The Most Famous Conversion Ever


            “While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority from the chief priests, at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me.  And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?  It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’

            “So I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’  And he said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.  I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in me’” (Acts 26: 12-18.)


            Paul (formerly known as Saul) is before Herod Agrippa recounting the testimony of his conversion many years earlier.  His recounting of the event begins with ‘while thus occupied.’  Occupied with what one might ask.  Paul was a Jewish Zealot who was given the task of persecuting any Jews who professed to believe in the resurrected Jesus Christ.  He had been going from city to city putting down the Christian movement by any means necessary, having been given the authority of the Sanhedrin (The Jewish Counsel.)

            He tells about how Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and called him Saul, which was his name prior to being converted.  Jesus asked him why he was persecuting him, and then added the statement, ‘it is hard for you to kick against the goads.’  What is a goad?  A goad was a tool used to stop oxen from trying to kick themselves free of the heavy plows they pulled behind them.  The goads consisted of sharpened metal pieces attached to the plows that would stab the ox in the feet if it kicked at the plow with its hind legs.  The harder the ox kicked, the more pain it would feel.  Apparently Paul had been desperately trying to kick himself free from believing in the risen Lord, but it had been causing him pain, just like the oxen who desired to be freed from pulling their plows. 

            There was a purpose for the meeting between Jesus and Paul.  Jesus gave him a command.  He told him to witness and testify about their meeting to the gentiles (a gentile is anyone who is not Jewish.)  Paul saw the gentiles as being inferior.  He now had the authority of God, and his new task was to bring the gospel message to them.  God’s desire was to reconcile all people to Himself; not just the Jews.  God’s decision to choose Paul for this important mission reveals to us something about God.  He chose a murderer, full of hatred toward His son to be one of the greatest witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  A man killing Christians becomes one of their leaders.   Paul then changes his name from Saul to Paul to symbolize his conversion from a murderer to a messenger of life; he went on to write the majority of the letters in the New Testament.  God used Paul to bring his message of reconciliation to much of the ancient world.  When God does something he makes sure to use people in a way that defies human understanding; He completes His work often with ‘no-bodies;’ with ‘throw-a-ways;’ with ‘cast-offs,’ so that there is never any confusion as to who gets the credit for the miracles.

            Many of you remember a little boy named David.  In the Old Testament, the philistines and Israelites had come into formation and were getting ready to do battle.  A giant named Goliath stood taunting the Israelites, asking them to send warriors to fight him in the open plain that separated the two armies.  David, a little boy, having faith in God, went out to meet him with nothing more than a sling and some rocks.  Goliath laughed and then came at David, and with one shot from the sling he struck Goliath in the head, and killed him.  Why did God use a boy to defeat a giant?  So that everyone would know that it wasn’t a boy that killed Goliath, and it wasn’t a Rock that killed him.  Goliath didn’t make a mistake and trip and fall, and it wasn’t luck either.  He used a boy so everyone would see it was God who killed the giant.  God used Paul because outside of God’s divine intervention there is no way a man who was killing Christians would suddenly become one of them.

            Today, you may be a person who says, “How can God use me?” or perhaps, “Why would God use me?”  A better question is, “when will God use me?”  Humans don’t do miracles; they have to be willing to let God use them to perform His miracles.  Has God performed a miracle in your life, like he did in Paul’s life?  If He hasn’t, you have that chance right now.  If you are willing to stop ‘kicking against the goads’ God is reaching out to you; if you are willing to receive His call and carry His message to those he sends you too.  Asking God to be the Lord of your life is very easy.  Go in to a quiet place and say, “Father, I want you to be the Lord of my life.  I believe that you died for me.  I believe that you rose from the dead, and I believe that you are coming again.  I want eternal life, and I want to be a part of your kingdom.  I ask you give me your Holy Spirit now.  Come in to my heart, and come in to my life; in Jesus Christ’s name, amen.”  If you prayed this prayer, the angels are rejoicing in heaven for the decision you made.  You now have a future and a hope, and the miracle has only just begun.

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