Comeback stories are good. We like them because we’ve followed a great athlete or an artist, and after they (may) have fallen off the map a little, for injury or personal reasons, we cheer them on as they make a comeback. Turnaround stories are even better. Why? Because they’re not coming back from anywhere, instead, the people in the middle of the story have gone from one place to another – they’ve changed direction, they’ve turned things around. Most times we can identify what the significant turning points were: people, circumstance, opportunity, etc.
Paul the apostle has one of the best turnaround stories in the scriptures. So much so, Luke includes in three times in Acts. You can read it first in chapter 9, again in 22 and finally in 26. Why three times? Well, first, Luke wants us to know it, and second, I think he wants us to know that we can develop our own story of repentance and life change.
In Acts 22, Paul is in the middle of a few years of trials, persecution, flogging, and lots of back and forth in different courts. In this particular instance, he is mistaken for an Egyptian revolutionary who had a part in assassinating thousands of people. Paul was no assassin, at least not after his conversion. After speaking in Greek, they realized they had the wrong person. But that didn’t subside the angry mob of religious Jews. Paul had to switch to Hebrew (Aramaic) to really get their attention. Once he had their ears, he took the opportunity to share ‘his’ story. This was one of the reasons he came back to Jerusalem – to let ‘his’ people know that he was wrong about his previous thoughts about God and Jesus, and that there had been a drastic turnaround in his story.
What happened to Paul? He hit a wall. That wall was Jesus. In the height of his passionate disdain for people of the Way (early Christians), he encountered Jesus. Jesus told Paul that he wasn’t just persecuting christians, he was persecuting him. Meeting Jesus in this manner got Paul’s attention and gripped his heart. He was never the same. He took his passionate personality and used it for good instead of evil. Paul moved from hate to love, religion to relationship, persecutor to preacher, etc.
There’s a verse in 1 Peter 2:9 that depicts this change in Paul, it can depict this change in any of us, “I’ve been called out of darkness, and into a marvellous light.” The light of Jesus opened Paul’s eyes; he could finally see that he totally missed the point about what it means to follow God. Jesus made God clear to him, by clear we mean that encountering Jesus showed Paul that God’s love was bigger than a nation, it was for the hole world. That’s right, God wanted his story to include everyone – us!
In the midst of trouble, flogging, trials, and persecution, Paul shared ‘his’ turnaround story.
What’s your story? Are you at the beginning (figuring Jesus out), the middle (discovering how to follow Jesus), or are you now able to look back and identify the things and people God’s used to point you towards himself. Have you thought about sharing your story, to help people get ‘unstuck’ from their past (darkness), and lead them to freedom in Jesus (light).
at your life today, what did God do, or who did he use, to get you here?
is God doing now, so you can become who you need to be tomorrow?
you share your story of God intersecting your life, of God turning you around,
of Jesus stopping you in your tracks, so that you can live in a different
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small(er) group questions:
– If you remember or have read Paul’s conversion story (Acts 9, 22, 26), what is most intriguing? What questions come up for you?
– Paul was a pretty tough guy. He ordered the death of early Jesus followers, and then watched the persecution happen. How does someone like that change?
– What about you? You may have not killed anyone (or maybe you have), but what has changed in you or what do you think needs some serious renovations? Can God do it? What will he need to use?
(BTW, Jesus said if you hate or show anger, your judgement should be the same, just sayin’ – Matthew 5:21-22)
– Revisit the final questions from the post above (in bold)?