Acts Chapter 22. As we examine how Paul came to the faith let us examine ourselves and see how God worked in our lives as well.
Paul was a Jew who was well trained in the Old Testament laws. He was very zealous for God and thought that the Christians were violating the Old Testament. He was against Christians to such an extent that he was persecuting the Christians to the extent of putting them to death and throwing them into the prison. He was authorized by the high priest to bring Christians as prisoners and to punish them. Once when he was on such a mission to Damascus lets see what happened.
1. Pivotal Circumstances
6 "About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me.
7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, 'Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?'
8 "'Who are you, Lord?' I asked. "'I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,' he replied.
9 My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.
Jesus confronts Saul at the point of no return. What would have Saul become had Jesus not intervened? Without this incident happening Paul would not have come to the faith. Without getting blinded Paul's eyes could not be opened to the fact that he was doing wrong!
Let us think about how our life changed .What was the Pivotal Circumstance that led us to be open towards Christ. Like Paul we may have been on our horse pursuing some goal which we were convinced was the best thing in life for us. Then some things happen which shake our faith in what we are pursuing.
Let us think about our life what was the Pivotal Circumstance that prepared us for faith in Christ. May be it was sickness, failure, loss of a loved one, some deep disappointment. May be we were on a horse pursuing something - career, money, fame.... and then something happened. Pivotal Circumstances are very significant circumstances in our lives that point us towards God. Pivotal circumstances test and therefore strengthen our confidence in God. Pivotal circumstances prepare us for the faith.
2. Practical Teaching
10 "'What shall I do, Lord?' I asked. "'Get up,' the Lord said, 'and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.'
11 My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.
When we obey God and expereince God's faithfulness, our faith grows. Paul for all of his faults knew the right question to ask… "What shall I do, Lord?" The Lord told him go into Damascus and there you will be told what you have to do.
We need practical teaching in our life to help us to grow in our faith.When we came to church someone set up an appointment with us to study the Bible and told us where to come for the study. Many people come to Church but their life does not change because they do not accept the practical teaching. They take the address and do not come. Paul's life would not have changed if he did not follow the instruction of going to Damascus.
3. Providential Relationships
12 "A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there.
13 He stood beside me and said, 'Brother Saul, receive your sight!' And at that very moment I was able to see him.
14 "Then he said: 'The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth.
15 You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.
16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.'
It is interesting that in answer to Paul's question Jesus would chose to use a person to provide the direction. Paul was not saved just hearing Jesus's voice. He needed someone else in his life to help him to receive salvation and to grow in his faith. Ananias was the person for Paul. This persons friendship, example and teaching helps us to grow in our faith and to receive salvation. If we are a disiciple today we could not be as a disciple today without a Providential Relationship that brought us to the faith. Unless that one person took deep interest in our lives and helped us we would not be a disciple.
When we see God's faithfulness in someone else's life, it is easier to trust Him with ours. We could grow in our faith because we could closely see the lives of other disciples around us. This happens only when we make time to be with the disciples regularly. We have all seen what happens to people's faith when they get disconnected from the community of faith. What happens when people stop coming to Church or stop getting involved in the Church. Their faith begins to shrink. This is why…
a. Discipling Relationships are essential to our growth
b. Mentor to Apprentice (Paul to Timothy)
c. Peer to Peer (Paul to Silas)
d. Not a big deal for real young kids, but really important starting in middle school. Our kids will need other disciples to be involved in their lives to bring them to the faith. The KKC is not going to be enough!
e. Sitting in a row listening to a message does not connect people relationally. That will happen only when you fellowship with someone after the church meeting and set up more time with that person.
4. Private Disciplines
17 "When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance
18 and saw the Lord speaking. 'Quick!' he said to me. 'Leave Jerusalem immediately, because they will not accept your testimony about me.'
19 "'Lord,' I replied, 'these men know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you.
20 And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.'
When God speaks to us through His word or answers a specific prayer, or blesses our generosity, our faith is strengthened.
Paul needed to be taught how to interpret his new life. He found it by being in the practice of praying to Jesus. What are some other private disciplines we need to have - Getting up early, Praying, Studying the Bible, Fasting, Fellowship, Evangelism. Without these disciplines our spiritual life would be going up and down. Spiritual disciplines help us in having a consistent growth in our faith and in our relationship with God.
Are we having some Private Spiritual disciplines. If not why not make a decision to do so and then evaluate our life after a month of it.
5. Personal Ministry
"Then the Lord said to me, 'Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'"
Paul was given the most improbable of all ministries: Apostle to the Gentiles. As Paul went about this we can see how much of an impact he could have on people. His faith grew more and more seeing what God was doing in the lives of those whom he was ministering to.
Our faith grows every time we see God doing great things in the lives of the people we minister to. Every disciples life story in fact helps our faith to grow.
Whats holding us back today from the Personal Ministry that Jesus wants us to do? May be laziness, worldliness. May be we tried and then got discouraged when faced with problems. Then instead of growing we got stuck in our faith and in our walk with God or even started to slide backwards. Think of Paul and how many disappointments he faced and yet continued to serve. In order to keep growing we got to keep serving.
a. Participation in different areas of the Church is important. Let us serve others as a mentor, let us serve in the KKC, let us serve by helping the weak, the sick and the poor.
b. We should go on short-term missions opportunities...We have seen so many times people who go on mission teams getting transformed through the process.
c. Serving others forces us to be consciously dependent on God, and thus our faith is strengthened.
We need to identify our own gifts that God has given us and do the ministry that God has called us to do. Let us keep trying out serving in different ways to identify our gift.
Let us desire to be an Ananias to someone whom God wants to help! Ananias must have grown in his faith after helping Paul.
In conclusion if we are not growing in our faith we will be growing in some other areas - guess what - Pride, Criticalness, Laziness, sin etc...Let us do things to grow in our faith.