(The following was originally written in 2003 and posted on my son Riley’s website.)
Every once in a while, I hear someone say something like “Does God still work in the world today?” or perhaps more decidedly, “God doesn’t work in the world today. All of that ended when Jesus’ apostles died.” Any time that I hear questions or statements such as these, I’m saddened to think that this person has decided what God will and won’t do. They’ve put Him in a box and placed limits on what He can do. They behave as if God set the world in motion and then abandoned it at some point in the past. I can’t speak for your God, but my God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He was active in the world in the past and He’s still active today.
For whatever reason, we condition ourselves to believe that everything in this world just happens. Whether good or bad, we are quick to assign whatever happens to circumstance or coincidence. We live our lives with blinders on, unable to (or perhaps refusing to) see the things that God is doing around us. We strain everything through a somewhat cynical set of filters and in so doing explain away many good things that God does for us. We filter out the things that God would have us to see so that He can teach us what He wants us to know.
A while back, I was pondering things that have happened in Riley’s life and asking myself if our family was really looking for God to take an active role in our lives. Or are we quick to rationalize away things that happen and assign them to coincidence. Then I remembered a story from Acts chapter 9, where a Jewish leader and scholar named Saul had an encounter with Jesus and came away with a new perspective.
If you recall the story, Saul was a zealous persecutor of Jesus’ followers. He was so immersed in the Jewish religion that he couldn’t (or refused to) see what was happening around him. God had sent His Son to redeem the earth, but all Saul could see was that this man Jesus had been preaching heresies and he was, no doubt, relived that the Jewish leadership had put an end to it all by having Jesus executed. Yet even with that execution, Jesus’ followers were working even harder to tell others the so-called “good news”. Saul felt it necessary to expend all his energy trying to suppress this new movement that was threatening the status quo. His zeal led him to make a trip to Damascus in search of followers of this man, Jesus, so that he could throw them into prison for their heresies.
That’s when he had a personal encounter with Jesus. Jesus appeared to him on the Damascus road and asked him “Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” The story says that Saul was blinded by this encountered and was told to go into the city and wait for someone to come to him. The Lord then appeared to a disciple named Ananias and told him to go to Saul. Ananias tried hard to get out of the assignment, reminding the Lord what this man Saul had been doing to the church. Jesus told Ananias that He had chosen Saul for a special purpose and that he needed to go.
Ok, with all that as background, here is the part that sprung out at me. When Ananias came to Saul, he placed his hands on the man and told him that he had been sent by the Lord to heal him. At that point (in Acts 9:18) the text says “something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes and he could see again”. The story of Saul’s life starts over at that point and he begins to apply the same zeal that he had before, but using to further the work that Jesus had begun, rather than trying to destroy it.
Once the scales fell from his eyes, Saul could see what God was doing around him and immediately became a believer and disciple of Jesus. The book of Acts tells us that Saul (who later went by his Roman name, Paul) went on to preach the gospel to the entire Gentile world.
Call them blinders, call them filters or call them scales. Physically put them on our eyes or just allow our preconceived notions to take over. Any way you slice it, they are real and they block our ability to see what God is doing around us. He wants us to feel His presence and see His actions in our everyday lives. But if we pass everything we experience through a set of filters or allow the scales to block things from view, then we won’t know that He is even there.
Not to say that all that He would have us see is easy and enjoyable. But He would have us see that He is constantly there and that He has a plan for our lives. He wants us to trust Him and dwell in Him. He wants to use us to accomplish His will.
I thank God for using what has happened to Riley to remove the scales from my eyes and letting me see a tiny glimpse of what He has in store for our family. Things that used to appear to me as circumstantial or coincidental now are plainly part of God’s plan for my family and me. And the more in tune with Him that I become, the more that I see Him in what is happening around me.
Thank You, Lord, for removing the scales. Give me the strength and courage to follow You as the Apostle Paul did.
January 8, 2003