And now, why do you wait?
Paul once called himself the chief among sinners, and he believed it. The more I read the Bible, the more I see the people behind the verses; how they must have thought and felt, not mere characters in a tale but people who lived and breathed as we do. The person of Paul is perhaps the most vivid; we see so much of his writing in the New Testament, so much of his personality transferred to those pages. Think on all the revelation Paul had; how highly he saw Christ, how mightily he saw God move, how he saw the Body of Christ find being in the world as the Church took shape. He knew with utter certainty that Christ and His Body, the Church, were alive and real. Yet before his eyes, always, was the man Saul. The man who put to death the followers of Christ, who zealously repressed the Gospel. The man who sought to destroy the one thing that he now held as the most precious thing imaginable. Paul certainly believed that among sinners, he was greatest.
How do you feel when you consider your sins? If you’re anything like me, in that moment you probably feel like you’ve let God down again, that you’ve took steps backward and need to make up for it. Those feelings draw you away from God and rather that seeing Him as He is, you retreat into your own guilt, hide away, hope that next time will be better. This isn’t how it should be.
Think, what did Paul do, knowing the worth of God and knowing the extent of his own sin? He did not hide from God in shame. Ananias, the brother who restored Paul’s sight, said to him: “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16). With that, Paul rose, and he began a ministry that changed the world. Paul did not allow fear and shame to rule over him, rather he saw the depth of God’s love and mercy and gave his entire life to His cause. In Philippians 3:8-9 the immensity of God’s mercy and the covering of his old life was surely stark in Paul’s mind as he wrote “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ…”
Read that quote again, and truly consider it. The surpassing worth of knowing Christ, Paul says, makes anything else loss. That includes your pride. That includes your shame. That includes all things that distract you and detract from you knowing Christ Jesus as your Lord. There is no room in Paul’s world for self-pity or self-doubt; there is only Jesus Christ, and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). The man Saul was blind, and in his place rose Paul, given new sight. He spread the Gospel of Christ to thousands, travelled hundreds of miles by land and sea, and in the end this chief among sinners proclaimed boldly: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7) All because he knew his God, and saw all else as loss.
Christ has made us righteous. Moment by moment we are before Him and sanctified through Him, if we know Him. We have no need to hide or doubt. The message is clear; “And now why do you wait? Rise, for you have been baptized and your sins are washed away. Call upon His Name.” God saved Saul; He is more than capable of saving you. Have you fell into sin again? Is your life not where you expected it to be? Still in the old habits, still not seeing breakthrough, God still so very distant? Rise. Call upon His Name. God is surely faithful, and you are not too lost to be saved. To those who are weak God says “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6) and “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).
The only thing God asks of us is that we trust His promises. Don’t turn away in the trial. Even when the walk is long and dry and God seems a thousand miles away, know that His promises stand true. Paul gives testimony that the harshest trials can lead to the greatest love. Know the surpassing worth of Christ, that all else may be loss. Be encouraged today – we have a God who can turn the chief of sinners into the chief Apostle. Trust that He is capable of doing the same in your life. God bless and keep you.