My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. —Jesus
"While I was on my way and approaching Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven instantly shown about me and I fell to the ground. I heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?'"
"Who are you, Lord?" I asked.
"I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting."
"What do you want me to do?"
"Get up! Go to Damascus and there you'll be told everything that has been assigned you to do."
After so many years of this Sunday life of yours—scrambles at your favorite courses, oh-so-nice brunches with your friends from work, poetry readings at those hole-in-the-wall bookstores, sleeping in till almost noon and catching all the games—you realize that inner void, that depthless emptiness just isn't dissipating and decide that it might be time to revisit your faith and get reacquainted with your Creator and His Messiah. You put on your Sunday best and drive down to that big church just south of downtown, the one that has its pastor on billboards all around town, and find yourself being directed by parking-lot attendants, greeters, and ushers to a VIP section of concert seats roped off from the rest of the crowd.
It's just so nice, isn't it?
The message doesn't sound all that familiar with what you heard as a kid, but it doesn't disappoint either. You might have walked through life without any thought of prayer, self-denial, selflessness, or mission, but that's not a problem, the pastor preaches. Like the rich young ruler, you lack just one thing. Fixing this right away, you nod a smile back to the usher who caught a glimpse of your tithe check as you put it in the bucket passing by. Now all is well with you and the Lord.
It's just so nice, isn't it?
After so many handshakes, thank-you-for-comings, and pleas of please-come-back-and-see-us, and having been whisked back to your car by that bubbly parking-lot attendant, you're left alone with your thoughts. That foreboding emptiness is filling out your soul. Why is that? Your mind cuts to that cute teenaged girl who led your vacation Bible school that one summer who was so determined, so hungry for the things of God, and your eyes well up with tears as you hear her reading the words of Paul.
Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and day I was adrift at sea. Many times I was in danger from rivers, from bandits, from my own people, from the Gentiles, in the city, in the wilderness and the sea, from false brothers. Many nights I've gone sleepless, hungry, thirsty, often without food, cold, and naked. And it has all been to get ahold of what has gotten ahold of me because, after all, I am a slave to the Lord.