“That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. And they glorified God in me.” Galatians 1:23-24 (KJV)
Paul’s story was HIS story. This is the only story that makes a difference in a person’s life. Real life-change comes from God. His call turns a person, a church, a community, and a country around. God does it one life at a time for His honor and glory, through His Son, The Lord Jesus Christ.
Prior to Saul’s encounter with The Lord on the Road to Damascus, his mission in life was to destroy the church. After The Risen Christ transformed Saul, The Destroyer into Paul, The Apostle, his mission in life changed radically. It was so radical that it was unbelievable. Many of the early believers were not prepared to receive it.
Note to self: When you are most fearful is when you must be most prayerful. God’s greatest gifts can be missed when you are breathless with fear. They will be received when you are faithful in prayer. Prayer prepares you to empty your hands and open your arms to receive the gift of His Presence.
Paul’s conversion was met by aversion. The huddled, fearful early Christian converts had been persecuted and hounded from their homes by Saul’s death squads. They had heard of his murderous reputation, and were not easily convinced of his claims of being a changed man. They demanded fruit.
One of God’s greatest faith-building exercises for the local church is the change only He can make in people. His call upon their lives is not an invitation to attend church, but a commission to lead it. God wraps up some of His greatest gifts in some pretty scary packaging, and Paul was the poster boy for this principle. In every generation the church must prayerfully prepare to be surprised by God’s amazing grace.
Three years after his conversion, Paul was still being held at arm’s length. The leaders, and the local members of the church, remained skeptical. Paul wisely maintained intimate communication with Jesus, in spite of his rejection by men. The results were stunning.
“And they glorified God in me.” v. 24
“A man who is intimate with God is not intimidated by men.” Leonard Ravenhill (English evangelist & protégé of Samuel Chadwick)
Paul’s one great purpose in life was to glorify God. He was focused on making a difference, not in making a name for himself. Big difference.
When Paul began his ministry to the Gentiles, the non-Jewish Roman world became his mission field. He reached out to men who were inclined to name their sons after a reigning king or a powerful emperor. Two thousand years later, men may call their dogs, Nero, but they name their sons, Paul. Big difference, indeed.
A little over a hundred years after the Puritans were blown off course, and landed on the windswept sands of Cape Cod, the people of the American colonies had drifted away from intimate companionship with Jesus. Up and down the eastern seaboard, from Savannah to Boston, there was a great need for a Spiritual Awakening. Only God can send a prolonged movement of His Spirit that will saturate a community or a country with His Presence.
People prayed for what they didn’t deserve, and God sent what they didn’t expect. Rev. Jonathan Edwards of Northampton, Massachusetts described this First Great Awakening as a “surprising work of God.” It always is. Pray for Awakening, but be prepared to be surprised. God seldom uses the same means, the same men, and the same methods to provide it.
Those who prayed for a movement of God received The Awakening. Those who didn’t pray for it rejected it. Prayerless people have an uncanny capacity to stiff -arm a gift from God. Holding onto what they have, they miss out on what God wants to give.
Prayer is a two-sided coin stamped by intimacy with God, and marked by intercession for others. Pauls’ rejection by man only led him to greater intimacy with God. When he returned from the backside of the desert of Arabia, Paul was recognized and received as a man under the influence of God. Man’s hands had rejected him, but God had put His handprints all over him.
“Prayer is the intimate communication between the Heavenly Father and His child.” Don Miller
Prayer softens a person’s heart to be molded in the image of God, and infuses a person with the courage needed to carry out the mission of God, for the glory of God. Paul never lost his passion for personal intimacy with His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Paul’s turn around astounded everyone around him. His story was HIS story. HIS STORY makes history one life at a time. It is a personal Great Awakening, and sustained by a life of prayer.
“Praying in The Spirit” takes the focus away from oneself and invests in intercession for others. Paul did. The results were, “They glorified God in me.” Expect no more. Invest no less. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!