I confess that I am still trying to read through the Bible, a journey I started over four years ago. But the Lord has still been blessing my slow progress.
These days I find myself lost in Acts, in the stories of the early church. There is something about the unity among the early Christians that feels so good. I can’t really explain it except to say that I imagine every day feeling like the spiritual highs of a church retreat where everyone is so in awe of Jesus and so aware of how He is moving in the hearts and lives of everyone around them. What a thing to be a part of.
Chapter 9 of Acts, verses 10-19, outline the baptism of Saul. You might remember that Saul was once a major player in the persecution of the early church. Acts 8:3 says, “As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.”
Saul was not a fan of Jesus or His disciples or the early Christian church. And he made it his duty to stop the spread of anything Jesus-y, to the best of his ability. But a supernatural encounter with the Lord on the way to Damascus caused Saul to become blind for three days. And it was during this time without vision that he truly began to see.
The Lord called on a disciple named Ananias to restore Saul’s vision by laying hands on him. But Ananias did what probably any of us would do, considering what Saul’s well-known opinion of Jesus-followers had been up until that point. In Acts 9 verses 13-14, Ananias says what pretty much all of us would say, “Um, Lord, with all due respect, this man is really bad news for all of us …”
But the Lord responds, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.”
Saul was chosen by God to do great work for the kingdom. Saul soon became Paul, who authored a huge portion of the New Testament. As notorious as he was for his persecution of Christians pre-conversion, his post-conversion self became just as noteworthy as an apostle of Jesus. His is the poster story of a life made new in Christ.
The Lord knew what Saul was going to become. And as I was reading through these verses I wondered if Saul’s testimony held so much more power and influence because of who he had been. Certainly people in that day marveled at the power of Christ and were drawn to follow him because, well, if Saul the persecutor now believes then there must be some real truth to this gospel story!
Friend, I think the same is true of our testimonies.
How many people would be drawn to the truth of the gospel if we were to share where we were and what we have gone through and allow the world to marvel at the transformations the Lord has done in our lives? If someone heard our testimony and then thought, “Well if she went through that and still believes then what does that mean for me?!”
Scripture tells is that the enemy is defeated by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony. There is so much power in the words of an individual who was restored, sustained, redeemed, healed, strengthened, by our Lord. What would a Saul-sized conversion story in our day mean for the kingdom?
You were chosen by God. All of you was chosen – your story of struggle and your story of redemption. You were chosen to bear His name and bear witness to His great power. The question is not, “Does God want to use my story?” but rather, “How does He want to use my story. And what can I do about it?”
Be brave, friend. Share your story. You never know what kingdom-sized gains will be made because of your willingness to speak out.