It was not long after the stoning of Stephen that Saul was in hot pursuit of Christ’s followers. Continuing in the same spirit of Stephen’s murderers, he believed he was doing God’s work by tracking down Christians and either imprisoning them or having them killed.
But on a road called Damascus Saul’s life was changed forever.
So focused on his ambitious endeavors Saul was thrown from his horse when a blinding light appeared before him. A booming voice came. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
“Who are you?” Saul responded. What a troubling response. A person can know God’s Word inside and out, can quote Scripture verbatim, and still not know God. Saul was a stranger to the God he thought he served – so far removed in fact, that he did not even recognize the voice of the Savior. Jesus had to introduce Himself!
For three days Saul experienced a devastating turn of events. Jesus arrested his will and struck Saul’s physical eyes blind stripping him of all human strength. Who knows what Saul experienced during the three days he was in Damascus!
Acts 9 says he ate and drank nothing. He only prayed. How desperate his cries must have been. How overwhelming it must have felt as his surefootedness was swept away leaving him to grasp at the darkness that eclipsed him. A confident man suddenly unable to find his bearings!
While he prayed God sent Saul a vision of a man named Ananias coming to lay hands on him and restore his sight. Sure enough at the close of the three days Ananias appeared. Following the heavenly instructions he was given, Ananias spoke over Saul, and something like scales fell from his blind eyes healing him at once. Not only was his physical sight restored, but his spirit man had new eyes to see as well.
On the road to Damascus, a Pharisee named Saul died, and an apostle named Paul was raised to life. On the road to Damascus, Paul lost sight of the law and found grace. No longer seeking to follow the ranks of the religious establishment of his day, Saul sought to become a devoted Christ follower.
But he faced a substantial problem…
In Saul’s previous ignorance he hurt a lot of people. So powerful was Saul that the tracks of his carnage sent tremors throughout the entire region.
How does one cope when the Lord shows us that our personal decisions were wrong? In this case Saul’s decisions were gravely wrong!
How could Paul step into the future when the past loomed so heavy?
Regrets are dark clouds with the ability to overshadow or an entire lifetime. We all have our own brand of regrets. But what about the brand of regrets over imprisoned parents and orphaned children? How about the innocent blood of sincere Christ followers that was spilled, lives taken that Saul was convinced were wrong? How did he face his past knowing he had taken the future of countless people?
Can you imagine if Paul had given in to the temptation of dwelling on his mistakes instead of dwelling on God’s grace? How did he step out from under condemnation and find the strength to embrace what God had to say about him instead of what people had to say? The wrong decision at this juncture in his life would have been devastating to the world in countless ways.
Paul faced a choice. He could either live in the past, or he could step into the future. Either he could dwell under the weight of condemnation, or he could learn to embrace grace. He could either listen to the voices that sought to define him, or he could listen to the only Voice with complete knowledge of him.
I am so thankful Paul did not give into the temptation of trading grace for condemnation. It is obvious by the stories of the New Testament that Paul only allowed God to define him. I’m certain that decision took much discipline. Aren’t you grateful he chose confidence in Christ instead of condemnation in himself?
By forging ahead and listening to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Paul’s efforts literally changed the world for Christ. His is an amazing story! He was responsible for two-thirds of the New Testament writings. He was a tenacious missionary who took the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far reaches of the ancient world. I believe Paul’s impact for Christ is incalculable. By embracing the confidence he had in Christ, the goodwill he brought to the world far surpassed any damage he caused. Think about that!
Friend, it is no different for you or me. God has called us all to serve Him with all of our hearts. If the goal is to impact the world for Christ, then confidence in Christ is not an option. It is a requirement! We simply cannot let others define us. The only One with the ability to define you and me is God Himself. And if He says we are the righteousness of Christ then no other voice matters. This truth should be so liberating!
We must all give an answer to the call of grace. Since yesterday’s regrets kidnap today’s power, the world will be impacted on some level by our decisions today. It is detrimental that we believe what God says about us and not what the world says. When we do we will be empowered today rather than living in the draining regrets of yesterday.
Question to Ponder
What in your past threatens to derail the calling God has placed on your life?