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Challenging Faith

Acts 9:23-30
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. When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him. When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. (NIVUK)

Saul (later called Paul) had met Jesus Christ and been converted. Instead of persecuting believers, he became a fully convinced follower of Jesus. He stopped persecuting the church and started to preach that Jesus is the Messiah (the Greek word is 'Christ'). Although religious people in Damascus initially tolerated Saul, eventually he proved too much of a threat to them. So they planned to kill him. Keeping the gates under surveillance day and night, they planned to ambush Saul when he left the city. There was no way out. But Saul heard about the plot and, under cover of darkness, his supporters lowered him from a window in the city wall and he escaped.

It may have been three years before Saul arrived in Jerusalem (Galatians 1:18). But the believers were suspicious of Saul, as those in Damascus had been (Acts 9:20-21). However, Barnabas, who had a ministry of encouragement, believed Saul's story: it had spiritual authenticity, as did Saul's obvious faith in Jesus. He took Saul to meet Peter and James (Galatians 1:19). That led to the church accepting Saul as a brother, and allowed him to develop his ministry gifts.

Saul's Christ-given ministry was to preach Christ, turning people from the power of Satan to God so that they might receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life (Acts 26:16-18). However, he soon ran into trouble again. Jews from Gentile-dominated countries initially wanted to hear Saul and debate with him. But when they found they could not defeat his conclusion that Jesus is God's-Anointed-Saviour-for-everybody - they tried to kill Saul. So the church put an escape plan into action, sending Saul to the coast and then by ship to his home town of Tarsus (now in southern Turkey).

Believing in Jesus is not just a private and personal matter. To believe in Jesus is also to become His witness (Acts 22:15). Faith and public confession cannot be separated in true Christian faith (Romans 10:9-10). Jesus is not only the Saviour of people who have some Christian family root, but He is God's Saviour for everybody (1 John 2:2). Everybody should be able to hear how to receive Him (www.crosscheck.org.uk). But there may well be trouble. Persecution is part of belonging to Jesus (John 15:20-21). But the challenging of our faith will challenge others to put their faith in Jesus too.

Wonderful Saviour. Thank You for the people who helped me to trust You. I am so sorry that I have kept my faith as a private comfort rather than risking rejection for the sake of Christ. Please help me to know how and when to witness to Your saving grace. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams