Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah…. When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him. When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.
We see many times throughout Scripture that God calls and uses the people who are least expected to carry His message. No one goes unnoticed or overlooked. God’s plan to transform someone like Saul to carry His message reached thousands of people.
In the passage above, we see see several different reactions to Paul’s (also known as “Saul”) conversion to Christianity and his subsequent ministry:
- The bystanders and even disciples are judgmental and skeptical towards Paul.
- Humankind can be made new and turn from old ways. Saul used to be a Pharisee who despised and persecuted followers of Christ, but is seen in this passage preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ because he has truly been changed and knows the truth.
- Barnabas defends Paul and testifies regarding his changed character. We need people like Barnabas in our lives to come alongside us in agreement of faith. We are not meant to do this Christian walk alone. We need community and accountability.
We can walk firm in our faith as a new believer or someone who has believed for a long time. Paul is so sold out for the mission that God gave him that he does everything he can to witness to people, embodying 1 Peter 3:15: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Paul does not cower away in timidity because of lack of knowledge and newness to the faith. He simply declares Jesus is Lord and testifies of how God appeared to him. What might you say if you’re ever asked to give a reason for why you believe?
Father, help us to be bold in our faith and unwavering in what we believe about You. Help us to stand firm on the foundation of truth laid before us in Your word. Let The Holy Spirit come upon us when we are to give an answer to those who ask us about You, Lord. Allow us to not be discouraged by our past ways, but equip and prepare us with a genuine witness of grace to share Your love to others through our testimony. Amen.
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”
How often is it that we feel the need to take matters into our own hands? To try and get things done on our own?
In the passage above, this is what the Israelites are doing. Isaiah is warning the people of Judah to cease their efforts to form an alliance with Egypt against Assyria. It would be better for the people of God to rest and repent, to be quiet and trust God, rather than try to move forward with their sin and their own plans. If they would rest, as God desired for them to do, that would ensure that their nation would not be totally destroyed. But, sometimes, we think our way is the best way.
Here’s the thing, however: in Christ, what God said to the Israelites all those years ago is true for us now: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” Ephesians 2:8-9 says this: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.”
In reality, all we can really do is rest when it comes to salvation. It’s not something we can earn or work for because it isn’t something that comes from us. We’re saved because of who God is and because of His will — not because of anything we’ve done or might do. Salvation is a gift that God wants to give us. We simply need receive it and trust that God invites us to be in relationship with Him, forgives us of our sin, and empowers us to resist it as we walk with Him.
We can’t, but God can. When we rest, God works. When we were in need of a Savior and had no chance of restoring our relationship with God in our own strength, He came down to us, drawing us back to Himself through the cross of Christ.
Father, I thank You that because of who You are, I am saved. Open my eyes today to the wonder of the Christmas story: that through a Baby in a manger, You reconciled the world to Yourself. Amen.
Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
Have you ever felt like you are just beaten up by life, lying in the dirt, tired, weary, and hurting? Sometimes it feels as though life has come through and beaten me so badly that I’m stuck there in the dirt. I know I’m not the only one that has felt this way. Can I give you freedom? It’s okay to lie there in the dirt for a moment. Allow God to wrap His peace around you there. God doesn’t expect us to get up on our own and push through life! In my own life, it has been when I have felt beaten up in the dirt that I can feel the Lord closest to me. I know that He is always there, ever present, but when I am beaten down, the pride is gone, and all the other things I use to comfort myself have gone away, too. The one thing that never changes and never leaves is the Father, the good Shepherd. When I am down in the dirt, I can see God clearer and I can feel Him closer because I left room for Him.
We serve a God who can do amazing things in the dirt, like breathing life into it and creating mankind! “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). All God needs to make something new is His breath and some dirt.
Jesus uses dirt to heal us, as seen in John chapter nine, verses 6-7: “After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam.’ So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.” If Jesus can heal blindness with a little bit of mud, imagine what He can do with the dirt surrounding you.
Friend, I ask you to shift your perspective of dirt. Instead of looking at it as a place of brokenness, look at it as a new beginning: a place where restoration takes place. Maybe you are exactly where you need to be, so that our God can make something beautiful come to fruition in your life. Breathe Him in, relax in His presence, and focus on Him. As you draw near to the Father in the dirt, you will discover that He will take you to new heights with Him and through Him — not by your will or your power, but by His grace and strength. I challenge you to raise your hallelujah loud and proud even in the dirt!
THINGS TO CONSIDER
How are you drawing close to the Lord?
In what situations do you need to shift your perspective?
I challenge you to start each day with the Father for at least five minutes. I promise that it will transform your life!