By Pete Heiniger | February 12, 2018
If you’ve never had the opportunity, then I encourage you to open the book of Acts and read the conversion of Saul…who God changes his life including his name…to Paul.
Paul is on his way to Damascus to imprison and persecute Christians. The thing is, he truly believes he is doing the work that God has for him. He believes he is serving God by doing this.
But, on the way to Damascus, Paul is blinded by a bright light and confronted by Jesus himself. Paul then goes to Damascus and meets a man who shares the good news of Jesus, heals his blindness, and then tells him to get baptized.
If you’re not careful, though, you might miss one of the most important phrases in the Bible! Jesus, when he confronts Paul, says: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
Some of you are like, “Pete, I’ve heard that story and those words of Jesus a bazillion times. I don’t understand what’s so earth shattering about them.”
So, let me explain. Many of you have experienced and may now be experiencing some very difficult struggles. I have a close friend of mine who has been suffering for a few years with pain and exhaustion, but cannot figure out what is going on. Doctors can’t diagnose the issue. Just when one medication seems to be working, something will take a turn and it stops working. Imagine how that feels…day after day…month after month…year after year.
Okay hold that feeling – and imagine where they see God in that struggle. My friend – and even me as I watch her go through it – see God up in the heavens looking down on her…and we’re left without any way to know why God is allowing it to happen.
But, that’s where we are wrong. Let’s go back to Jesus’ words now. When Paul was whipping, beating, imprisoning, and stoning Christians…and he thought he was doing it for God….Jesus comes in and says NO – but what else does he say? Jesus says that each time Paul has done this…he has done this to Jesus. In other words, Jesus was living out the persecution with the Christians. He wasn’t off on some cloud watching it happen. He was there, feeling it, living it…so much so that he asks Paul: “Why are you persecuting me?”
Similarly, Jesus said in the gospels – “When I was hungry you gave me food…thirsty you gave me drink…” But, the people he spoke to – said “Lord, when did we do that for you?” Jesus replied: “When you did it to the least of these, you did it to me!”
So, Jesus’ words need to give us hope and joy…because it means that my Savior…my leader….my God…is right there with me in my suffering…in my struggle. That means that as I watch my friend go through this…I know that she is not alone….Jesus is right in there with her…he is experiencing it as she does. That’s someone I want to follow. That’s someone I’d give my life for…I’d fight in battle for.
Paul was so impacted by that comment by Jesus that all of his writings have the words “In Christ” repeated all over them. He saw that Jesus is in us…in all our struggle. We are clothed with Christ…
Next time you go through tough, tough times…please remember Jesus is with you experiencing it with you. He feels what you feel…he knows your pain and struggle. He’s not on some beach sipping rum drinks…he’s right with you.