Have you ever taken the time to think about the fact that God accepts us right where we are even when right where we are is a total mess? God doesn’t set a litany of prerequisites that must be met before He is willing to accept us as His. I want us to take a few moments together to look at one very good example of how God can take a mess and make a masterpiece.
Saul was a man on a mission to destroy anyone claiming to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Acts chapter 9 tells us “Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.” (Verses 1 and 2) Saul was not only a Jew but came from the strictest sect of that religion known as the Pharisees. For this reason he believed that Jesus Christ was the enemy of the Jewish religion and therefore He and all of His followers must be destroyed. In fact scripture tells us “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.” (Acts 22:20) You see Saul was highly educated when it came to religion and he was acting on what he had heard from religious leaders. In fact Paul stated “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.” What a mess! Here’s Jesus Christ declaring the gospel message and this guy Saul is out to destroy anyone claiming to be His follower. But God had a different plan in mind. What we see as a mess is an opportunity for God.
The next phase of Saul’s experience was when he was on his way to Damascus. Acts 9:3-9 states “As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’ The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.” Now it seems that Saul is in a mess! On his journey to persecute more followers of Christ he is suddenly struck blind and he is visited by Jesus who instructs him to go to the city to find out what to do next. God needed to get Saul’s attention and I think we can agree that an experience like this would get our attention. While this was the first step to converting Saul, it was not Jesus’ intent to convert him from this experience on the road to Damascus but merely preparation for his conversion experience.
That brings us to the next piece of this process and that is a man named Ananias. Ananias was a devout Jew and disciple that had been instructed in a vision to go to Saul. What a mess! Being asked by God to go and ask for the very one that has made it his life’s mission to destroy the followers of Jesus Christ. Ananias stated it this way “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” I think Ananias responded with the same concerns any of us would have if were in similar circumstances.
God told Ananias “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” While I can only imagine that Ananias was anxious, more importantly he was obedient. Ananias went to the house he had been instructed to go and ”Placing his hands on Saul, he said “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” In Acts 22 it tells us that Ananias then said ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.”
Suddenly what seemed like a bunch of mess has transformed into an incredible masterpiece through the works of a Mighty God. Thank goodness that God could take someone like Ananias who was obedient and had faith in the Master’s plan. Because of Ananias’ obedience, God was able to take a persecutor of Believers and convert him to a follower of Christ. Acts 9: 20 says “At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.” Acts 9:22 goes on to state “Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.” Saul the mess became Paul the masterpiece. Paul became the preacher to the Gentiles and planted many churches across the world. He wrote 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament (an incredible 48%). While he suffered many times for his preaching of the gospel he remained true to the race God called him to run in ministering and preaching the gospel. Paul gives us a beautiful description when he states “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” God truly can take a mess and make a masterpiece. You may be feeling that your life is a mess and you just don’t see any way that God could take your life and use you like He did Saul. The only way you will ever know is to completely and totally turn your life over to Him and be obedient to the direction He leads. You will be amazed at what God can do to use you to create a wonderful masterpiece to glorify Him.