Monday, September 29, 2008

Don't Panic (Part 3)

Saul was a really religious guy. Went to the right school. Had the right theology professor. He was tops. Knew the Scriptures – what we call the Old Testament – backwards and forwards. Knew too that this new band of Jesus freaks had to be disbanded before they messed everything up.

So he panicked. He was an unholy terror, throwing rocks at people, going door to door hauling the fool-followers off to prison.

Pain, disaster and destruction, right? Sort of. You see the church folks got wise and got out. They scattered far and wide and everywhere they went they told people about Jesus and the movement grew. Now there were churches in Judea and Samaria. There were churches to the north and south, to the east and west. Certainly not what Saul had had in mind when he started raiding Jesus gatherings, but what he should have expected. You see these people Saul was out to destroy feared God and thus enjoyed his blessing. They feared God and took his blessing wherever they went. The fear of the Lord always produces blessing – for the God-fearers or for those they serve.

So what did Saul do? He got into a real tizzy. He asked for letters to go after the fleeing church. “I’ll show them,” he thought. “You can run, but you can’t hide.”

And on the road to Damascus, his first target city, Jesus showed up in all his glory. Dazzlingly bright light surrounded him. Saul fell to the ground afraid. He was about to get the fear of God.

“Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?” Jesus asked.

“Who are you, Lord,” Saul asked in reply.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” was Jesus’ reply. Then he added, “Get up and go into the city and you will be told what to do.”

Saul obeyed. He was led by the hand into the city, blinded by the light. For three days he fasted and prayed. No food. No drink. Saul was serious about knowing the truth.

Then God sent Ananias, a church of Damascus guy, to him. Ananias wasn’t so sure about this assignment. He’d heard of all the harm Saul had caused in Jerusalem. He knew he was in town to raise cain. But God said, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

So Ananias went. He spoke boldly to Saul. “Brother Saul, the Lord – Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here – has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

And Saul was healed in an instant. He could see again. After a bite to eat, the man headed out on his new mission as God-fearer and everywhere he went he brought blessing. That’s what people with the fear of the Lord in them do. The Gentiles were blessed. Their kings were blessed. The people of Israel were blessed. You and I are blessed today by this fearer of God, his life example and the words the Holy Spirit inspired him to pen speak to us and embolden us to act in the fear of the Lord as he did.

The fear of the Lord always produces blessing.

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