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Devotionals

Saul to Paul (Part 1)

There are those who are of the opinion that only those who are articulate, educated, good looking and from well-bred families may enter the Christian Ministry and be successful. For example, the one who has an MBA from Harvard University will be able to manage a Church well. That might be true as far as management is concerned though before a Church is a “business” it is a spiritual establishment of God’s people in Christ and lost people in the world that both need spiritual and pastoral care! Others again are of the opinion that a criminal or one who tries to destroy the Church or the one who is not well educated should not enter the ministry. Such a persuasion makes the one believing this a judge and demi-god. Let me tell you two stories …

(a) He was a member of a gang in a township. They would raid any place to see what could be stolen. A Church set up a tent and conducted Evangelistic Meetings over a weekend. This gang joined the gathering, sat at the back waiting for the collection to be taken. The sermon came … a hard hitting gospel message and the one gang member, with his rolled cannabis cigarette went forward, surrendered his life to Jesus Christ and became a soul winner. He was the criminal turned evangelist.

(b) He was a member of an elite tribe from a prestigious nation. He was a thorough bred nationalist, knew their law legalistically and sought to destroy the church. People of his day would have described him as the equivalent of having the Pharisaical MBA with an obsession to destroy the opposition Church. He himself describes himself like this

Phil 3:5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.

But there is more

Ac 5:34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people

Ac 22:2 Then Paul said: 3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. 4 I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, 5 as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.

That was Saul before he became Paul. Both were out to harm God’s Church. The one whose background was African Traditional Religion and the other Judaism of the most legalistic shape. God gets hold of both and uses both impressively for His glory and Kingdom, especially Paul. Let’s consider Paul (Saul) together …

(1) Saul came from the tribe of Benjamin. When Jacob gave blessings to his sons, to Benjamin he said

Ge 49:27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, in the evening he divides the plunder.”

A ravenous wolf … devouring in the morning, dividing at night. Paul was like that hungry wolf … hungry to capture Christians for death row or jail. By his own confession … “I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison” … Luke the author of Acts says of Saul …

Ac 8:1 And Saul was there, giving approval to his death

and

Ac 8:3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.

Morning through evening this ravenous wolf Saul was actively trying to destroy God’s Church! But remember what Jesus said?

Mat 16:18 … I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

The worst of evil, wicked and sinister attempts will not dislodge God’s plans for His Chosen people who are called His Church. When Saul becomes Paul he writes about this in Ephesians and Romans!

(2) Saul’s tribe, Benjamin became a loved tribe of God.

Dt 3:12 Of the land that we took over at that time, I gave the Reubenites and the Gadites the territory north of Aroer by the Arnon Gorge, including half the hill country of Gilead, together with its towns.

When God distributed the land, even before the Twelve Tribes entered the Promised Land. Gad receive the Trans-Jordan section whilst the Reubenites received the section south of Gad bordering the Dead Sea. (In New Testament terms it was the region known as Perea, just below Bethany.) The point here is that God can take the hungry killer wolf and settle it in a place of blessing just as He took the destroyer Saul and converted him into the Apostle Paul … the greatest Apostle, if I might say so. Before we pursue the wonderful change that God made in Saul’s life, let us look at ourselves!

1) Is God able to use me? Often people pose this question. God is able to use anyone. On the one side He used a criminal, a member of a gang. On the other side He used what we could call a white collar, highly educated man, who in business would have been sought after because he could literally kill the opposition. Yes God can use you! There is a place as lay workers, full time workers and even for those who are on pension.

2) Am I over or under qualified? The great question will be … “what are your spiritual gifts?” If you are over qualified you can be retrained and if you are under qualified you can be trained. You are just right as you are.

3) Do I have the zeal that God may translate into Kingdom service? This question focuses on more than desire. It addresses the willingness to work and work hard. Some people have the stamina to do more and others less but God hates those who are lazy. He does not need them.

4) Do I have the heart to stop fighting and start working? I use the word fighting in place of resisting because God calls many to serve and they fight against doing what He wants them to do. Remember, the safest place is being in the center of God’s will for you. In the context of Messiah God says

Isa 55:13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.

Dear Lord, change my heart and make me a willing servant of the Glorious Lord Jesus, for His sake. Amen.

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