Summary: The Lord is one of long suffering patience
PROPOSITION: The Lord is one of long suffering patience.
OBJECTIVE: To experience the patience of God.
The story of the conversion of Saul has been told through the centuries of the Christian church. Luke found this so important, he gives an entire chapter to it. This conversion makes great commentary from the pulpit. However, unless this conversion is likened to the lost within the church, the story is of little value.
There are several important issues in this story. First of all is the long suffering patience of the Lord. Another is the fact that there are some that attend church, are members of a Christian church, are fully confident of their salvation, and are as spiritually lost as a rock. In chapter 9, there is a joining of these thoughts, the long suffering patience of God and of some who are faithful to the church and yet are spiritually lost.
I believe that the one who we will later recognize as the Great Apostle had an existing relationship with Jesus before he left Jerusalem on the 150 mile journey to Damascus. I believe Jesus and Saul to be about the same age. Being the pious Jew, Saul would attend synagogue and Temple as often as required. We know that it was the custom of Jesus to attend synagogue.
We have reference that Jesus participated in the Passover when he became separated from his parents at the age of 12. Although Jesus’ life is silent for the next 18 years, it follows that he would have gone to Jerusalem and celebrated Passover and other festivals at the Temple. Young Saul would have been there also.
We know that Saul was a student of the Torah. We know that following his introduction by John the Baptizer, Jesus went around the countryside teaching and preaching. Saul would have been very aware of that.
The questions remain that will never be answered this side of Paradise. How long had Saul known of Jesus? Had they passed one another in the Temple? Had they even spoken or taken part in a debate while at Temple? Had Saul actually heard Jesus in person teaching and preaching?
The importance of these questions lends itself to you. How long have you known of Jesus? Have you passed the Spirit of Jesus in the Church. Have you actually heard someone teaching or preaching about Jesus?
How long have you know of the saving relationship available to you through Jesus Christ, and how long have you avoided this relationship? I submit to you that Saul was aware of this relationship, and that he avoided this relationship for several years. Finally at the time of his conversion, it is not that Saul went looking for Jesus, but that Jesus was looking for Saul.
As we read the scripture account of this relationship, we understand that Jesus likened Saul to a lively and recalcitrant young bullock, and himself as a farmer using goads to break him in. In Acts 26:14 we read of Paul’s witness to his conversion experience. Paul said that
When we had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
Jesus was pursuing Saul, prodding and pricking him, which was hard for Saul to resist. I say to you that there are some in this community, and perhaps some in this fellowship concerning the words of Jesus, “it is hard for you to kick against the goads,” are quite personal. Although these goads are not specifically identified in the Bible, the New Testament gives some hints as to what they may be.
One of the goads must be doubt. I believe that with the wisdom of the young Saul, there were doubts in his mind as to how the scripture and his understanding of it came together. There were too many loose ends for Saul to have complete confidence in what he believed to be true.
When one doubts the truth for a long period of time, the psyche tends to become angry. In the references to Saul, we picture an angry young man. Acts 9:1 tells of “Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord,” indicating a very angry person.
There were doubts in his mind. Everything was not falling together as he supposed they should. And he was angry. The more he thought about his relationship with God, the more it would not fall together. And the more it would not fall together, the more angry he got.
I have met people just like this. When the scripture does not fit together the way they want it to, they get angry. The first thing is that they are the repository of all knowledge, and those who do not agree are all wrong. They fear what others may say because it certainly will challenge them to come to grips with what they believe. The longer it goes, the more angry they get until they absolutely explode from within.