This S.O.A.P. note is on Acts 9:1-25, the story of Saul’s conversion.
In this passage Saul is on his way to Damascus to persecute the early church. Suddenly a light from heaven shines upon him and a voice identifying itself as Jesus asks him why he is persecuting the church. Saul is blinded by the heavenly light. But Jesus tells him to go on to Damascus and do as instructed. When Saul arrives in Damascus, God instructs a believer, named Ananias, to restore Saul’s sight.
Ananias is reluctant because Saul has previously imprisoned many Christians. It is God’s response to Ananias that I chose to focus on for this particular Bible journal entry.
But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel.Acts 9:15 (NLT)
In this verse, God tells Ananias that Saul has a very special destiny. He is to preach to the Gentiles.
I think the main reason Jesus chose Saul, who would become better known as the Apostle Paul, was because he was the absolute best man for the job. It seems that the particular destiny of Paul hinged on the fact that he differed from the first disciples in several very important ways.
Paul was a Roman citizen. He could read and write in both Hebrew and Greek. His Greek was so eloquent that his letters contain some of the most beautiful passages in the entire Bible.
Interestingly, Paul was also a Pharisee with a clear understanding of Jewish Scripture and Law. This gave him both authority and confidence.
But it wasn’t just about experience because Paul had important inborn gifts as well. He was articulate, analytical and a truly gifted writer. He was also a natural leader, able to take charge of situations, even when he was imprisoned.
Like the other disciples, Paul was committed. He was as zealous in promoting the church as he once was in persecuting it. When all was said and done, he had delivered a message that was instrumental in bringing Christianity to the attention of the entire world.
There is no doubt that we owe Paul a tremendous debt. But I can’t help wondering how he felt about the commission he was given. As his ministry took him further and further into the land and hearts of the Gentiles, did he ever wish for the same success back home with his own people?
Possibly. But Paul embraced the special calling God had given him anyway.
I believe that all Christians are called to embrace their God-given calling in the same way. As with Paul, this may mean reaching out to others who are chosen, not by us, but by God.
And this is as it should be. As Jesus made clear when He said to God:
I have revealed You to the ones You gave me from this world. They were always Yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept Your word.John 17:6 (NLT)
We all have very different calls on our lives. For me that call includes writing. I don’t know who God wants me to reach. It may not be those closest to me but whoever it is, I will do my best to follow God’s lead.
Acts 9:15 reminds us to press on with our own personal calling, trusting that God has specially equipped us for the job.
Sometimes that kind of trust is a stretch but it is by stretching that we grow in faith. And so these words of Paul seem especially appropriate.
…but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching 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
Dear God. Thank You for the upward call You have placed on our lives. Help us to accept it and to act in accord. Thank You for equipping us to do your will. And help us to grow in faith so that we may better serve You. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Please note, now that I’ve returned to the Catholic Church I will be trying out the Lectio Divina format for future scripture posts.