Posts Tagged ‘persecution’

Remember Job? His story probably isn’t that unique

I remember once during prayer group at PCC that my suitemate, Tony Ferguson, gave a devotion for that session. Tony spoke on the Book of Job.

For those who don’t remember Sunday School or who aren’t familiar with the Bible, let me summarize: Job is probably the oldest book in the Old Testament. He was a righteous man who feared God and sacrificed regularly. Satan was convinced that Job’s allegiance to God was because God did nothing but bless Job. God allowed Satan first to kill Job’s children and then to strike Job with physical infirmities. In spite of all the heartache and fierce persecution, Job refused to renounce God and wondered aloud why he was going through such torment. His friends were convinced he had unconfessed sin in his life. God finally tells Job’s friends they were wrong in their assessment, and He tells Job that He (God) is in control and it’s not up to Job to question God’s ways.

While God allows Job to heal and become more prosperous than before (in both material possessions and children), one thing I found odd about this story: God never tells Job of the conversation that took place between Satan and God. It’s safe to assume Job knows by now, since he has been in heaven for about 4,500 years, he probably knows by now.

“Job must have been a remarkable guy if God saw fit to brag about him to Satan,” Tony said.

Tony didn’t know it at the time, but over the next few days he gave me a lot to think about.

God placed Job to the challenge because God knew Job would prevail.

It makes me think that such exchanges and challenges between God and Satan occur regularly. Perhaps Satan might say these things:

“Let me move this man’s wife to fall in love with someone else and ask for a divorce, and he will curse you!”

“Allow me to take away this man’s millions, and he will curse you!”

“Allow me to ruin this man’s career through false accusations, and he will curse you!”

And perhaps the toughest of all:

“Allow me to let this man to be falsely sent to prison, and for him to be brutalized and raped, and he will curse you!”

Whenever we go through trials in our life, whether it’s the ending of a marriage, the losing of wealth, reputation, the endurance of a mountain of physical and emotional pain, maybe it all happened because God bragged about us to Satan and is putting us through a trial to show Satan His sovereignty.

Yes, it’s unpleasant, but as the Book of Job dictates, God puts us through nothing we can’t handle. To backslide and quit the Christian walk is foolish. To commit suicide is even more foolish. Both only will result in one sad accomplishment: a life wasted that could’ve been spent being an enormous blessing of evangelization and encouragement.

If you feel like you are enduring what Job went through, don’t quit.

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Acts 9:1-22: Saul becomes a Christian named Paul

March 26, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve always found Acts 9 to be one of the more fascinating chapters in the Bible as it tells the story about Saul’s unusual conversion. We know from Biblical history and from his subsequent autobiographical snippets that Saul had plenty of head knowledge of God, but not a heart knowledge.

There are countless paths people take to come to a saving knowledge in Jesus Christ. In my 28 years as a Christian, I’ve concluded that God fishes for souls the way we fish for, well, fish. Each type of fish requires a different bait, and even the same fish will require different types of bait depending on the time of day, the time of year, the water conditions, and so on. We don’t all walk down the aisle during the invitation.

One minister, a former practitioner of the Amish faith, recalled stopping plowing in the middle of a field to pray the sinner’s prayer.

For me, it came from attending services at Kings Row Baptist Church in Alvin, Texas in 1981. One night, in October that year, the pastor came to our house and I prayed the sinner’s prayer. Based on the teachings I’d heard, I knew it was the right decision.

One guy I knew at Pensacola Christian College, had a different path. Ray was into Christian rock music (which, of course, was frowned upon by PCC) and he told me he’d been saved a few years earlier at a Petra concert.

Yes, that same Petra rock band that so many independent, fundamental Baptist ministers decried (one even saying during a sermon that Petra was “going to hell”).

One high school friend told me of how he went to a church because he heard lots of pretty girls would be there. He became a Christian, and I could tell by his walk it was legitimate.

And then there was Saul.

Fresh off tormenting Christians and on his way to Damascus to apprehend Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem, Saul fell victim of a witnessing session–by Jesus Himself.

A bright light came from heaven, Saul fell and heard someone saying, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”

Saul, no doubt, was very overcome and flabbergasted by this vision and asked, naturally, who they were.

The answer in verse 5: “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: [it is] hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”

There was no mistaking who this was. Saul, I’m guessing, was by this time a very well-read scholar of Jewish law, a rabbi. He had to have known who Jesus was and probably remembered Jesus’ earthly ministry extremely well. As for “kicking against the pricks”, I suspect this meant that Saul was rebelling against God despite all the clear, insurmountable evidence of Jesus and who He is and who Christians are.

Jesus then told Paul to go to Damascus. Initially he could see but then his sight was gone for three days as they continued their travel. He also for that period of time was without anything to eat or drink.

God then spoke in a vision to a Christian in Damascus named Ananias and told him to meet Saul of Tarsus at the street called Straight and that Saul would be praying. Ananias was to lay his hands on Paul so he might receive his sight.

Naturally, Ananias was reluctant. God, you do realize who Saul is, right? He’s killed a lot of Christians and is a wicked man! he probably told God.

God then explained to Ananias that Saul was a “chosen vessel” of God to bear God’s name before the Gentiles, kings and even the Jewish people. Furthermore, God said, Saul would suffer many great things for God.

So, Ananias went, laid his hands on Saul, and prayed for him to receive his sight and receive the Holy Spirit. Both immediately happened. Verse 18 says it immediately fell from Saul’s eyes as if it had been scales, making me wonder what disgusting mixture of dust and ocular fluids must’ve accumulated in his eyes and sealed them shut when he gazed upon Jesus’ brilliantly-bright white countenance. Saul was then baptized, cleaned up and given something to eat and drink.

From there, Saul (who would soon become known as Paul) preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the synagogues, declaring Jesus is the Son of God. This, no doubt, amazed those who heard him and they probably wondered if this was some joke or some elaborate attempt to draw Christians out to the open. But Saul increased and confused those in Damascus.

There are two questions this text poses:

One, wasn’t Saul in his conversion “forced” to come to Christ? Doesn’t the text suggest that Saul succumbed to irresistible grace? No. The Bible is filled with many other stories, such as Cain, Judas and even Queen Jezebel of people who either had direct contact with God and Jesus or directly witnessed the works of God yet chose to turn their backs on Him. Saul could’ve easily chosen to turn his back on God. Clearly, he was misguided in his persecutions as he thought he was doing God’s work. When he realized he wasn’t, that was part of what led him to Christ. There are also many people out there who feel the call of God and yet turn their back on it. The evangelist David Benoit, who lectures on rock music and the occult, often has told this story: a young man came up to him after a sermon and said, “Brother Benoit, I know I need to be saved, but becoming saved means I’d have to quit having sex with my girlfriend, and to be honest, I’d rather go to hell than stop doing that.”

Not to mention the unsaved in Revelation who, after seeing Scripture after Scripture being fulfilled, will still turn their backs on God.

Two, some have wondered if Saul being referred to as a “chosen vessel” indicates he was “chosen” to become a Christian. I think it refers to his work as a Christian. We make the decision whether or not to accept Christ as our personal savior, and once we become a Christian, God has a plan for our life of how we can best serve Him. This plan is what is “chosen” for us. Saul decided to become a Christian and God chose him for hte service of evangelizing the Gentiles, kings and the Jewish people.

And, of course, writing most of the New Testament.

Richard Zowie runs several blogs and enjoys blogging about the Bible and getting an improved understanding of it. Post comments here or e-mail him at