are saved for a purpose.
Paul went towards Damascus with a plan and an agenda. Jesus gave him a whole different agenda according to the calling that had been placed on his life before he was even born. Our job is to step into the purpose God has for our lives and allow His power to work in and through us. His plans rarely look like what we had planned or expected.
Thought of the day: When was the last time you shared any of your experiences with Jesus to give hope to someone that needs to meet Him? What’s stopping you?
Prayer: Father God, thank You that You want to be in relationship with us. Help me to share my hope, strength, and experience with someone that doesn’t know You. Give me courage to step into Your purpose with humility and gratitude. In Jesus’ name, Amen.