Over the years I’ve taken solace in the fact that I’m not the only Christian to come on too strong evangelistically. Take a look at the apostle Paul. His actions in the ﬁrst few months after he came to faith in Christ make my story pale in comparison.
While leaving town on a trip to hunt down Christians, the great persecutor of the church was struck down with blindness by the risen Jesus. Stunned and bewildered, Saul (who was also called Paul) was led into the city of Damascus where “for three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything” (Acts 9:9).
Meanwhile a Christian in Damascus named Ananias saw a vision of the risen Jesus, who instructed him to go to Saul, place hands on him to heal his blindness, and let him know that “this man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles” (v. 15).
Reluctantly, Ananias obeyed and found Saul.
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it.
Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be ﬁlled with the Holy Spirit.”
Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. (vv. 17–19)
What an amazing experience! Singled out, chosen to be Jesus’ instrument to proclaim His forgiveness, cleansed of his sin—Paul could hardly contain himself.
So what did he do? Acts 9:20 tells us, “At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.”
Paul’s apocalyptic urgency consumed him, propelling him to reach out and try to save as many people as he possibly could. We’re told that he “spent several days with the disciples in Damascus” (v. 19). What happened during that time as a result of his preaching?
For one we’re told that he “grew more and more powerful and baﬄed the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah” (v. 22).
That’s impressive. I can’t remember ever “baﬄing” anyone with the logic of my words. But that’s not all.
“All those who heard him were astonished” (v. 21). Now that’s really impressive. No one, as best as I can recall, has ever been astonished by my preaching.
But what did Paul have to show for his baﬄing and astonishing evangelistic eﬀorts? Not a thing. Not a single person in Damascus converted.
If anything, Paul’s time there had the opposite eﬀect—the Jews tried to kill him.
After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him.
But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall. (vv. 23–25)
After his narrow escape Paul made his way to Jerusalem, where he repeated the same Herculean eﬀort at trying to convert people there. “When he came to Jerusalem … He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews” (vv. 26, 29).
And the result there? Once again “they tried to kill him” (v. 29).
Same behavior. Same results.
Fortunately the Christians in Jerusalem had enough foresight to see the potential in this apocalyptically urgent but misguided new Christ follower. They did what they could to keep him from getting himself killed.
“When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him oﬀ to Tarsus” (v. 30).
And then, in what has to be the most comical verse in the Bible, we are told, “Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace” (v. 31).
The entire church in that region breathed a collective sigh of relief.
From Paul’s story we learn the second step to living with apocalyptic urgency and eﬀectively sharing your faith: Chill out.
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