Do you know Saul?


But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.
(Acts 8:3 NASB)
Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest,
(Acts 9:1 NASB)
and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
(Acts 9:2 NASB)
and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”
(Acts 9:20 NASB)



Saul was a very capable and successful man who worked hard at everything he did. During the period of time when he was persecuting the new believers, he did it with everything he had. He breathed "threats and murder" against the disciples. He believed they were wrong and he was going to destroy them! He was very well connected politically and he had authority from the High Priest! He even got letters in writing to take with him and prove who he was. But when he met Jesus, everything changed and all the strength and the energy which he had to destroy the followers of the The Way, went into preaching about the Messiah. All the skills, abilities and talents went into use to proclaim that Jesus was the Son of God.



Last week I was in Moscow and on Thursday afternoon we had the privilege of having tea with our former neighbor. Timofei and Larisa lived next door to us for nearly nine years. They became our friends, they watched out for our children, and they taught us much about Russia. Along the way Timofei gave his life to Jesus Christ and has now gone on to be with Jesus. Larisa reminisced about the changes in Timofei, the man he became in the final years of his life. She brought out a picture album and it was about 3/4 full of old pictures from his years of service to the Soviet government as a scientist and as secretary of the Communist party. These were old black and white photos -- and included he and his wife and their children as they grew up. But at the back of the album, the last quarter, it was filled with color photos -- nearly all of them of his new life. They were pictures of him at church, with his church friends, and sitting around our table eating meals with us. And while he was aging, there was a twinkle in his eye that was even evident in the pictures. God had transformed him.

One day Timofei said to us, "I was Saul, but now I am Paul." At first we didn't understand, but he went on to explain that one of his responsibilities as the secretary for the Moscow Communist party was to determine the fate of those who had gone to church and worshiped on Sundays. Some he might send to Siberia (and possibly their death), others he persecuted by sending the KGB after them, or restricting their freedoms or simply making life miserable. He never thought that Jesus could forgive him for the things he had done, until one day he asked Jesus to set him free -- and he did. And last week, we sat around his dining room table, rejoicing and thanking God for what he had done for Timofei.

After Timofei had been walking with the Lord for quite a while his old communist friends began to be concerned. They thought he'd lost his mind so they made an appointment for him to meet with an Orthodox Priest. They thought surely a priest could knock some sense into him and get him away from that Protestant sect! I will never forget the day he returned from meeting with the priest. He came to talk to us -- that glint in his eye. He said that his friends thought that the priest could talk him out of the new life he had embraced. He said, "I spoke from the Word so much that the priest didn't know what to say." Timofei had preached the Word to the priest and left the priest simply dumbfounded. Timofei took all of his skills and abilities and threw them into following Jesus and learning everything he could about Him!

Many of us may know a Saul. Maybe they're not out actively persecuting Christians, but maybe they are taking a huge talent and using it to their own glory, or for personal power or political gain. What would happen if God would get a hold of them? What if we really allowed God to get a hold of us? I am convicted today and realize that every single thing I have is from God -- and it's not for my own personal benefit, but for his benefit. Therefore I must use every opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ to a world that so desperately needs to know that Jesus is the answer. Saul immediately went out and proclaimed Jesus! That is the call to each of us today. Leave the past behind and move into the new future which God has prepared, where we are willing to proclaim Jesus in all the seasons of life!



Lord, I need you to help me to be focused on you day in and day out. Please, use me for your kingdom's purposes. Amen.


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