SEEK AN ENCOUNTER
Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison (Acts 8:1-3 New King James Version).
Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank (Acts 9:1-9).
Christians should not persecute Christians, and yet we see it in the church. Maybe the persecution is not the way Saul persecuted the church, but it’s there nonetheless. It masquerades in the forms of pride, selfishness, gossip, murmuring, slander, judgment, accusations, fault-finding, withholding of tithes and offerings, disobedience, disrespect of Christian leaders, or lying. As Christians, we are not better than or above anyone else. Yes, we are saved, but we should live our lives for Christ and preach the Gospel to the lost, bringing them to the feet of Jesus for salvation.
We are to be humble, for Jesus was humble, and was He not our example? Jesus was loving, and compassionate. He did not speak behind anyone’s back, and He did not assume He knew all about a situation before hearing the facts or experiencing it for Himself. He would not embarrass someone, and He would not focus on all our faults. He poured out the love, grace, mercy and compassion of God upon everyone and He continues to do the same today. If He could change the heart of Saul – someone who murdered and jailed Christians – He can change our hearts as well.
Jesus Himself said “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Let’s Pray: Heavenly Father, we humbly come before You today thanking You for Your love, mercy, and grace. We know that it is because of You and Your love for us that we are here. Father, it is our prayer for those brethren who are struggling and have a hard time following Jesus’ example that they experience a Damascus Road encounter. That they meet You face to face, that their hearts and minds are forever changed because of it. We ask for Your forgiveness for their thoughts and actions, and that You remove anything that is hindering their spiritual growth. We ask for comfort, endurance, wisdom and peace for those of us that are dealing with brethren who may be trying to walk both paths-the path to righteousness and the path to the world. Grant us discernment and boldness to help keep our brethren on Your path. We ask for each of us to have a heart like Jesus, to have eyes like Jesus, to show love like Jesus. Teach us to remain humble. Father, we love You and we give You all the glory and honor. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Today’s Attitude of Worship: When you are tempted to be drawn into conversations and situations that do not glorify God or His kingdom in any way, walk away; examine all that you do to make sure that you are not participating in the persecution of anyone. Seek God’s face and seek to have an encounter with Jesus.
Additional Scriptures: Luke 14:11; John 4:1-26