Almost everybody respects a successful general in battle tested conditions. Admiration is higher if the general is on “your” side. It’s usually not until the war is over that battle plans and strategy can be analyzed and evaluated. Generals George Patton, Dwight Eisenhower, Omar Bradley, Douglas MacArthur, George Marshall all displayed a knack for planning, strategy, heroism, determination and execution. But then several for the other side did likewise. British Bernard Montgomery was brilliant and Germany’s Erwin Rommel was so respected they nicknamed him, the ‘desert Fox’. Campaigns can be military, economic, territorial or personal.
The New Testament records the very personal campaign of one man who is known for his planning, strategy, and execution of his plan to “Git R Dun”. Exactly what was this man’s obsession? Why was he so fanatical about its execution? The Bible is full of strong personalities and men of action, but this man was so focused on his task, God intervened and stopped him cold.
His name was Saul of Tarsus. His training as a Pharisee was the finest available, his zeal was unparalleled, his intensity was unmatched, his belief that the newfounded Christian movement was a deadly threat to Judaism was intensely sincere, and his efforts to do what he thought was right changed his life! In an instant. Saul was wired for success and determined to “round up” all these newly minted “Christians” and return them to Jerusalem for questioning or worst! Saul not only was good at his job, he was very effective. He was the number one enemy of the state. Saul was arrogant and God was going to humble him. This man was making so much progress thwarting this new movement that Jesus literally stopped him in “his tracks” on the Damascus road, and had a heart-to-heart talk with this headstrong individual. Saul’s meeting with Jesus, and his subsequent ‘conversation’ is found in the Book of Acts chapter 9. The entire life of Saul is found in Acts chapter 7 through 28, and his letters.
No person, apart from Jesus himself, shaped the history of Christianity like the apostle Paul. Paul’s personal encounter with Jesus changed his life forever. He never lost his fierce intensity, but from then on it was channeled for the gospel. God did not waste any part of Paul—his background, his training, his citizenship, his mind, or even his weaknesses. God does not waste our time either—he will use our past and present so we may serve him with our future.
It doesn’t end there, it begins there! Saul’s name was later changed to Paul. His personal campaign to stop this new movement of people following Jesus Christ was turned on its head. Once he reconciled the Lord of the Old Testament was intertwined with Jesus of Nazareth, he became the Apostle to the Gentiles. Paul wasn’t wired for success; he was wired to pull millions, perhaps billions, into heaven.
Paul says, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.” Philippians 1:21
The Good news is that forgiveness and eternal life are a gift of God’s grace received through faith in Jesus Christ and available to all people.