Our Stories Have Significance: Reaching One More, Part 3

Have you ever grown up thinking one thing only to realize later in life that you were utterly wrong? We all think we know the lyrics to that song that’s always on the radio only to be met with strange stares from our friends when we belt it out in the car! Or we think a place from our childhood is ginormous and wondrous, but upon visiting in our adult years, we realize that it was really us who had ginormous imaginations and an eye open to wonder.

And then there’s the sadder versions of this realization. Something happens at work and it finally clicks that we are unhappy with our careers and have been unhappy for as long as we remember. We get thrown in the cop car and realize that maybe we shouldn’t have had that last drink before leaving the bar. We wake up one morning and wonder how we grew so far apart from the one we used to love…

Some lessons we learn instantly and others we learn over time. We think that these “experiences” are what shape us into who we are. But in reality, it’s the conflict IN these experiences that shape us and mold us into the men and women we are today. And the Bible is painted with vivid pictures of people, both good and bad, whose lives have been molded by conflict.

One of my favorite stories is the story of Saul.

Saul grew up in a well-to-do family, and in a class-structured society, this not only helped him in the Temple, but it helped him even as a citizen of the state. He considered himself of the most “holy” line; he was a man of honor and deserving of status. He was not only intelligent and articulate, but he had the education to back it up, studying under the most revered teachers of his time. He was named after Israel’s first king, and the stately name was fitting. Saul was being pampered as possibly the next religious leader in a Jewish land longing for redemption from the Roman state that ruled over them.

Saul was the type who would argue with those who disagreed with him. He was NOT afraid of conflict. He was proud, and not just of himself, but of his god. In the midst of his religious revelry, however, he went from serving The Most High God to instead serving the System – what his people called “The Law.” And Saul was so distracted that he missed the fact that Jesus had come and fulfilled the Law and its requirements. Saul stayed his course, not just fighting against God’s people – the church – but actually taking part in the execution of one of its saints.

But luckily, that’s not the end of Saul’s story.

While on the way to further persecute God’s people, Saul was met with a burst of light and sound! And it was amidst that bewilderment and fear that Saul had a realization. He was not only outside of the people of God, but even worse, he was persecuting those who WERE the people of God! Jesus met Saul in a vision while on the road to a city called Damascus, and while it took Saul three days to receive Jesus, it was that moment on the road that changed Saul’s trajectory forever. He was physically and spiritually blinded by this Damascus moment, but once he accepted Jesus, the blindness left him and he could see clearer than he ever had before.

If you heard Saul’s story on the Damascus road without any context, without knowing him or what happened next, it would sound like a tragedy. The newspaper headline would read: “Beloved Scholar and Future High Priest Becomes Delusional, Left Blinded.” And Saul had three days where he was blinded, only left with his thoughts, thinking of how he had gone so far off course from what God intended. Saul didn’t know that from this one moment, Jesus would lead him into a life filled with floggings, beatings, imprisonment, and eventually his own beheading. But even more so, this one moment with Jesus led Saul to a life filled with grace and a life of new meaning.

It still amazes me to think of how I once thought I had it all together… or maybe even better, that at one point in my life I thought I knew everything. And it takes one wrong lyric now to remind me that maybe I still have a little bit more to learn on this green and blue rock. I’m not just amazed at my ignorance, but I’m still amazed by God’s grace and purpose as well.

Maybe you are in the place Saul was before his Damascus road experience, thinking that you have it all together. You’re so busy going with the flow that you haven’t taken the time to see that your stream is leading off a dangerous cliff. Maybe you are in the midst of your shaping moment right now, and you’re left blinded and confused with what the future holds. Maybe you’ve found your purpose, but the new life you’re living is filled with things you weren’t expecting. It’s not as easy as you thought, and you need to be reminded of the love, grace, and purpose you now have with Jesus. Or maybe you’re on the other side of the story, but you’ve forgotten that your story still has significance. Your story can speak into someone who’s still lost – to someone who can’t see how the conflict can be put back together. They’re blinded, and you’re there to lift the veil from their eyes.

Your story has significance. Some will look at your life and where you’ve come from, and they will KNOW that Jesus is the only way you could’ve gotten where you are today… Nothing else makes sense. Or they’ll see the journey you’ve been on, and all they can say is, “How?” That’s when you can point them to that Damascus moment, and they can encounter Jesus for themselves. Take time to remember where you’ve come from. Look and see how you’ve grown. And look to find others that are once where you were, and show them that there’s a greater purpose and a way out of the mess.

 

 

 

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Who Is Your King?

“I remember the sheep crying out that day… Samuel seemed pretty angry. No, I’m not the king; I am just a soldier in the army. But that day, Samuel was infuriated with King Saul. It was as though Saul had done an atrocious act. All he did was take some sheep and oxen. And not only so, but he did it because we, the soldiers, told him to. But Saul always seemed to do that. He always did what we wanted him to, even when it wasn’t the best thing for us. That day, it seemed that he really got himself into a pickle.

There was another moment I remember when we were fighting the Philistines. They had a giant warrior on their side, taller than any man I’ve seen before. This man, Goliath, roared against the people of Israel and against our God… But Saul did nothing. Wouldn’t the king come and stand up for his people and his Lord? Saul himself was a head taller than any other man in Israel – it only made sense. But Saul, again, was cowering with us, the rest of his men.

Then I remember a kid, no older than a young teenager, strut with a righteous anger towards the king. His brother and others were hurling insults behind him, but I could tell it didn’t faze him. This boy went up to King Saul and said he would fight the Philistine giant! I remember standing from afar as David tried on the king’s own armor. But the weight and size was too much for him.

As David walked out onto the battlefield to stand against Goliath the silence seemed to permeate across the field. All the men stayed hidden behind the rocks, in expectancy to flee if things went awry. But with the swing of an arm the giant went tumbling, and moments later his severed head was held up high in the air. At that moment, every Israelite knew that the battle was won for them. I remember running out knowing that the people had gotten something they didn’t deserve: a victory.

I remember deciding that day that though this boy wasn’t the king that the people deserved, he was the one that would be given to them… King David”

“I remember the people crying out that day… Pilate seemed okay with what was happening. ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ echoed eerily in the crowds cries. I was shouting along. No, I’m no one important; I am just a Roman centurion. But that day, the Pharisees and the people seemed to be infuriated with this man called ‘Jesus’ – who they said was the self-acclaimed ‘King of the Jews.’ Jesus hadn’t really done an atrocious act, but the people pleaded regardless. I have to admit, I myself found it a bit humorous.

As I stood outside the city that day, watching this man hanging from a tree, my heart suddenly stopped. I remember him crying out amidst the screams, ‘It is finished.’ At that point the earth shook, and the clouds stirred up in the sky unlike anything I have ever seen before or since. And as this ‘King of the Jews’ took his final breath, I remember being filled with awe at what had taken place. Truly this man was the Son of God.

I don’t deserve the forgiveness of this man who I now call Christ. But I know that this is what grace is all about; my sins deserved death, but my Savior gave me life. He won the victory over sin and death, and all I had to do was receive it.

I decided that day that though this Man on a cross wasn’t the King that the world deserved, He was the King that was given to them… and to me… Jesus Christ.”