Summary: God uses a variety of wake up calls to get our attention. It is up to us to respond to them.

Iliff and Saltillo UM Churches

April 25, 2004

Dr. Marilyn S. Murphree

“Waking Up to Your Wake Up Call”

Acts 9:1-6

INTRODUCTION: Story: A couple was staying at a small motel in rural Georgia. The wife woke up first and began packing, getting dressed and taking things to the car while her husband snoozed away.

“Get up,” she said. “I’m taking some things to the car and I swear if you’re not up when I get back, you’ll regret it.” As she stepped out, the husband got up.

Meanwhile, outside, the wife put her things in the car and went back to the room. Only one problem--she went to the wrong room. She opened the unlocked door to see a man snoring away.

“I SAID GET UP!” she shouted. Then at once she realized that she was in the wrong room and turned around red as a beet and slammed the door.

The dazed man inside rubbed the sleep from his eyes and said, “Man, that’s what I call a wake-up service!”

Wake up calls come to each one of us at various times in our life for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they alert us that we are destroying our life through a rebellious and irresponsible lifestyle. Others alert us to destructive habits that will eventually rob us of our health. Some are calls from God to turn our life around and start living a different way.

Wake up calls come in many forms--some gradually leading up to them over a long period of time and others appear seemingly out of nowhere during a crisis in our life. It is important to listen to wake up calls.

Today’s scripture gives us an example of a man who had been around “religion” for a long time, yet his life had not yet been changed by the “living Christ.” Saul of Tarsus was a very “religious” man who had the best education under the teacher Gamaliel, the best at the time. He was a good Pharisee who knew the scriptures well. He kept the Jewish law and traditions to the letter but he sincerely believed that the new Christianity was dangerous to Judaism. He hated the Christian faith and did everything he could do to stamp it out. He persecuted believers without mercy. Not only was he out to hurt them, but he was out to kill them. Chapter 8 tells us that he was present when Stephen was killed. Verse 1 says, “And Saul was there, giving approval to [Stephen’s] death. Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house to house, he dragged out men and women and put them into prison.

Today’s scripture opens by saying, “Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.” It was time for a WAKE UP CALL.

Sometimes we think that some people are beyond the reach of God and that nothing can change them for the better. Sometimes we think that about ourselves as well. We say, “This is just the way I am. I have always been this way. My sins are too big for God to forgive. I came from a bad neighborhood, I came from a bad family background. I have heard the wake up call, but nothing is going to change.”

Let’s see what we can get out of today’s scripture that will apply to us today.

1. Immune to the Gospel: Saul of Tarsus seemed immune to the gospel even though he had heard it. He was a prideful Pharisee. He heard the message Stephen gave before he died. But Saul was self satisfied with his religion. The message of the cross was offensive to him. He thought he didn’t need it, and he did everything he could do to keep this message from spreading. He thought he was doing God a favor by thinking this way and that God would commend him for his actions against the early believers. Despite his zeal and his sense of doing God’s will, he was under God’s rebuke. His thinking was totally wrong.

We often are like Saul of Tarsus in many ways--maybe we do not do such drastic things as he did to harm Christians but we also too often make up our own rules and justify ourselves in our sins. We say, “I don’t see why I have to go to church, I don’t see why I have to receive Jesus as my Savior, I don’t even need a Savior. I can save myself. I live as good a life as “so called Christians.”

Saul of Tarsus did the very same thing--he justified his actions and in his mind he was doing what he thought pleased God. He was getting it completely wrong. He put the blame on others.

STORY: One night at an economy motel, a man ordered a 6:00 a.m. wake up call. The next morning the man woke up before 6:00 but the phone did not ring until 6:30.

“Good morning,” a young man said sheepishly. “This is your wake up call.”

Annoyed, the man let the motel worker have it. “You were supposed to call me at 6:00 a.m. What if I had a million-dollar deal to close this morning, and your oversight made me miss out on it?”

“Well, sir,” the desk clerk quickly replied, “if you had a million-dollar deal to close, you wouldn’t be staying in this motel!”

Are we living the same way? We make up our own rules and blame others when things don’t work out right for us. But it only leads us on a downward spiral farther and farther away from God? Was there hope for Saul of Tarsus? Many would have written him and off and said, “No way can he change. He’s been this way too long.”

John Wesley speaks of the “prevenient grace of God” that goes before us from the time of our baptism that seeks to draw us to know God long before we even realize it. The Holy Spirit begins to open our eyes and draw us to become receptive to spiritual things. Sometimes years go by and then it happens. Although Saul seemed to be immune to the good news and self satisfied in his own way of thinking, God broke into his life and stopped him right in his tracks.

He is able to break into our lives whenever and wherever we are as well. How did the Lord first get your attention? What kind of a wake up call does He use to get your attention?

2. A Light and a Voice: That day while Saul was on his way to hunt down the believers, he, himself, was arrested by the very presence of God. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground struck by a sense of his unworthiness and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me” (verse 3).

From his religious training, he knew that a LIGHT and A VOICE signified divine presence. He didn’t know WHO was speaking to him although the term LORD was meant as a term of respect. The voice repeated his name twice--”Saul, Saul”--signifies that he should listen. At that time it was common for a person to be addressed by the REPETITION of his name. It was an important message that he should be alert to. It was his wake call that day.

The Message Bible says it this way, “Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?”

Another translation says, “Saul, Saul why are you doing things against me?” The NIV says, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”

Saul answers and asks, “Who are you? Who’s talking to me?”

“I am Jesus the one you’re hunting down” (Message). He thought, “how could that be? I’m defending God’s laws and God should be pleased. I’m doing everything I know to do to please God.”

Jesus said, “I am alive and associated with God the Father whom Israel worships.” If this were true then Saul had to revise his thinking. Jesus was not an impostor but he really did fulfill prophecy. Jesus’ resurrection confirmed Him as the nation’s Messiah and Lord.

Does he believe it or not? Here he had been persecuting the risen Christ himself. Does he ignore the wake up call? Or does he take heed to it? What would you have done? Saul was on a mission for God. Now, his plans have been dashed to pieces by this new information.

What do you do about changes to your plans? Do you resent God messing up your plans? How do you handle your wake up calls? Some people drown them out by alcohol and drug abuse, some people drown them out by packing their days and nights with busyness so there is no way to respond--can’t pack in another thing. Can’t hear you Lord. To busy, too confused, too out of it.

3. A Mission to Carry Out for Christ: That day Saul listen to the wake up call. He didn’t doze off again. He was wide awake.

Story: A computer tech support person was talking on the phone to a long haul truck driver. While waiting for his computer to reboot, the man told the tech support person he had been driving for 25 years.

The tech support person said, “I’d love to drive a big rig, but I’d worry about falling asleep at the wheel.”

“Here’s a tip to stay awake,” the driver responded. “Put a $100.00 bill in your left hand and hold it out the window.”

Saul of Tarsus was stopped in his tracks for a reason. He was being called by Jesus Himself to take the message to the Gentiles. He wasn’t going to doze off again. He could have rejected the wake up call. But he wasn’t going to. We have been given the choice too. Do we go God’s way or do we say, “No, I have my own plans.” What happens when we go our own selfish way?

In the King James version verse 5 adds this sentence. “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks...” The illustration given here is that the ox only drives the goad deeper by kicking against it. Trying to crush the gospel only hurts himself more.

Scripture says in Proverbs 13:15, “the way of transgressors is hard.”

But when we listen to God’s wake up call and do what He asking us to do, we find out that His way is far better than our own.

Isaiah 55:8, 9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts. Neither are your ways my ways declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

CONCLUSION: Waking up to your wake up Call. What does it mean for you today? Are you still pressing the Snooze Alarm? Have you ignored it completely or have you responded to what God is trying to say to you today?

Let us Pray: