|Posted on May 20, 2010 at 2:18 PM|
Have you ever had an ah-ha moment? Recently I did as I was reading Acts 9. At first, the familiar story seemed dull. You know how it is when you've read or heard the same story over and over. Then a new revelation merged from the content. In my minds-eye I began to see the word "rejection," although it was not in written form. Perhaps I saw what I was feeling that day—rejected.
In this passage, Saul, a murderer, had just been transformed into Paul, a disciple of Christ. Even though Paul was a changed person, many rejected him because of his past reputation as a murderer. This was only the beginning of Paul's trouble. Throughout his ministry, Paul not only experienced rejection, but great suffering and harassment too. For a changed man, his adversity seemed unfair. Paul was devoted to serving Christ. He sacrificed his education, his life, and remained single so he could better serve the Lord. And yet, he was shipwrecked on several occasions, falsely accused, and thrown into prison more than once. Doesn't that seem odd for a man called of God? Wouldn't God's favor protect him from such adversity?
We can all relate to this in some way. For some, it could be an illness; for others, depression; Some of us have been rejected by family, friends, and co-workers. Others have been falsely accused. Some are imprisoned by finances, or blown around by the consequences of someone else's sin.
Whatever it is, it can cripple us to the point where we are simply unable to do life and ministry. We may even begin to feel rejected by God. We become confused, and can’t make sense of the “why”. Maybe you are serving God in more ways than you can count. Then, without warning, strong winds blow in. Clouds hang overhead and it begins to storm. Before you know it, you are "shipwrecked." We've all been there. It seems so unfair. You've tried to live right. You walk in obedience the best you can. You take God at His Word and trust in His promises. Shouldn't faith like this call for smooth sailing, instead of stormy, shipwrecking seas?
Isaiah 55:8 reminds us that God's ways are not our ways. His thoughts and plans are higher than ours; it's tough to figure God out when He doesn't play by our rules or have the same agenda we have. We forget that God sees a much bigger picture.
If we follow Paul's journey, we find God working through the rejection, the trials, the prison time, and the shipwrecks. God used these hardships to position Paul. Not for fame, but to increase the Kingdom of God. Paul witnessed to the Pharisees through his rejection and imprisonment. People saw God's power at work when Paul survived the storms, when the snake bite didn't kill him, and when the jail shook, opening the doors and loosing chains. The Lord used these difficulties so others would witness His power and believe. Paul allowed God to use him as a vessel. He didn't sit on the sidelines, full of self-pity and doubt. Instead, as Acts 16:22-31 tells us, after being stripped, beaten, severely flogged, thrown in the inner cell of a prison and his feet in stocks, Paul prayed and sang hymns to God. Others around him were listening. The power of God came in such a way, that the prison guard begged Paul to tell him, "What must I do to be saved?" He replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus".
God doesn't waste our pain, our rejection or our "shipwrecks." He uses them to bring about His plan—to position us so that others can see His transforming power at work in our lives and believe in the living God. If that's true, and it is, then our challenge is to rise from the wreckage, like Paul, so that our lives will give testimony that draws others to the Master. Today I will no longer sit on the sidelines of life full of self-pity. I choose to rise, pray and praise, so that God can position me to shine for His glory, and so that others will believe.