In the opening of Acts 9, we see Saul getting ready to go to Damascus and arrest Christians. Saul thought he was doing what God would have him do, by stopping the spread of this “new religion” that condemned the leaders of the Jews, as murderers. Saul is on his way to Damascus and a light from heaven flashed around him and he fell to the ground and a voice called to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Have you ever looked at Saul’s response, “Who are you, Lord?” Now, Saul knew that whomever this was, with the power to knock him down with light and call his name was more powerful than him. And the Light identifies himself as Jesus. I like the way Jesus got right down to business. “I am Jesus, pick yourself up and go, and you will be told what to do.” Those with Saul heard the sound, but they didn’t see anyone and they were speechless.
Saul got up and when he opened his eyes he was blind and had to be guided into Damascus. This powerful oppressive man, who was going to exert his authority went into Damascus a weakened, broken man after being brought to his knees by the very one he was persecuting. How often do we keep going against Christ and the only way to be stopped is to be brought to our knees? I pray we can recognize when we are not in God’s will and can rejoice in adversities and be broken and molded to be God’s people.
Now in Damascus is a disciple, Ananias, and the Lord tells him to go to the house of Judas and ask for Saul, and lay hands on him and heal him. Saul’s reputation preceded him and Ananias questioned the Lord. After all, Saul was a man who had come to arrest the people, like Ananias. But the Lord assured Ananias that He was in control, and that He had actually done a work in this Saul and now Saul would actually suffer for Christ. Have you ever felt that God was leading you to do something that you didn’t want to do, or that you feared? Have you had an experience, like Saul, that God used to completely turn tables on you, that the very thing you were doing to others was now being done to you? I pray that we can fully trust in God and the plans He has for us, without fear. I pray that we can learn that God does own the right to vengeance, and not us.
So Ananias went, placed his hands on Saul, and called him, “Brother Saul.” Verse 17 says, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” BROTHER Saul. I have to ask here, what part did Saul have in his own conversion? He didn’t “ask” Jesus to come into his heart, scripture doesn’t even tell us he wanted it, God had a purpose and chose Saul as an instrument. We see that when Ananias laid hands on Saul and imparted the Holy Spirit, his vision was restored and Saul, immediately obeyed God. He went to be baptized, even before he ate. This man, who had been blinded, had no where to turn, but to the Power who overcame him. He spent three days without vision, without food, and only feasted on communication with Christ, and then when he he gained his vision, the first thing he did was to be baptized, share in an act of obedience with Christ, THEN he ate and regained his strength. When we have been through a tough time, do we go to Christ FIRST, do we follow in obedience to Him before we do something for ourselves? What if we have had a “bad week”? The first thing we want to do is have some “me time”. How many times do we say, “this week has been awful. I need some God time?” I pray that we can learn to gain strength through obedience to God and the following of His will, before our own.
Saul stayed in Damascus for several days and began AT ONCE preaching in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. The ones who heard him were bewildered that this man who caused so much trouble for those who called on Christ, was now preaching in this same Name. Saul became more powerful and baffled those in Damascus by PROVING Jesus was the Christ. Wouldn’t you like to have such power of the Holy Spirit that others were baffled at the PROOF? I pray that we can be so full of the Spirit that others see undeniable proof of Christ as Savior.
This Power in Saul was so prevalent that he went from being the hunter to the prey. The Jews were plotting to kill him and even watching the city gates for him to leave. But his followers helped him escape through a hole in the wall, and he went to Jerusalem. Now when he got to Jerusalem, the disciples wouldn’t have anything to do with him because they were afraid. Barnabas took him to the apostles and told of Saul’s “meeting with the Lord” and his conversion. He continued in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the Name of Jesus and then he debated with the Grecian Jews and they tried to kill him. When the brothers in Christ heard of this, they sought his protection by sending him home to Tarsus. Do you have Godly friends in your life who support you and help protect you from the enemy? I pray that God will place, in our lives, brothers and sisters in Christ that will help to strengthen and uphold us as we grow stronger in Christ and face the enemy and persecution.
After this, the church in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and strengthening. It was encouraged by the Holy Spirit and grew, and lived in fear of the Lord. Now, in today’s society, many teachers of the Bible do not want to explain the word fear as “fear” of the Lord or speak of the Wrath of God, because parishioners don’t want to hear that our Lord is one to be feared, but the word, in the Greek here, is “phobos” which means “fear, dread, terror.” These people were living in peace and in the Holy Spirit, and they KNEW to FEAR the Lord. Have we, as a “modern day” church, lost this real FEAR of the Lord? We have made Him a God of Love and we play down the God of Wrath. We don’t want to talk about what it is God has saved us from. What has God saved us from? He has saved us from Himself, from His Wrath. We know the Old Testament speaks of God’s wrath; the books of the prophets are full of examples (Jeremiah, Isaiah, Hosea, etc.), but what about the New Testament? Well, if you want to see examples of why we should fear the Lord, take a look at John 3:36: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (Other verses you can read on the topic: Romans 1:18; 2:5; 3:5; 5:9; 9:22; 12:19; Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 3:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; Revelation 14, 15, and 16) I pray that we, as the Church, can be encouraged by the Holy Spirit, live in peace, and live in Fear of the Lord.
In verse 32, we visit again with Peter. We see that he is still healing and giving credit to Jesus Christ. The one he healed immediately got up. Scripture tells us that ALL those in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.. Here was such a change in a man that ALL who saw it turned to the Lord. Are you such an example of the power of Christ in you? Have those who have known you, seen such a change in you that they recognize it is Christ at work and turn to Him? I pray that we live such lives that others want to belong to Christ.
In verse 36, we see the death of Tabitha a disciple, and Peter went and called her back to life. Many heard of this and believed in the Lord. What is the Spirit doing for you? Is he using you to minister to others? Do you have a testimony of being brought to life from death? If you have been given New Life in Christ, then you have a testimony of being raised from the dead. (Colossians 2:13; “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.” Ephesians 2:1-5 “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”) I pray for anyone who has not experienced the saving Power of the Holy Spirit, who does not have a testimony of being raised from the death of Sin, that God will call them to Him, will convict them and for their full repentance and an acceptance of His Grace. Amen.