by Pastor Ola Joseph Kolawole
We move on to Chapter 9 — the beautiful story of Paul’s conversion. It has been said by theologians and church historians that this event (Paul’s conversion) was perhaps the greatest event in church history after the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. It was that significant! Again, this is supposed to be a reflection on the chapter and not a commentary, right? So I will simply point out a few thoughts that I could glean from the chapter — besides the obvious details.
1. GOD IS BOTH THE AUTHOR, EDITOR AND PUBLISHER OF OUR LIFE’S STORY
Who would have thought that “The Hebrew of the Hebrews would become the apostle to the Gentiles; the persecutor would become a preacher; and the legalistic Pharisee would become the great proclaimer of the grace of God”? Only God could pull that off! While God authors great stories for each of our lives, our choices sometimes derail us from His plans but He graciously edits our stories to restore us to His original intentions — At any cost!
This reminds me of a psalm I have been meaning to write for a few weeks now. I was having my bath and had the thought to readapt Psalm 23 came to my mind. (I was actually going to throw it as an open challenge, so feel free to give it a go after reading my version below.)
I will just go ahead and give it an attempt below. My goal is to portray The Lord as my Author, Editor and Publisher and myself as His Story. Here we go:
A Psalm of Joseph.
1 The Lord is the Publisher of my story; I am a bestseller!
2 He makes me find approval in His publishing house. He leads me through the Word processor of grace.
3 He restores His originality. He fixes me in the paths of spelling and grammar. For His reputation’s sake.
4 Yes, though I walk through the valley of tautologies and redundancies, my manuscript will fear no rejection;
For my Editor resides in me; your ‘cursor’ and your ‘delete’, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table of content before me in the presence of my evolving story; you anoint my chapters with oil;
My word count runs over.
6 Surely order and guidance shall follow me; all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the library of the Lord’s classics
Forever and ever.
I think that captures what God did with Paul. And what He is doing with me and you. Ours is to let Him do what He does best. There is no one too far away that He cannot redeem. There is no story too problematic for Him to publish. And when He publishes you, your story will continue to inspire generations long after you have left this dimension of existence and been translated into real life.
2. LIFE LESSONS FROM ANANIAS
We could easily miss out on the crucial role which Ananias played in this conversion story, but we shouldn’t. I think his part in the story teaches us quite a number of life lessons, viz:
a. Limelight is not the only light worth seeking.
Really, if it were not for the story of Saul’s conversion, we may never have heard of Ananias, and yet Ananias had an important part to play in God’s ongoing work recorded in the Book of Acts. I remember sharing with members of Alive Mentorship Group a post I titled “Anonymous Achievers.”
See here. The post was inspired by a speech given in a TV series I was watching at the time titled “Madam Secretary.” The quote goes thus:
“In this world of relentless self-promotion, we’ve all been raised to think that the limelight is the only light worth seeking. But that isn’t the case… Achievement is often anonymous. Some of the greatest things have been done by people you have never heard of, quietly dedicating their lives to improving your own . . .”
Very true! And in some respects, it’s the story of my life — especially with regards to my ministerial journey. Behind many well-known servants of God are lesser-known believers who have influenced them. In 2013, I worked on a book for the pastor I was serving with at the time. To get the content for the book, I had to ask an elderly woman who always took down notes during the pastor’s sermon for her sermon notes for the previous year. Then I sat down and extracted different sermons from here and there and embellished it till it became a publishable manuscript. Another member designed the book cover and we got 1,000 copies of the book published for free, thanks to the generosity of one of the pastor’s friends who is reputable in the publishing industry. At the launching, the chief launcher single handedly launched the book for a million naira—and there were many other launchers. Except for those who are privy to the behind-the-scene story, no one can fully appreciate the efforts of the woman with the sermon notes, the cover designer, the generous publisher and myself.
The following year, we did it again; this time involving two more people who helped translated the book into Yoruba language. And again, we were content with being the anonymous achievers who made the project happen. And I can point to very many other instances, some still ongoing as I type these words, whereby I choose to revel in the satisfaction of being behind-the-scene as opposed to the limelight.
Someone said “If you are not ready to be used, you are not ready for greatness.” (The operative word there is “used”, not to be mistaken for “abused”). I look back over the past decade when I have lived this principle as a lifestyle, and I am grateful for the harvest that my seed of anonymous achievements have yielded for me.
Don’t get me wrong; for some of you, indeed, God is calling you into the limelight, but don’t take it for granted. For every bulb that shines bright, there are people behind the scenes that made it possible. And yes, there are some of us that God is not calling into the limelight. Can we be satisfied with that? Can we be content with making a difference just right where we are — like Ananias?
You will find at the end of the day, God keeps the books and will see to it that each servant will get a just reward. In the meantime, don’t seek fame; pursue faithfulness (1 Cor. 4:1–5).
Two more quick lessons from Ananias.
b. Don’t be afraid to obey God’s will.
Why? Because we know that He knows all things. Someone said that when God commands, we must remember that He is working “at both ends of the line,” and that His perfect will is always the best. If God asks you to do anything, He already sees the outcome. He says stuff because He has perfect knowledge of everything there possibly is there to know about what He has said. Trust Him.
It didn’t make sense when God said I should head into the unknown in 2012 ditching everything I had studied in University and the many opportunities for employment I had at the time in order to pursue a line of calling for which I don’t know where it will lead. 8 years later, I’m still thanking God I yielded.
c. Don’t evaluate the potential of one person won over into the family of God.
Think of every great Christian you know of — past or present. They were all brought to Jesus one way or the other and often by the willingness of one man or woman to preach the good news. Will you be that (wo)man who is inviting people into the opportunity to realise their full potential in God?
3. FEW OTHER RANDOM POINTS
a. Allow people to help you.
Paul did just that in verse 25. The Jews, having figured out what had happened with Paul, wanted to kill him. Paul didn’t act like he knew what to do, instead, he was willing to accept help. Accepting help doesn’t show weakness; it simply shows that you are wise enough to avoid mistakes.
b. Persecution is a normal part of a normal Christian Life.
We see this again and again throughout the book of Acts and God keeps using this to grow His church. So persecution is not a problem; it is an opportunity.
c. Learn from ‘Barnabas’ — ‘Son of Encouragement’
Repeatedly in the Book of Acts, we see this ‘son of encouragement’ living up to the meaning of his name. We can learn from him and choose to be the kind of people who speaks up for others and connects people to their vehicles of progress.
d. Your good works can speak for you.
At least, we know they spoke for Tabitha (Dorcas). May your good works open doors of resurrection for your dead potentials in Jesus’ name.