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TELL ME YOUR STORY


 
 

BIBLE READING

 

ACTS 22


1 “Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.”

2 When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet.


Then Paul said: 3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. 4 I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, 5 as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.


6 “About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’


8 “‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.

“ ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. 9 My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.

10 “‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked.


“ ‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’ 11 My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.


12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him.


14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’


17 “When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw the Lord speaking to me. ‘Quick!’ he said. ‘Leave Jerusalem immediately, because the people here will not accept your testimony about me.’


19 “‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these people know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. 20 And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’


21 “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles. ”


22 The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!”


23 As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, 24 the commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and interrogated in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. 25 As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?”


26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. “What are you going to do?” he asked. “This man is a Roman citizen.”


27 The commander went to Paul and asked, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?”

“Yes, I am,” he answered.

28 Then the commander said, “I had to pay a lot of money for my citizenship.”

“But I was born a citizen,” Paul replied.

29 Those who were about to interrogate him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.


30 The commander wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews. So the next day he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the members of the Sanhedrin to assemble. Then he brought Paul and had him stand before them.


 

TELL ME YOUR STORY

 

I don’t know about you, I suspect you are like me in this, I love to read or hear the story of an individual’s journey to Christ. Such accounts are a testimony to the way the Spirit of God works in the lives of people drawing them to a place of peace and joy and purpose and these stories always fill us with hope. The book of Acts gives us wonderful examples of this, such as the testimony of the Apostle Paul in our reading today.


Paul recounts his own transformation experience to this angry mob which had just been ready to tear him apart! I am sure that if I had been in his shoes, or sandals, I would have been trying to get out of there as fast as possible. How many of you would be with me?


Yet Paul recognizes that this situation is his opportunity and he wants to be the instrument used by God to reach this angry crowd. He grabs the opportunity presented to him, in the power of the spirit he tells of his own conversion and specifically the role which Ananias played.


The details of this event are imprinted into the memory of the Apostle. Though it occurred thirty years before, he has never forgotten the details. This was the moment he was chosen by God to be an apostle, and Ananias conveyed the commission of God to him.


Paul was chosen to know the will of God. Now, that was not where God wanted him to go, or what God wanted him to do. What Paul had to learn was that the will of God is a relationship to his Son. When Paul understood that, he had all the power he needed to do anything God asked him to do.


Sometimes followers of Jesus struggle with this. I have often had conversations with people who seem to think that the will of God is some kind of planned-out route that God has for them, but that they must discover the planned-out journey, and if they can just find where God wants them to go, and what he wants them to do next, then they can do the will of God. It is like the will of God is some riddle to be solved. I have been there personally too. The Scriptures teach us that the will of God is found in a relationship. It is a hope-filled belief that Jesus Christ, living in us, will work through us. When we expect Jesus to do that, we are in the will of God.


Paul was an educated, intelligent, devout Jew who was also a Roman citizen. God would use this unique background to use Paul in a special way, even as He wants to use our unique background and experiences in a special way today.


Perhaps this portion of Paul’s example is here to remind us that we all have stories, and that we should not be shy about sharing those stories, the stories of God’s amazing grace and work in our lives, with others.


How might God use your personal story of salvation and spiritual growth to encourage others and perhaps even bring someone to faith?

And, the end of our passage reminds us that sometimes, sharing our stories may not initially go over so well! Perhaps you won’t have people calling for your execution, but the message of Christianity can be perceived as hostile to those around us. Yet, we are also promised that God is the One who nurtures, waters, and watches over the seeds of the gospel testimony planted by believers.


Here yet again the book of Acts we are encouraged to say to God “here I am use me.”

 


God, thank you that you have commissioned me to bear witness to your great work in my life through my story. Help me to be faithful to that call. Amen


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