1. Hello, listening friends.
2. What a delight and joy for us to broadcast to you this program;
3. and, today, we’re going to start a new series of messages entitled, “Looking Up;”
4. and it is taken from the life of the Apostle Paul.
5. He always looked up when life knocked him down;
6. and I want to begin by telling you that there are two types of surprises in life.
7. There are good surprises and there are bad surprises;
8. but, when you walk closely with God and delight yourself in Him,
9. you will always get good surprises.
10. If you look at biblical history,
11. you will find so many good surprises of the grace of God,
12. and there are countless modern day examples of changed lives by God’s grace.
13. In the fourth century, there was a college professor named, “Aurelius.”
14. He was confronted by the grace of God and became the great Saint Augustine.
15. Through God’s grace a slave trader by the name of John Newton
16. became a great pastor and a songwriter;
17. but, perhaps there is no greater surprising story of the grace of God than the story of Saul of Tarsus.
18. No transformation had greater impact upon world history than Saul of Tarsus.
19. I want to share with you four surprises that God’s grace reveals to us;
20. and, if you do have a Bible with you, I want to go through the Book of Acts, Chapter 9.
21. Here are the four things:
23. God’s grace surprises a man,
24. and you find that in verses 1 to 3.
26. God’s grace has a surprising method,
27. verses 4 to 9.
29. God’s grace is delivered through a surprising mentor,
30. verses 10 to 25;
31. and, finally, God’s grace delivers surprising friends,
32. verses 26 to 31.
33. Let’s first look at God’s grace surprises a man.
34. Saul of Tarsus was taught in the pharisaic school;
35. so were Jesus and His disciples;
36. but this is where all the commonalities end.
37. Saul of Tarsus was a Roman citizen and was educated in Greek;
38. but far more important than any of this is that Saul of Tarsus was a persecutor of Christians.
39. He was a persecutor of Jesus Christ.
40. Saul of Tarsus thought he could stamp out Christianity.
41. Luke tells us that Saul wanted to devastate and ravage the church;
42. and Saul had received permission from the high priest in Jerusalem to stamp out Christians in Damascus.
43. It was a long journey from Jerusalem to Damascus;
44. but this reveals the incredible commitment that Saul of Tarsus had in his desire to destroy the believers.
45. Had anyone suggested to Saul that, by the time he got to Damascus, he would become a Christian, he would have killed them on the spot;
46. and that is why he was not only a surprising man,
47. he was a surprised man.
48. Not only was he so thoroughly converted to Christ,
49. but he became the greatest preacher in the New Testament.
50. He was a surprising man;
51. but, secondly, there was a surprising method.
52. Look at verses 4 to 9 of Acts, Chapter 9.
53. God knew that Saul of Tarsus was not the kind of man who would respond to the gentle voice.
54. God knew that because of Saul’s stubbornness, only a surprising confrontation would get his attention;
55. and it is only after Saul is freed from his pride that Jesus speaks to him.
56. My listening friend, let me ask you this:
57. do you know what that’s like?
58. There are times, when we are so full of our pride and arrogance, that God has a hard time reaching us.
59. There are times, when we are so adamant about our point of view, that God has to knock us down to get our attention;
60. and Jesus said to Saul of Tarsus,
61. “Why are you persecuting Me?”
62. My listening friends, I want to tell you something that’s very important.
63. If you are persecuted because of your righteousness,
64. if you are persecuted because of your godly life,
65. let me tell you that those who are harassing you,
66. they are not harassing and persecuting you. They are persecuting Jesus Christ.
67. In fact, when Saul was confronted by the risen Christ,
68. all he could say was, “Who are you, Lord?”
69. Now, this is very important.
70. The reason so many Christians live defeated lives
71. is because they never ask, “Who are you, Lord?”
72. When you get to the point of knowing who God is,
73. and the privilege of His calling you to a relationship with Him,
74. you would never again walk in your own strength.
75. In fact, later on, in Acts 26:14,
76. Paul said that, when Jesus appeared to him,
77. Jesus said, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
78. Do you know what a “goad” is?
79. A goad is a sharp object and it is used to break in a bull.
80. It is not designed for human beings.
81. It is designed for stubborn animal;
82. so what is Jesus saying?
83. He is saying that refusing to surrender to the voice of God is like being prodded and pricked with a sharp object.
84. Jesus is not doing this;
85. instead, you are doing it by refusing to listen to His voice.
86. What were these goads that Saul was kicking against?
87. First, there was doubt.
88. Paul knew deep down that Jesus was the Messiah, but he would not admit it.
89. He kept blocking God’s voice;
90. then, a second goad was Stephen.
91. When Saul heard Stephen testifying to the resurrected Jesus Christ,
92. deep down, Saul knew that Stephen was speaking the truth;
93. but he refused to believe it and chose to be stubborn.
94. Paul actually guarded the clothes of those who stoned Stephen to death.
95. Listen to me, my listening friend,
96. when you are fighting against the conviction of the Holy Spirit, you are hurting yourself.
97. When you are fighting against God’s conviction of sin in your life, deep down, you are hurting.
98. Give it up.
99. Thirdly, the grace of God produces a surprising teacher.
100. The Lord tells Saul to go to the house of Judas in Damascus;
101. and, then, God speaks to one of the leaders of the church of Damascus by the name of Ananias;
102. and God said, “Ananias, I want you to go and meet Saul of Tarsus.”
103. Ananias did not want to question the Lord;
104. but he said, “Do you know what this man has done, Lord?”
105. Saul’s reputation had already spread into Damascus.
106. Saul was coming to imprison and to kill the Christians.
107. Ananias was scared to death;
108. but we so often fail to believe in God’s power.
109. Someone said that Ananias is the forgotten hero of the Christian church.
110. He was called to mentor a notorious murderer.
111. I want to ask you something important.
112. Has God ever called you to do something that seems to be insurmountable?
113. I want you to remember this:
114. when He does ask you, it is because He has already gone ahead of you and prepared the way;
115. and, in this case, God had already taken care of Saul.
116. He already converted his heart.
117. Whatever is frightening you,
118. the Lord has already tamed it.
119. The truth of the matter is that Saul had not been able to stop talking about Jesus.
120. Look at verses 20, 21 and 22.
121. Immediately, he began proclaiming that Jesus is the Son of God.
122. What a transformation!
123. Then, we are told that Paul went to Arabia because the exits in the city of Damascus were sealed.
124. People were looking out for him and they wanted to kill him.
125. Isn’t that amazing, my listening friend?
126. The one who was going after the fugitives has become a fugitive himself.
127. In verse 23, Luke said, “After many days...”
128. We know those many days actually were three years.
129. Paul said so in Galatians, Chapter 1, verses 17 and 18.
130. When the Bible says he went to Arabia, at that time, it was in the modern day city of Petra in Jordan.
131. There were Greeks, Romans and Egyptians there.
132. The Apostle Paul spent three years in this area.
133. Why did God lead him there?
134. God took him there to meditate, to pray, and to hide;
135. so we not only have a surprising man,
136. not only do we have a surprising method,
137. not only do we have a surprising teacher,
138. but, fourthly, there are surprising friends.
139. To say that Paul’s fellowship with the apostles is a surprise is an understatement.
140. In verse 26 of Chapter 9 of the Book of Acts,
141. it says that Saul came to Jerusalem and tried to associate with the disciples, but they were scared of him.
142. His reputation was not forgotten in those three years;
143. but thank God for the Barnabases of this world-
144. those people who understand the grace of God,
145. those who understand that God specializes in saving sinners,
146. those who understand that God delights in the repentant sinner;
147. and, so, Barnabas takes Paul by the hand and he becomes accepted to the apostles;
148. but let me tell you this, as I conclude.
149. After three years in Arabia,
150. Saul went to his home of Tarsus for approximately seven years;
151. so, if you are counting, this would be roughly about ten years -
152. ten years from the time that he confronted the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus.
153. Some of you have been waiting for the Lord to answer your prayers for many years,
154. and some of you have given up praying.
155. Ten years pass from the time Paul encounters the risen Christ;
156. and, so, Barnabas takes him by the hand to the apostles and says, “This is God’s man.”
157. A forgotten man for ten years
158. becomes the most influential man in the entire New Testament, period.
159. What is God doing?
160. He was training him, teaching him, and preparing him.
161. When you are waiting for God to answer your prayers,
162. the devil wants you to give up.
163. Do you think Paul wondered about the encounter with the risen Christ during those ten years?
164. Do you think he questioned what happened?
165. From all of his writings, we know he did;
166. but I want to tell you this:
167. God’s ways are not our ways and His timing is not our timing.
168. You may be praying for somebody to be saved.
169. The worst thing you can do is give up praying for that person,
170. because you do not know what God is doing behind the scenes.
171. Be patient when you pray.
172. Don’t ever give up being surprised by the grace of God.
173. Until next time, I wish you God’s richest blessing.