“He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” (Gal 1:23)
I sometimes underestimate God’s ability to make possible the “impossible.” At times, I look at my own life and the sins that I struggle with and think: “I’m never going to change. This is how it will always be…” Or I consider the lives of those around me and come to the same conclusion: ”they’ll never change… that’s just who they are!” But if I believe the Scriptures to be true, such thinking would be absurd.
This past Sunday, we considered the Apostle Paul’s life and who he used to be. He described himself as once being a “blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent” (1 Timothy 1:13). Paul wasn’t just indifferent towards Christians or looking to have a good debate; he sought to destroy those who followed Jesus. Many Christians faced imprisonment and death as a result of Paul’s fervor. That’s why it’s amazing to hear the Lord tell Ananias that this very Paul would be transformed into “a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name” (Acts 9:15). Jesus chose a persecutor to become a preacher. Paul encounters Jesus at the most inconvenient and unexpected time and his life is never the same.
I’m sure that those who knew Paul never expected such a transformation in his life. Paul was probably one of those “he’ll never change” kind of guys. Folks must have written him off as a lost-cause. But God continued to pursue the one whom others had given up on. The Lord stopped Paul in his tracks and gave him a new passion. Renewing life was breathed into the one who once breathed “threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1). This great sinner encounters a greater Savior and now becomes our great example.
You and I may have folks in our lives that we have given up on. We’ve wrote them off as the “they’ll never change…” kind of people. It could be relatives, friends, co-workers, or even yourself. But maybe you and I feel that way because we’ve forgotten the depth of our own sin. We too were undeserving and unlikely to be saved. We were at enmity with God, self-seeking, and wanted nothing to do with Him. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5). Only the undeserving are true candidates for His mercy and grace.
Though we’ve reached Day 32 of 36 of the By Name Initiative, let us never cease to pray for those who need God’s grace to break into their lives. The same Jesus that rescued the “foremost” sinner is still rescuing sinners today. May God always place a burden on our hearts to see transformation occur in the lives of those “who will never change.”