Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he 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 rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do." (ESV)
We’ve talked a lot in the past few weeks about returning to God after we’ve made mistakes, the need to recommit ourselves to the role of discipleship, about recovering from letting others down, and about finding our footing again after we’ve fallen into doubt. The ability to rejuvenate ourselves in the Lord after we’ve demonstrated our fallibility is crucial, and I’d like to consider the thread that binds all these ideas together: the concept of renewal and rededication.
In all our struggles and failures, I encourage you not to just return to previous levels of commitment, but to exceed them. We can see this at work in our scriptural examples. Peter did not just return to being a disciple, he became the leader of the church, a symbol of Christian sturdiness after his failure following Jesus’ arrest. His faith carried him to his own cross in the end, but he never again faltered. Thomas also went on to exceed himself in faith. According to tradition, the strength of his belief carried him farther than any other disciple, leading him all the way into India, where he was the first to preach the Gospel.
Beyond these two examples, there is Paul, who perhaps exceeds all others in his change of direction once God’s forgiveness is introduced into his life. Paul starts out as the bad guy in Acts, a fervent Pharisee. Acts tells us he was “breathing threats of murder” (9:1) on his way to Damascus against Christians. This is an angry, violent young man, dedicated to being on the wrong side of history. But after God corrects him, blinding his eyes and opening his soul to the truth, Paul does not hesitate to do more than just correct himself. He rededicates himself with incredible fervency to his new direction.
None of us are expected to have all the right answers. We will, at times, grow doubtful and lose faith, or fail and fall short of expectations. We will lie when we should be truthful, or attack and blame and persecute the wrong people in our lives. We will be Thomas and Peter and Paul, but we must remember to live up to their examples after our failures. All three men made up for their errors and turned their hearts entirely to God afterwards, exceeding in faith and deed what they had otherwise done in harm.
It is only through this process that our souls learn, that we make progress as Christians on our own roads. We must stumble and fall—blinded by our own faults—and then we must rise when we are lifted back up by God.
So, I hope you will look over your own life and see where you have fallen short. Have you broken faith with a friend or failed to trust a partner? Have you blamed others when you were at fault? Don’t let these sins nag you forever. Instead, live up to the example of the disciples, and turn to God.
Be as Paul was after being called by the Lord on the road to Damascus. Keep your ears and eyes open for what service is required of you.
Do as Isaiah bids and, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (60:1).
Or, as Jesus himself put it, “Rise and enter the city, and you will be told what to do.”