The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but having new eyes.—Marcel Proust
He was born a member of the tribe of Benjamin and grew up in Cilicia, in the riverside university city of Tarsus. His parents made sure he received the best education their money could buy. He was personally tutored and mentored by Gamaliel, the most preeminent, respected Jewish rabbi of his time.
But, as learned as he was, Saul was not a man of true faith in God. Instead, he was a religious persona with substantially flawed character. He was a self-made leader who sought to know God through intellect and relate to him through outward practices, rather than genuine inward change and personal relationship. Gamaliel molded Saul into a strict religionist, a member of the Pharisee sect. They passionately, but unwisely, believed that if they unwaveringly followed the law through human-manufactured traditions of dos and don’ts, they would earn God’s favor and lead and live extraordinarily.
The Destructiveness of Lower-Level Vision
After his studies, Saul returned to Tarsus. But, soon after the death of Jesus, he went back to Jerusalem because he heard about the Christian beliefs that were spreading like wildfire. Seeing this movement and body of knowledge as something completely different from what he had been taught, he soon became a central leader in persecuting disciples of Jesus. He thought they were enemies of God and a threat to him and God. So, he decided to serve God by hunting Christians down and taking them off to judgment and sure death. His actions were the same as others in our post-modern culture who, when they encounter people who have ideas contrary to theirs, resort to alienation and exclusion and sometimes, even violence.
The book of Acts records Saul’s very visible, consenting presence at the stoning of Stephen, a devout disciple of Jesus…a leader that Scripture describes as full of uncommon faith, other world wisdom, and supernatural power imparted to him by the Holy Spirit. While devout men carried godly Stephen to his grave, Saul left immediately, to lead the effort to wreak more havoc on disciples of Jesus Christ.
Instant Higher Vision
But, on the road to Damascus, on another fire-breathing religious mission to hunt down and slaughter Christ-followers, something radical happened. A light shone from heaven—the God who is Light invaded Saul’s little piece of real estate. The God of all easily stopped this little self-appointed, power-based tyrant dead in his tracks. He fell to the ground. Then, the ever-living God spoke directly to him, demanding an answer to why he was persecuting him. Never having heard his voice, or seen this person who was veiled by intense light, Paul asked him who he was. He answered, I am Jesus. Astonished and trembling before the risen Christ, Saul asked Jesus what he wanted him to do. Jesus told him to go to Damascus, and there Jesus would have another man tell me what to do! In a nutshell, Jesus told him to get up and git!
As soon as he tried to move, Saul discovered he was physically blind. Though also blind spiritually, he would soon see in all ways. His companions had to lead him to Damascus, to the home on Straight Street where Jesus had told him to go. Yep, you read that street address right!
While Saul and his companions rested in the home of a man named Judas, miles away, another of Jesus’ disciples was given a vision by the Spirit of the Lord. He then told Ananias to get up and go to Judas’ house on Straight Street, and there, inquire for Saul. But, Saul’s reputation preceded him. Understandably, Ananias resisted at first. He told God the truth: that Saul had done much evil to believers at Jerusalem and that he was a bounty hunter operating with full authority to imprison any and every disciple of Jesus that he could find. Jesus was not dissuaded. He told Ananias to get going to Straight Street, that Saul was his vessel chosen to bear his name to the Gentiles, to kings, and to the children of Israel. Ananias stopped procrastinating and made his way to Judas’ house.
In an upper room place, he found Saul and placed his hands on him. He then said, The Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the Damascus road has sent me so that you can receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Ghost. In that moment, Saul did receive the Spirit, and immediately the scales fell from his natural eyes and he received new spiritual eyes and elevated sight…the higher vision required to be a genuinely excellent leader, a true difference-maker who sees through God’s eyes.
About The Author
The post above is an excerpt from Cecil O. Kemp Jr.’s 27th book titled: Follow The Leader (Secrets to Being a Genuinely DifferenceMaking Leader) to buy it, and Cecil's other books, go here.