July 9 I Monday
“As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.” —Acts 9:3
Why do some people respond in repentance to hearing the Gospel, while others, like Saul, find themselves growing resistant or antagonistic to the truth? The Spirit speaks through preaching and His Word to awaken people’s hearts, but sometimes our inattention or stubbornness block out His voice.
Familiarity with our surrounding environment can also be a factor. Stephen was in Jerusalem when he preached before the Sanhedrin and was martyred for it. Jerusalem was the heart of Jewish authority, and Saul, who lived there at the time, would have been comfortable practicing his religious routine around people who thought as he did and adhered to the law. No wonder he reacted poorly to Stephen’s preaching! Along with the Gospel, Stephen called the Jewish leadership out for missing the truth, which only drove Saul to further rage against Christianity.
Perhaps this is why Jesus appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus, not in Jerusalem. It is often outside our normal environments where we are most receptive to hearing His voice. We may not be driven to belief as easily when we are surrounded by the familiar, but being somewhere new helps us to see things from a fresh perspective. Israel’s exile is an example of this on a grand scale. It took removing almost the entire nation from their homeland before they started to really hear and worship God. They had grown comfortable with their idolatry and disobedience back home, only to realize how wrong they were and how desperately they needed God when they were ripped away from everything familiar.
Some ministry leaders find this pattern discouraging. They spend 51 weeks sowing seeds of the Gospel into people’s lives to potentially see very little fruit. But then they take their ministry on a weekend retreat or to a Christian camp and suddenly people are making decisions for Christ left and right. This may lead them to wonder if they are doing something wrong when they teach the truth back home. There is nothing inherently special about camps or retreats that somehow supercharges the Gospel with an extra measure of the Spirit’s voice. The only difference is these environments take people outside their regular routines. The same Gospel is preached, but suddenly everything they have heard over the last 51 weeks lands with a fresh force.
It was only as Saul walked a new road that he encountered Jesus and his long-time familiarity with the law was superseded by personal, experiential knowledge of Him. Faith can quickly become routine when we are surrounded by the familiar, so may we be willing to let God take us outside our comfort zones to hear His consistent truths and messages in a fresh way.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, if going outside my comfort zone is what it takes, then lead me there so I can better hear the truths You teach with a fresh perspective. Thank You for always speaking.