He was so sure he had it all together, so confident he was right. He had played by the rules all his life, and he had played with excellence. Everything had led to this moment, his moment.
He was the authority, the standard against which righteousness was measured and as he led the charge for purity his following grew. They all flocked around him seeking favor. Raptly, they listened to him speak in the synagogue and as his voice rose in condemnation of the plague among them, they were stirred into fury. Inflamed with zeal for the cause they flooded into the streets, drug men from their homes and picked up stones to dispense justice but first they laid their coats at his feet. It was his approval and blessing they desired.
It must have felt so good to him. After all, he was so sure he was right…..
Then, on the road to Damascus everything changed. Light flashed, the Master spoke and with breathtaking rapidity he realized just how wrong he was. Acts 9:6 says he was “astonished”. (NKJV)
The light faded and all was dark. The one who began the journey so confident, powerful and strong was suddenly completely helpless. He was blind and those who were with him led him into Damascus by the hand like a child.
How truly dark the next three days must have been. The sudden loss of his eyesight left him able to do little more than sit, think, pray, and remember. Memory after memory must have played itself out vividly before his mind’s eye: the sensation of the cloaks piled at his feet, face after face of Believers in agony as they were stoned, drug off to prison, or torn from loved ones. The cries and prayers of the persecuted must have filled his ears once again. Perhaps he saw Stephen gazing towards Heaven as the rocks flew. Surely, his final words ricocheted in Saul’s mind.
“Lord Jesus, receive my Spirit.” “Lord, do not charge them with this sin….”
And there in the darkness, Saul’s blind eyes must have wept.
For three days he neither ate nor drank but on the third day, unfathomable mercy flowed into the life of Saul. Scripture tells us God commanded Ananias to get up and go to this one who a few days before had been breathing out murderous threats against the church because now, Saul was….praying.
Ananias was not so sure at first. He knew all about Saul and needed a bit of assurance from the Lord, but there was no mistake about the mission. So he went to Saul, laid his hands upon him and called him “brother”. Something “like scales” fell from Saul’s eyes, and he was healed. The Holy Spirit filled him and he was redeemed.
In those few short days, Saul’s perspective on sufficiency was radically changed. Before the Damascus road, he was confident in his own righteousness and abilities. He would not make that mistake again. His writings were filled with evidence to the contrary.
“I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.” 1 Cor. 2:3
“If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 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; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” Philippians 3:4-10
After Saul’s encounter with Christ, he understood that the only true sufficiency comes from the Savior and it was in that power he went on to face incredible hardships with courage and run his race well. What is more, we know he served with amazing joy because his writings are absolutely infused with it.
Although God instills in us gifts and abilities to be used for the purpose for which he created us, we still must find our sufficiency in him. It is a lesson I find myself learning over and over again. I never cease to be astounded that God chose to give me, the most unlikely of candidates in my opinion, five children. Daily I face challenges in my parenting that dwarf my abilities and overwhelm my strengths. I quit my writing career about once a day, only to take it back up a few minutes later because God has not given me permission to stop. I am haunted by insecurities, and frustrations. Over and over I look at my husband and say, “Maybe I should quit. Who am I to say anything to anyone? Writing is such an audacious undertaking! Why should I think anyone would want to listen to me?”
Oh, how joy flees in those moments when I take my eyes off the Savior and instead focus on my own weaknesses, and inadequacies, but what amazing, glorious joy returns when I am reminded that Christ is always, always, enough.
I like how Saul said it best (after he was renamed “Paul”) and since I can’t possibly put it any better, I will let him wrap it up for me. Here goes:
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor. 12:9&10