I was driving by a little lake near my neighborhood the other day when I look over and see one of the craziest things I have ever seen…in real life. A bird just hits the water full force and then pops out less than a second later with a fish in its mouth! It literally flew head first into this lake/retention pond thing to catch a fish! Now, remember I’m driving…so when I see this bird hit the water I nearly wreck because I’m like, “What the heck! Did I just see a bird have a stroke?!!” Of course, I knew birds like this existed. I mean I watch my share of the Discovery Chanel and Animal Planet, so I know things like that are out there, but come on! I’ve never actually seen that before in reality. I have seen flying fish (also kinda crazy) I have swam with manatees in the Banana River (again, crazy) but this was a first for me. It has seriously altered my view of that little lake and the birds that fly over it.
Right now, my small group is looking at the life of Paul, and this story got me thinking about how his view of God radically changed. In Acts 8 Paul (called Saul at that point) is pretty intent on arresting and killing everyone having to do with Christianity (called the Way in this chapter). In Phillippians 3 he describes himself at this point in his life…
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. (NIV)
But then he walks down the road to Damascus and BOOM! flash of light and voice from heaven calling his name…It’s Jesus, and he is ticked. “Why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4) And then Jesus tells Paul (Saul) to go and spread the good news to those who had not heard it.
Now, the thing about Paul is that he knew all about God before this incident. He knew the Old Testament (the Law, the Prophets, etc) he had heard of Abraham having visions of God, Jacob wrestling the Lord at Peniel, Moses and the burning bush, Daniel, and Isaiah, and on and on and on… all having encounters with the God, the Creator of the universe…but it is not until Paul has one of those moments himself that he understands who God really is.
Often, we want that. We want to see for ourselves. We want the burning bush, the Damascus road, the flaming tongues of fire, but we don’t think we get it. Or do we? Romans 1:20 says it like this…
For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. (NLT)
So when I see the world I can see the glory, the power, the care of God. Now not in its fullness, but enough to know he is there. The problem is that we really don’t live in a world where seeing is believing. We live in a world where seeing is a matter of opinion, and facts are debated. We get complacent and forget all the things that God has done and is doing for us. We forget that we have been smacked in the face with the reality that God really is great.
Because God who he says he is, and because it is pretty obvious, then our response should be just like Paul’s later in Philippians 3…
7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (NIV)
What is your response?