Monday, February 3, 2014

Major Adjustments

Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" And He said, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do."  Acts 9:1-6

If you’ve read the book of Acts, you know that Paul’s name was originally Saul, but God changed his name after his conversion.  This story in Acts chapter 9 takes place shortly after the story of the first martyr, Stephen. Paul and a group of others all helped kill Stephen.

You may have heard the story about the old farmer who bragged about his mule, and said that his mule was so well trained, that all he needed to do was say a few soft words, and she’d respond, she’d doing anything he told her to.  Well, his buddy down at the feed store had a hard time believing this, and he said, “this I’ve gotta see. Show me”. So they go to his farm, and there the mule is near the barn, and as the friend watched, first with curiosity but then in dismay, the old farmer went and pick up a 2x4 about 6 feet long, and swung it with all his might, whacked the mule on one ear.  When the animal stopped braying and bellowing and prancing around, the farmer then said, quietly, “Come here” and the mule came. “Sit”, and the poor creature sat. “Back up”, and she backed right up.  The old farmer said, “You see? She’ll respond to a simple voice command”.  His friend said, “What are you talking about? You said all you had to do was talk to her, but you hit her with this huge two-by-four. What do you mean; you just say a few soft words? That’s not what I saw!”  “Oh, that,” said the farmer. “Well, first I do have to get her attention!”

God sometimes has to use a two-by-four to get our attention, because without it we won’t listen. Have you ever had that happen to you?  God has to do something dramatic, because we just don’t notice that He’s trying to talk to us. We don’t notice that He’s calling us to do something or to make a change in our lives.  He is calling us out of our mulish stubbornness and is asking us to make an adjustment in our life. But we don’t even notice it until He whacks us over the head.

Henry Blackaby says in Experiencing God, “You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing.”  It’s not an option.  You must.  And the adjustments will be major.  And because of that, some of us have to be hit hard to see what God is doing and what our response should be. Because most of us are just plain slow to comprehend and even slower to adjust.
Paul had a very different background from Peter and the other apostles. Peter and James and John were all fishermen when Jesus found them, so they were basically blue collar workers, very little education, or social status.  Paul was different.  He was a Roman citizen, which carried a lot of clout back then. Many people back then who weren’t born Roman citizens would pay huge amounts of money to become one, because it carried a lot of status, and protection.  Paul was also very educated. He was taught by a Jewish scholar named Gamaliel, who was the master of Jewish study and teaching, at that time.  It would be the same as someone today saying, I went to Harvard University, Paul could say, I was taught by Gamaliel.  So Paul seemingly had it all. He had ambition, direction, applause, success.

He had it all.  No reason for him to change his life.  No reason to make any major adjustments.  No reason for him to do anything different from what he had been doing all along.  His life was working out fine. Why change?

The truth is, Paul was like many of us.  Things are going fine.  My needs are being met.  Why change?  Why make any major adjustments to my life?  For Paul, however, God’s two-by-four over the head, was a flash of light on the road to Damascus that left him blind, and a voice out of heaven that told him he needed to make major adjustments.  And you want to talk about major adjustments?  With Paul you’ve got ‘em.  Just about every adjustment you can imagine, Paul made.

This week we will see how God changed Saul of Tarsus into Paul the Apostle.  There may be some interesting things for all of us to learn.

Scripture to Claim:
…and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
Ephesians 4:23-24 (NASB)

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