Monday, October 07, 2013

The Best Time to Change

I have been pondering the experience of Saul/Paul from the New Testament. I find his story both fascinating and inspiring. As I have studied change for the past 10 years or so, his story is one in the scriptures that has repeatedly captured my attention. As I re-pondered this story tonight and discussed it with my wife, I came to a powerful realization (at least it was for me). Here is what I learned...

In the book of Acts in the New Testament, chapter 9, it tells of the conversion of the man known as Saul:

1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
 2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
 3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
 4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
 5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
 6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

Amazing experience! Can you imagine it? Here was Saul, one of the most powerful men in Jerusalem, who in the previous chapter it mentions had been wrecking “havoc” on the church. I won’t go much into what we may know or understand about him prior to this – other than to say that this was a highly convicted person who was passionate and driven to do what he was tasked to do. And his task was to essentially be a bounty hunter, hunting down Christians, jailing them, and I’m sure much worse.

My favorite part of this story is verse 6. Immediately after realizing who it was he was talking to, he asked, “Lord, what wilt thou have me do?”

First, he immediately calls Jesus, Lord. Minutes before, Saul considered Jesus a heretic and a blasphemer – one worthy of the death He had suffered. And now he calls Him, Lord. Second, he wants to know what to do. Without hesitation. I find it remarkable. Saul is moved 180 degrees in his conviction so quickly! Of course, it helps that he has this kind of experience, but I think Saul deserves immense credit for his reaction.

How is Saul able to do so? In such a moment, he gave up everything. He had to of been wealthy, powerful, respected, and had great relationships. And then all that was given up. He loses everything, including ultimately his life.

My belief? That Saul was already a great man. Maybe misguided and deceived, but a great man. He was probably full of integrity and conviction toward what all his learning (not a little learning) had taught him to believe. He was obviously diligent and willing. We see these same characteristics in Saul (now Paul), as he preaches for Christ. His focus was just adjusted. His perspective was changed.

So, one of the most powerful lessons for me in this story is…that the best time to change is IMMEDIATELY – the minute, the very second you know you need to. If you can stop your momentum in the wrong direction and put it right away into the right direction, why wouldn’t you?! And this doesn’t mean that you just recognize the truth immediately (as Saul did by recognizing that Jesus is the Lord), but that you act on it – Lord, what would you have me do!?!

Most of us are great people too, just like Saul - but sometimes we are blinded by our learning, our natural man, traditions, or many other distractions. I know that I recognize my wrong far ahead of my apology or my change sometimes. My first goal for the week is…to try and learn to be quick to act when I realize that I have erred and to not procrastinate change that I know needs to be made.

How blest I am to have the scriptures and the stories and examples of amazing men like Paul to learn from and to be inspired by.

To conclude here, just a thought...

What does it look like when we don’t do this? There is another Saul in the Bible – in the Old Testament. His story is the tragic side of the story.  I hope to be the kind of Saul who becomes Paul.
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