By Russ Ramsey
Is there someone in your life you pray would experience the transforming power of the gospel—peace with God, a clear conscience, and a sense of purpose and hope? Have you ever doubted such a transformation could be possible for someone whose heart was so hard toward God that all they felt toward the Church was hate?
Jesus can reach even the hardest heart, and we need look no further than the story of the apostle Paul for proof. Paul didn’t just oppose Jesus; he wanted to see everyone who preached about Him die. We’re talking about more than mere desire here. Paul got permission from the religious authorities to hunt down Christians and oversee their trials, which would end in martyrdom. Paul made it his mission to rid the earth of the Body of Christ.
As Paul was on his way to Damascus to arrest Christians, Jesus appeared to him on the road and struck him blind. As Paul groped around in the dark, Jesus said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4). In response, Paul asked, “Who are you, Lord?” and after Jesus revealed Himself, He told Paul to go into the city, where he would be told what to do (vv.5–6).
What did the Lord want Paul to do? He wanted him to become His apostle to the Gentile world. And that is just what happened. Paul gave the rest of his life, until his death at the hands of Rome, to proclaiming Christ, establishing churches in Galatia, Philippi, Thessalonica, Corinth, Colossae, Ephesus, and many other cities and villages throughout the Roman Empire.
Jesus didn’t just transform Paul from someone who persecuted the Church to someone who didn’t. He took this man who was so singularly devoted to the Church’s destruction and made him into a man who would play a greater role in expanding the Church than anyone else from his era.
I have people I pray for every day, asking the Lord to transform their hearts and open their eyes to His grace. And if I’m honest, sometimes I feel like my prayers are asking too much. But when I look at the life of the apostle Paul—the author of Galatians, Colossians, Romans, Ephesians, and many other books in the New Testament—I see the power of Christ at work in the life of a man whose heart was as hard as they come. So I pray again, because if the Lord can transform a man like Paul as He did, He can do the same for anyone. He has even done it for me.
Written by Russ Ramsey