July 14: God Uses Crisis to Move People – Changing Hearts

Read: Acts 9:15-16; Acts 14:22; II Cor. 11:23-29

Saul of Tarsus. The best of the best. Sincere. Zealous. Smart. Highly educated. Passionate in his zeal for God. And dead wrong.

Suffering is central to Saul’s story. It starts with him inflicting suffering on the church to destroy it, which ironically, God used to spread the church. Then after two years, God’s purposes in the persecution having been accomplished, the tables turn and now Saul was on the receiving end of the suffering. But let’s go back to the beginning of the story.

On the road to Damascus, Saul is traveling with documents authorizing him to capture, imprison, and even kill followers of Jesus. Suddenly, a bright light flashes from heaven and strikes him down. A voice from heaven says, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”  It is the voice of Jesus! (Jesus’ words answering forever the question, “Where is Jesus in my pain?” – a subject for another day.)

Now blind, Saul’s posse guides him to the home Jesus had indicated, and for three days he sits in darkness, in stunned silence and awe, wondering how he could have been so wrong! At the end of those three painful days, Paul emerges a man with a completely changed heart.

As it turns out, Saul – now going by his Greek name Paul – is God’s chosen means to spread the church. Initially, this happens unintentionally, on his part anyway, when he persecutes the church. But after his conversion the persecutor becomes the persecuted, and he suffers as few others in all of church history. All to take the gospel to the Gentiles.

God said of Saul, “[He] is my chosen instrument…I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” This prophecy proves trues, and who can read without emotion Paul’s long litany of suffering in II Corinthians 11:23-29?

Paul's most joyful epistle, Philippians, was written from a jail cell.

Paul’s most joyful epistle, Philippians, was written from a jail cell.

It was not out of vindictiveness that God allowed Paul to suffer; it’s just what was required in order for Paul’s mission to be completed. One time when Paul had reached his limit, God lovingly appears to Paul in a dream to strengthen him. “Do not be afraid [Paul]” God said, “I am with you and no one is going to attack and harm you….” (Acts 18: 9-10)

Paul spoke from deep experience when he wrote, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”

QUESTION TO PONDER: Can God depend on me to suffer for Him?

– barb

What do you think? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

About barbwooler

I have worked as Encompass World Partners staff since 1985. I served among the Bayaka Pygmy people of the Central African Republic as well as with orphans and widows. I am presently serving as Director of Crisis Response where I get to see God at work through hardship. I love the outdoors and among my favorite hobbies are cycling and bird watching.
This entry was posted in 2 Corinthians, Acts, Crucible of Crisis and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to July 14: God Uses Crisis to Move People – Changing Hearts

  1. Martha says:

    I truly believe the pathway to the Kingdom of God is is a painful journey with many hardships to endure. It helps me realize how I need God’s Spirit within to endure and continue onward with His joy, peace, and strength. Staying faithful to Him will be worth it all, above and beyond what this world has to offer! Thanks for sharing!

  2. In the eyes of relatives, friends and the world in general we have sacrificed much by living in the midst of our ministry, where God planted and uses us. We have lived in urban areas of several cities, had drug dealers, crack houses, many cultures and religions around us. We have been blessed to serve @ Celebrate Recovery in a venue of the marginalized in our community. Each city house has been broken into, we have heard gun shots at night but our neighbors know who to call when facing tragedy, asking and receiving prayer and mercy in times of need. We feel blessed to sacrifice for Him!

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