58Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
8And Saul approved of his execution.
And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.
2Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. 3But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
9But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" 5And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" And he said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do." 7The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
10Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord." 11And the Lord said to him, "Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight." 13But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name." 15But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name." 17So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." 18And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19and taking food, he was strengthened.
For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright (c)2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. http://www.esv.org
When you think of opposition, who comes to mind? Try to imagine how your enemies respond to you. When you speak, they twist your words. When you act, they misinterpret your actions. When you love, they question your motives. When they sin, they refuse to admit it. When the relationship is fractured, they resist reconciliation. When you do good, they repay you with evil. They malign your character. They stir up conflict. They grieve your heart. And in everything, they care only about themselves.
As you read these statements, where does your heart run? As you think of those who oppose you, do you become bitter, angry, and vengeful? Or does a heart of love and compassion begin to grow for those who are so lost and confused?
Let's try this again. Try to imagine how God relates to us as we oppose Him. When He speaks, we twist His words. When He acts, we misinterpret His actions. When He loves, we question His motives. When we sin, we refuse to admit it. When the relationship is fractured, we resist reconciliation. When He does good, we repay Him with evil. We malign His character. We stir up conflict. We grieve His heart. And in everything, we care only about ourselves.
If God responded to opposition the way we do, would we have any hope? If He chose to ignore, confront, or destroy us, where would we be? Thanks be to God! In His sovereign grace, the Lord chooses to move toward His enemies and convert them. We see it in the conversion of Saul in Acts 9. A man who was violently opposed to Jesus Christ and His church. The last man we would imagine being changed. This man is God's chosen instrument to carry His name (Acts 9:15). No one but God would write this story. No one but God could write this story!
When we think of opposition, who comes to mind? Do we think of others, or do we think of ourselves? Can we see the ways that we still resist and replace the Lord in our lives? Whether we are self-indulgent "younger brothers" or self-righteous "older brothers" (Luke 15:11-32), we have set ourselves against our loving Father. Have we owned our opposition to God? Paul never forgot how he had opposed Jesus Christ. He could write, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost" (1 Timothy 1:15). Paul was generous in sharing the Gospel because he knew how much he needed it himself. We should ask ourselves, "Am I the worst sinner I know? Do I embrace Jesus Christ as my Savior? Am I the most unlikely convert?" If we answer "Yes," we should buckle up because the Lord wants to give us His heart for the people around us. He wants to use us as His instruments as He continues converting His opposition.