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Friday, June 8, 2012

From Saul to Paul

His bodyguards stood speechless and stunned, "hearing a voice, but seeing no man" (Acts 9:7). Minutes before, their master had been charging down the highway muttering and breathing out threats against the Lord's anointed. This oppressor, blind with rage, was not plotting to overthrow the Roman persecutors; he wanted to erase the Christian liberators!

This man was no brigand - check his papers. His birth certificate says that he was "of the tribe of Benjamin, of the seed of Abraham." He was top scholar in the school of the Pharisees. His father was a Pharisee, also. He had other papers to tell you that he was "free born" and Roman by right. He could have given you an impeccable history of his people, the God-chosen of the earth. His head was full of theology, but his heart was full of hate.

The penniless, homeless prophet called Jesus had shattered the peace of Jerusalem. He had given the populace a taste of His miracle power, and by this had started a sect known as His Disciples. They, like Jesus, carried the power over disease and even over death. But the faith of Saul's fathers stood in a cloud of scorn. This man Saul would wither all the confidence of the Jesus followers. His plan, long and immaculately calculated, was foolproof. Who could withstand the authority of the signed and sealed documents concealed in his toga? Saul did have some haunting memories that shook him at times - he had agreed to and witnessed the death of a mere youth, and he saw the face of the dying youth divinely illuminated (I am sure in his sleep). But the God of Israel had been set aside; the young "Jesus men" had daringly charged the leaders of Israel with crucifying the Lord of Glory.

As he journeyed, suddenly Saul's eyes ceased to function. He was thrown to the ground crying, "Who art thou, Lord?"  His bodyguard led him blind into the city of Damascus. Oh, to know what he saw during his blindness - more, I am sure, than he had ever seen in his life! Perhaps he was hounded by the bloodied faces of the people he had murdered - "many of the saints did I shut up in prison ... and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them" (Acts 26:10).

Guilt-laden and haunted by fearful memories, Saul collapsed in his blindness, and he prayed. The eternal God of infinite mercy heard him. Looking down from His throne to a spot in the universe called earth, God saw a finite, mistaken zealot, now confessing his spiritual bankruptcy and calling for help.

I do not read that this same mighty God sent a messenger to Caesar that day in the crowded Colosseum, or that He interrupted the schedule of the high priest, or that an angel invaded the Holy Club of the Pharisees. He visited the man on the Damascus Road because, despite his false zeal, he was hungry for God. Blessed are they that hunger.

This man Saul was a persecutor of the Faith; soon he would be persecuted FOR the faith.
He silently watched Stephen stoned; soon he would be silent while he is stoned.
He put others in grave peril, soon he would be in "perils of the deep", perils among his own countrymen, as well as others.

This Saul, who became Paul, was the best example of what he later wrote to the Galatians: "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7).

I wish we had a record of Paul's prayers during his blindness. Oh, that every soul would have three days fasting and praying in "blindness". Try it preacher; just be "blind" to your television, video games, ball games, trivia, and even your church's social program - for three days. This is not much out of your life, but I guarantee that if God comes to you, your life will leap into realm of victory that your theology never brought you.

I wonder what Paul's bodyguards thought of their distinguished Pharisee friend as he groaned over his sins before the Lord. Maybe Paul was praying that the whole house of Israel might have a slaying before the Lord, and a wave of repentance that they had crucified the Lord of Glory.

Ananias must have been a man of prayer, also. He did not just talk to God that day, but waited until God talked to him. How seldom we do the waiting! Maybe in our own neighborhood or city there is a person to whom the Lord wants to send us, but we are too busy to wait and listen to God. Who or what takes priority over God in our lives?

Paul's finishing school was Arabia. There he was lifted up into the third heaven and given a revelation that he could not utter. Any man favored with such a revelation would come back to earth holding in contempt "all the vain things that charm us most." He would drop materialism as though it were leprosy. He would say with Paul, "This one thing I do" (Phil. 3:13); and, like Paul, never backslide.

Paul's prayer on the Damascus Road started a prayer chain that goes on to this day. He birthed a billion prayers there. He birthed a missionary movement unequaled to this day. He matured in prayer until he could call the blessed Holy Spirit to bear witness that he was not lying, or pretending, or fishing for praise when he cried (with tears I am sure), "For I could wish that myself were accursed (cast away) from Christ for my brethren."

Pastor, dare you face your folks and tell them that from now on you are going to be a New Testament preacher as Paul was and do what you are ordered to do by the Spirit: "We will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word"? (Acts 6:4). This will revolutionize your life and your church. If Almighty God heard a bloodstained, wicked murderer's prayer (and He did so when Paul prayed), then will He not listen to our tearful intercessions?

Jesus left His throne to intercept Paul on the Damascus Road. He will come to us in power that we have never known before when we shed all confidence in the flesh and hide our scholarly diplomas in the bottom drawer, to seek a Spirit-saturated heart with its eternity-conscious lifestyle and its demon-defying power. We have had too much of what we now have for too long It is time for change. On the personal, congregational, and national level, we need a spiritual earthquake. Are you a candidate for making it happen? It is costly.

~Leonard Ravenhill~

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