Summary: Our zeal and God's timing are often very different things. God knows when, where and how to make us ready for and get us started in our ministry so that we can experience our full potential.
Somewhat funny series of commercials that ask the same familiar question: ‘Do you wanna get away’. People find themselves in awkward or embarrassing situations and need to exit them as quickly as possible. Saul, soon to be Paul, was in just such a moment in his own life.
One of the unique things about the life of Paul is that right after his dramatic conversion that he went to spend 3 years in Arabia. Why?
a) FEAR of him that was felt by man which was still there when he eventually returned
b) SAFETY for him from those who would now want to kill him because of his new zeal for the gospel.
c) TIME to fully understand the complete message and to become able to truly communicate it.
Paul conversion experience had left him initially blind. After three days he was healed and immediately began to try to witness. It ended up that he had to be let out of the city by a basket from the wall in order to protect his safety. Paul had an amazing zeal but God’s timing and his were not the same.
1970’s: Three famous singers came to faith in Christ but eventually disappeared from the Christian scene: B.J. Thomas, Bob Dylan and Dion Diamucci. Each of them wanted to immediately sing and tour for Jesus. As a new Christian I went to a concert Oral Roberts Univ. in Tulsa to see B.J. Thomas headline with the Imperials and a new singer named Amy Grant as opening acts. The Imperials did an amazing job setting a spiritual tone before B.J. Thomas came out. When he did come out it was not a very good situation. B.J. Thomas came out to do a show that started with his more famous secular stuff and then move through testimony and singing to a more Christian message. That was never given time to develop as you would have thought that crowd was yelling, ‘Crucify him, crucify him’. The audience at Oral Roberts University began shouting over B.J. Thomas singing, ‘You better take care of business Mr. Businessman’, ‘SING CHRISTIAN SONGS….SING CHRISTIAN SONGS!!!’ As a new believer I did not understand it all but knew it was a horrible spirit of self righteousness and was very wrong. Thomas put out a couple of albums and after awhile I never noticed him doing any more Christian concerts.
Dylan and Dimucci went through similar things and eventually stopped putting out albums and touring. Dimucci(also saw and loved his albums) eventually went back to Catholicism. I saw him interviewed on a Catholic TV show and he was asked why. ‘Because of all the divisions in the church and with Catholicism you have one guy in charge’.
As an older, more mature believer I now look at their situations and believe that because of their earlier popularity they were rushed into the forefront before they were ready for the ugliness they would encounter in the lives of some who live a pretty carnal Christian faith.
My own ARABIA experience was that the first two churches I served in over a 71/2 year period were almost conflict free. Nobody complained or murmured about anything that I can remember. But I can remember hearing my seminary friends describing the headaches they constantly had with members and thinking there must be something wrong with them because our first two churches had nurtured us in an amazingly loving way. I would eventually find out I was not the norm but also felt God had given us an environment to grow and develop before we would encounter the more ugly stuff.
During my last semester of seminary I met with a pastor of a larger church to go thru ministry evaluations. His church ran around 400-500. When I drove up and saw the large building I felt somewhat jealous as my seminary church only ran around 100 and was in a much smaller setting. Lynne and I drove 50 miles each way every Sunday and Wednesday to get there each week. He asked me about my ministry and I described the church as a ‘little white building at the top of the hill in the center of town’. I was surprised to see his reaction and realized he had some jealously of me and said, ‘I sometimes would love to be back at a church like that’. It is not about the size but about the heart for God that I think makes the difference.
•I think God knew what Paul needed more than he did so that Paul would not become a casualty in the faith but be used to his fullest potential.
I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus. 18 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord's brother. 20 (Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.) 21Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; 23 but only, they kept hearing, "He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy." 24 And they were glorifying God because of me