The Power of an Encounter
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” Acts 2:1-4
I love the books of Acts. I love the miracles. I love the unity of the believers. I love the passion and courage they demonstrated day in and day out. I love the way the early church was able to make a lasting impact on their communities. But most of all, I love the transformation that we can see in the life of some of the early believers. In particular, the Apostle Paul.
There is no question that Saul, before he become known as Paul, was an educated man who was well respected by his peers and the Jewish community. In Galatians 1:14 he writes “I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.” He also later goes on to list many of his accomplishments in chapter 3 of the same letter. Thus, as we read of his involvement in the early persecution of the church, it is important to note that he was not necessarily an evil person.
Often, we look at the religious leaders like Saul with a great deal of judgement. But the truth is that he was convinced he was serving God and His Kingdom. To a certain degree, it is tough to argue that he wasn’t! After all, he was clearly a student of the Word and had the entire Torah and book of law memorized! He regularly attended services at the temple. He fasted and prayer devoutly. He taught in the synagogue on a regular basis. Does any of these practices look familiar? It should. These are all everyday practices that we encourage Christians to apply in their lives to grow in their faith.
But something incredible happens in Acts 9 as he was on his way to Damascus to arrest a group of believers. “As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.” (verse 3-6). Saul then gets up and was not able to see as scales had appeared on his eyes. His men, who also had heard the voice, took him to Damascus to meet with a believer named Ananias.
What happens next is even more incredible! (As if a personal encounter with Jesus was not enough) Ananias, despite his own hesitation, arrives to pray for him and says in verse 17 “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” In verse 18, it then says “And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; and he took food and was strengthened.” What an incredible 3 days Saul has had! First, he has a personal encounter with Jesus. Then, he is forced to trust in his servants to take him to the place that Jesus had just told him to go. Then, he fasts for 3 days when suddenly the very man he was told to wait for appears and prays for him. Finally, he gets healed by and filled with the Holy Spirit! Incredible!
But it did not stop there! “Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, “Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?” But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ”
Can you see the impact that this series powerful encounters had on Saul? He had everything in him already to start a great ministry. All he lacked was for the Spirit to come along and light an uncontainable wildfire in him! I had heard it said that before Acts 9, Saul had all the oil and gas he needed to have a powerful impact on the world. All he needed to do was let the Spirit come along and douse a flame upon him. Imagine what the book of Acts, or even the New Testament would look like without this series of encounters that began on the road to Damascus!
It is incredible to me how an encounter with God can profoundly impact a person and change completely the direction of their life!
The disciples also had a similar experience on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out in that upper room. Like Saul, they already had within them everything they needed for a powerful ministry. After all, they had lived with Jesus for 3 years! Yet until this outpouring happens, they were just average citizens living what seemed like insignificant lives.
Imagine what God could do through us if we let His Spirit throw a match on us? What kind of a wildfire would begin to spread in our communities and workplaces?
Church, it is not enough to just spend time praying and reading the word of God! 15 minute daily devotionals will not do it! Neither will attending services every Sunday. Each of these things are great and necessary activities of a healthy believer. However, without the Spirit putting His fire on these activities, we will struggle to see the impact on our communities that we long to see.
Take a moment today and ask the Spirit to invade your daily activities as He did with Saul on the road to Damascus. Ask him to light the flame with you and then go out and let that fire spread to those that God has placed in your life!