Summary: This sermon is based on Chapter 5 of Charles Swindoll's book, Paul: A Man of Grace and Grit. It follows the events of Paul's life in Acts 9:20-31.
A. A certain Boy Scout master was determined that his Scouts would be ready for the next Court of Honor.
1. So he ordered that each of them be ready to report about a good deed they had done before the next meeting.
2. When they gathered at the next meeting, the Scout master asked the first boy, “What was your good deed?”
a. The first Scout replied, “I helped a little old lady cross the street.”
3. “Very good,” said the Scout master, and he turned to the next boy and asked, “What was your good deed?”
a. The second Scout replied, “I helped him help the little old lady across the street.”
4. “I see,” said the Scout master, and he turned to the next boy and asked, “What was your good deed?”
a. The third Scout replied, “I helped those two help the little old lady across the street.”
5. Frowning now, the Scout master asked the fourth boy what his good deed was.
a. The fourth Scout replied, “I helped the other three guys help the old lady across the street.”
6. “Now, look here,” the Scout master said sternly. “Why did it take four boys to help one little old lady across the street?”
a. The fourth Scout replied, “Because she didn’t want to cross the street.”
B. Are you someone who easily accepts the help of others?
1. Some of us are willing to help others, but we are unwilling to receive help – does that describe you?
2. In some respects, America was built on an independent spirit.
a. Some of us had it drilled into us that we should pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, and to never depend on anyone for anything.
b. If this kind of attitude is taken to an extreme, it can have a devastating impact on individuals and on society.
3. Truth is: that kind of philosophy is not taught or supported in the Bible.
a. In reality, every single one of us not only need the Lord, we need each other.
b. God created us for dependence, not for independence.
4. Sometimes people justify their independence by saying, “Well, you know, the Bible says God helps those who help themselves.”
a. But guess what? The Bible does not say that anywhere!
b. In fact, the Bible teaches the opposite truth.
c. God waits to assist those who finally come to the point in their lives where they cannot help themselves, and they willingly surrender themselves to a loving God.
C. When I think of Saul of Tarsus, I picture him as someone who was pretty self-sufficient.
1. I picture Saul being someone with an independent spirit…someone who doesn’t need anyone.
2. Consider the fact that Saul wasn’t married, and would never get married.
3. So when Saul faced the risen Christ and became a Christian, one of the things he likely needed to learn was humble dependence.
4. When Saul left the solitude of Arabia and returned to Damascus, the Lord had already begun to work on his stubborn will, and his independent spirit.
5. But unlike his sudden conversion, such a transformation would not be instantaneous.
6. Instead, I believe that Saul learned humble dependence through a series of circumstances.
7. As we will witness, these circumstances forced him to humbly depend on God and on others.
I. The Story
A. Let’s resume Saul’s story in Acts 9:20-25.
20 Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn't he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn't he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.
23 After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him, 24 but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. 25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall. (Acts 9:20-25)
1. The narrative here in Acts 9 makes it look like there is a seamless transition between verses 19 and 20, but as we noticed in our last sermon in the series, in Galatians 1:17-18, Paul says that after his conversion, he went immediately to Arabia and later returned to Damascus, and that it wasn’t until three years later that he went to Jerusalem.
2. So here in verse 20 and following, Saul has returned to Damascus, the place of his conversion, and he is amazing people with his preaching about Jesus in the synagogues of Damascus.