by John Austin Higginbotham
Saul, also called Paul, is one of my favorite figures in the Bible. Paul is most widely recognized today as a major founder of the worldwide church. A man with a personal faith that many envy, Paul has continuously provided me with insight on how to further my own path with Christ. What speaks to me the most about this man, however, is the fact that we would consider him to be entirely unworthy and unacceptable as a church leader in today’s society.
Initially a wealthy, educated, and intensely pious Jewish leader, Saul persecuted the early Christians and the Church, bringing death and destruction wherever he came across them. Crimes wholly unbefitting of a man of God were unable to separate him from God’s grace, love, mercy and will. For it was through this man that God’s will was ordained and the message of the Gospel was delivered to the rest of the world– the Gentiles.
Nothing one does can permanently separate them from the love and grace of God. Paul was a killer of Christians, but even he was converted, repented of his sins and was used by God to be a monumental figure of Christian history.
Acts 27 recounts Paul’s journey to testify unto Emperor Caesar in Rome. A prisoner who has refused to renounce his Christian faith, Paul sails under guard with fellow prisoners and soldiers. On the ship, he and the others have entered the stormy season of winter. Paul, knowing what lay ahead, attempted to warn the others that only destruction awaited them at sea, but the others refused to heed his words. Setting sail, the crew and prisoners were beset by tempests, raging winds, and blistering showers of rain, tearing at their clothes, bodies, and minds. They became weak and battered as they struggled to survive the storm. All hope had seemed utterly lost. Yet miraculously, God visited Paul and urged the others that the end was almost near, for soon the storms would relent. Encouraged, the shipmates ate their last provisions and awaited for the next day to see if this man Paul’s words could actually be true.
Paul and his companions, both soldiers and prisoners, survived the ordeal without a single loss of life. The most important point that sticks out to me is that even though the others refused to listen to what God had revealed would happen, the Lord still had mercy and love and protected the ship and its crew. Truly, they did not deserve such grace, for only Paul was a believer in Christ and none of these had lived particularly holy lives. Yet, the Lord still chose to watch over them.
If we are honest with ourselves, none of us deserve second chances or His love when we constantly turn our backs, close our eyes, and harden our hearts to God. Yet the beauty of God and His Grace is that it is freely given; both before, during, and after each and every mistake we make.
This school year I encourage each and everyone to take advantage of their second chance, to love with their whole heart, and to enjoy this school year with God no matter the storms that you shall face in your lives.