Sometimes God’s revelations are depressing. In the last week or so, He revealed to me the bottom line of a lifetime problem that I’ve only half-heartedly tried to overcome. At first I was dismayed, but slightly glad that I knew why this happened. After a few days of despondency, Chambers pointed to something that lifted my spirits.
He discusses the conversion of Saul to the Apostle Paul, beginning with this verse about Jesus encountering this man on the road to Damascus . . .
And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. (Acts 9:5)
Before anything else, this reminds me that my own conversion was similar to Paul’s. I didn’t become a church planter or leader like him, nor was I persecuting Christians, but I was going the wrong direction when Christ confronted me with a bright light and changed my life.
As Chambers says, redemption is a miracle. He also points out the importance of obedience. I might try to do what God says and could appear very religious, but that is not Christianity. If my master is not Jesus Christ, then I am a slave to something or someone else.
This reminder of Paul’s conversion prompted me to think about other things in this man’s life. For instance, he had severely persecuted Christians before his conversion. This could have been a source of long-lasting sorrow, but he repented and did not let his past hold him back; he moved forward. This attitude became part of his understanding. Later, nearer the end of his life, he said,
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12–14)
Whatever happens, pressing on is vital. I am sad that time, energy, and life has been wasted, but this is what it is. God wants me to deal with the issues He has revealed, then press on toward the goal of being like Jesus.
Paul was well aware of the kind of person he had been, but he also understood that without God’s revelation, he would not have realized it . . .
“I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief . . . .” (1 Timothy 1:12–13)
I need to be thankful, not sad. Ignorance and unbelief is what it is also. I’ve been depressed that it took so long to realize it, but that is not the point. The point is that God lifts ignorance and unbelief. He forgives and is merciful. Would I prefer that He let me go on in my ignorance? Not at all!
May the Lord have mercy on each one of us — whether or not we realize how much we need it!