Summary: Sermon based on Paul’s Conversion on the Road to Damascus and Simon Peter and the disciples at the Sea of Galillee Jesus’ 3rd appearance
Lord, what do you want me to do? How often we have spoken these very words. How often I have prayed this prayer.
Today we live in a world that seems to leave us so helpless in the midst of crisis. Whether it comes in the form of World events such as war and famine in Africa, to the tragedy on a college campus, to the tragedies that face us right here in our communities. We find ourselves asking, “Lord, what do you want me to do?”
Paul asked this very question of Jesus on the road to Damascus. This dialogue can be found in the King James and New King James Versions. The New Revised Standard Version, as well as other versions condenses this conversation to Jesus’ command for Paul. Listen to these two versions: Here is the NRSV version.
“But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”(Acts 9:6 NRSV)
Now here is the NKJV version of Acts 9:6
So he, trembling and astonished, said, "Lord, what do You want me to do?’’ And the Lord said to him, "Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’’
Now why am I so concerned about the wording? Mainly because I want you to be able to see where I am coming from. I am not sure why it was left out. I guess it was so that it would be a more condensed and shorter reading. It should be noted that Paul does recount this himself in Acts 22:10.
I feel personally it is a very important part of the story of Paul’s conversion. This is the very moment that Paul gives of himself to serve Jesus Christ. Remember for years Paul thought he was doing the Lord’s work. For years, experts guess about 6 to 10 years, he had lead the charge to persecute the new community of believers. He had successfully scattered the church in Jerusalem all in the name of God.
He felt he was doing God’s will. However, on that road he was brought to realization he wasn’t doing the will of the Lord. And through that meeting on the Damascus road Paul turned his service over to the Lord.
Sometimes, it can be so easy to feel that we are doing the work of the Lord, when what we are really doing is trying to satisfy our own desires. For example, in the case of Paul, he was being the judge, the jury and the executioner. He was not seeking God’s will, but instead was carrying out what he (Paul) thought was best and what he (Paul) felt God wanted. He never consulted God on the issue; he just took the matter into his own hands.
Though it may not be to the extreme of what Paul did, Christians today still do this. As I just said, sometimes it is much easier to just try to do things on our own, instead of letting go and allowing God to have control of it.
When this happens, it is time for renewal in Christ. This is the time when a person needs to go to God in prayer and let Christ lead their lives. However, the person MUST let Christ have control of it. You see, prayer is nothing and spiritual renewal is nothing if you do not let Christ lead your life.
In today’s scripture readings both from Acts chapter 9 and the Gospel According to John chapter 21, we have great examples of this. Think back on the Gospel reading for a moment. This is much more than a fishing story. You have the disciples, here at a crossroads in their lives. They had no idea what they were to do with their lives, Jesus was kind of in and out. Simon Peter had no idea what to do, so he turned to the only thing he knew how, fishing.
Now we know from our reading that they did not have much success. In fact, Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel, James and John fished all night and caught absolutely nothing. It wasn’t until Jesus arrived and suggested they fish in another spot that they had success.
What was the difference? Why had it all changed when Jesus showed up? What were the disciples doing that they hadn’t done before?
For one, these disciples chose not to follow Jesus’ instructions. In Matthew it is recorded in Chapter 28 they were commanded by Jesus to go and wait for him in the mountains near the Sea of Galilee. Obviously, fishing on the lake is not waiting in the mountains for him to return.
You see, again Simon Peter felt he knew better than Jesus as to what was best for him. Most likely, he felt that it was probably better for him to return to his former occupation than begin his life in the mission field as a true missionary rather than a disciple.