When I was first started studying the Word, I had a difficult time understanding Paul’s writings; Romans in particular. It was just deep stuff! This past week I listened to a sermon concerning Paul’s (or Saul at the time) conversion. He was a religious man, zealous for God’s law. He thought he was doing God a favor by killing or persecuting those who walked in the Way (aka the followers of Jesus). Paul was a brilliant man; very passionate about religious law. He had been taught by one of the masters of the Law. He knew the Law; memorized the Law. However, his focus was wrong. He didn’t understand the truth of the Law. He didn’t understand Jesus was the one who would fulfill the Law. He had the book knowledge, but did not have the heart knowledge. His heart was hardened to the truth.
His conversion is known as the Damascus Road conversion. It was pretty drastic. Paul (Saul) had a letter from the ones in charge to go about the countryside clearing the land of those who proclaimed the name of Jesus. He was willing to travel miles upon miles to stamp out this rebellion. Along the way, Paul was confronted by Jesus in a supernatural way. When Christ’s church is hurt, He is also hurt. If the church didn’t survive, the message of Good News would not reach the ends of the earth as it was intended. We wouldn’t know it today. The church would not have survived if Paul had continued his quest. But Jesus stopped Paul in his path, and changed Paul’s focus. Paul was blinded physically so that his spiritual eyes could be opened. When his eyes were opened to the truth, his whole focus changed. However, his determination didn’t. He was still zealous, but zealous for Jesus and His message. He was still willing to walk mile upon mile to reach the ends of the earth for a new purpose; not to kill the message, but to give a life-giving message.
As I have grown in my spiritual maturity, I have developed a deeper understanding of Paul’s writings. The Holy Spirit did a major work in Paul and used his brilliant mind to bring us wisdom in the written word. Sitting under Paul’s teaching now is still difficult if I didn’t have the Holy Spirit guiding me to the truth. But learning from Paul is part of my process of growing to maturity. I don’t want to stop learning. Like I wrote last week, I want my hunger and thirst to be even greater. However, what I am most concerned about today is my willingness to go mile upon mile for a cause greater than me.
The preacher asked his audience “what are you willing to walk 20 miles for?” That was usually the amount of miles walked by Paul on any given day. Ever since I heard that, I wondered. What am I passionate about? Passion is about suffering for a cause. Can I actually say I am suffering for anything right now? Tough questions; with little answers. God is looking for those who are willing to go the extra mile. He is searching for those who want what He wants. I want to want it. Paul had a message to share. His testimony is powerful; but so is each and every one of us who know Jesus’ salvation. We all have a decision to make. Will we use what God has given us for His glory or will we try to kill the message by our disobedience? Each decision made for God’s glory will bring us closer to a passion that cannot be extinguished. Paul had it; I want it too, don’t you?
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)