Not by Sight but by Faith Compilation

I remember reading a story about a store clerk in the city of Philadelphia It was a particular Thursday at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon when gunshots started ringing out, right outside his store And uh, so he hit the ground to protect himself because bullets started flying in through the window, breaking the glass and hitting things along the wall As he was on the ground, a bullet happened to hit a pound cake that was up on his shelf, above him, causing the pound cake to fall down and hit him on the head, which caused him to look down Which is when he realized that there was a hole in his shirt A bullet hole But he wasn’t bleeding And he wasn’t hurt at all And so, so he looked at the hole in the shirt and he saw that behind the hole was his belt buckle And inside the belt buckle, attached to the belt buckle was a bullet The bullet had gone through his shirt and it had stopped at his belt buckle His belt buckle saved his life He didn’t see the bullet coming in He didn’t see it go into his belt So he didn’t have time to react to those things He didn’t even know that he should And yet he ended up being safe, reminding us that you don’t always need to see what’s going on in order to be okay And we see that in the Bible We see that in the life of a man named Saul in the book of Acts, chapter nine Shortly after the time that Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, Christians in the area at the time, they knew what they were seeing They were seeing that life was really hard for Christians, that their lives weren’t safe They were seeing a lot of Christians taken away from their friends and their families They were seeing a lot of Christians taken away from their friends and their families and their homes and being persecuted and even killed and their homes and being persecuted and even killed And they saw that there was one man who was in charge of overseeing the whole thing And that was a man named Saul It says this about Saul, in Acts, chapter 9 So Paul is on his way to the city of Damascus but then one day, as he’s on the road to Damascus, but then one day, as he’s on the road to Damascus, suddenly Saul couldn’t see a thing suddenly Saul couldn’t see a thing It goes on to say And so the same Jesus that he had been persecuting ended up blinding him, to humble him, to show him that the Lord was paying attention to what he was doing, to show that the Lord was really in control And from that moment on, Christians around the area, they started to see something different They saw a reason to believe that they were going to be okay They saw a reason to be confident that God was going to take care of them even if they saw bad things happening And now as we get into the new year, there might be some good things you’re hoping to see as you get into this new year that you never end up seeing There might be some bad things, some troubling things that you end up seeing that you hoped and prayed would never be coming But whatever it is that you see, what we see here is a reason to be confident Because Christians are those who live by faith in a God who’s always watching and always paying attention Just consider this And do you know who wrote that? That we make it our goal to please him, to please God? The same Saul that was persecuting Christians God turned his life around And this week as we look into the new year, we’ll be looking at the grace that turned his life around to give us strength as we walk into this new year This week we’re talking about a guy in the book of Acts named Saul who had made it kind of his full-time responsibility to persecute Christians And yesterday, when we read about him, we see that Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and he blinded him And this is what happened after that We’ll get back to that in a second In the mean time, I want to tell you about a guy named Jeff, who’s a farmer in Oregon So, one weekend he was driving his 3,000-pound tractor on his property when his foot slipped off the clutch and it caused the tractor to lurch and it actually flipped over on top of him, pinning him to the ground with the steering wheel of the tractor pushed up against, pushed up against his chest and leaving him without any ability to inhale or exhale So basically the only oxygen he had access to was what was going on, what was already

there inside of his lungs at the time And so not being able to scream, not being able to breathe, he used whatever energy he had, and whatever strength he had just to pray And that’s all he did at the time Which is all, if you noticed, that’s all that Saul was doing for three days He was praying And that wouldn’t have been the first time Keep in mind who Saul was So Saul had some background, some religious background He knew his Old Testament really, really well He would have been the kind of guy who believed that God created the universe in six days He was the kind who believed that everything that happened in the Old Testament was true He would have been in worship every weekend And he would have been really good at giving an offering But, uh, but here we see that not everybody who goes to church, not everybody who believes that the God of the Old Testament is real, not everybody who gives an offering or has the priest on speed dial is on good terms with God Paul saw that when he was blind But now he was blind in another way Like, like the guy, like the farmer in Oregon, he couldn’t see a way out He couldn’t see a way out Except it wasn’t a tractor on top of his chest that was, uh, that was weighing him down for, um, for three days He didn’t eat or drink a thing because he was weighed down with regret Regret About the way that he had been living up until that moment And I don’t know everything about what you’re looking forward to coming up in the next year, but, I think this might be true about you: that if you look back in the past, this past year even, you might just have some regrets about things you didn’t do that you feel you should have People you didn’t help Maybe there were people that you hurt And you have regrets Maybe those regrets are showing up in that there are consequences that you have to live with because of the decisions that you made And they either hurt you or they hurt, they hurt other people as, as a result And if that’s true, if it’s easy for you to look back and see regrets, then just keep in mind why Jesus appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus It wasn’t to pile on the pain of regret It was to set him free from it In 1 Timothy, chapter 1, it says this, In other words, what happened to Saul wasn’t just for Saul It was for you, too The moments in life when you feel like, like you’re the worst of sinners The same grace that was applied to Saul, our Lord Jesus came to apply to you One man we were introduced to yesterday in this story about Saul in Acts, chapter 9, was a guy named Ananias And God had told Ananias to go to such and such a place and “You will find this guy named Saul “And you’re supposed to go and minister to him.” And this is how Ananias responded It said, In other words, Ananias didn’t know if it was such a great idea to reach out to Saul in the first place And notice that God didn’t ask him if he thought it was a good idea He didn’t ask Ananias why he should or should not reach out, reach out to Saul So Ananias decided to answer that all on his own And he said, “Haven’t you heard about this guy? “Don’t you know the kind of pain that he’s done?” Ananias looked at Saul in his mind and he saw his, the past pain that he had caused He saw the future problems that he would cause for so many I mean, he looked at, he looked at Saul and saw the same thing that, that it’s so easy, that it’s so easy to feel and so easy to find when we look at people who are inflicting pain on the world, or even hurting us and our loved ones No good reason to reach out to them And no good reason to believe that even reaching out to them would do any good And so Ananias said all on his own, he decided to answer the “Why” of “Why should I go reach out?” He decided to answer the question that – did you notice if you remember from a couple of days ago, Saul never answered? Jesus asked Saul on the road, he said, “Why are you persecuting me? “Why are you doing this?” And did you notice that Saul never answered that question? So I want you to Imagine that you’re Saul on the road And Jesus stops you and asks you the question, “Why are you doing this?” What would you say? One of the things I love about my youngest son is he’s pretty consistent in his desire to tell the truth no matter what the truth is And so, like, like any son, sometimes my boy needs to be disciplined

Sometimes he doesn’t do the things that he’s supposed to do And so sometimes when I take him into my office and I sit him down and I say, “Why did you treat your sister that way?” Or “Why did you treat your brother that way?” On more than one occasion he has just looked me in the eyes and he has said, “Because I felt like doing it.” And he doesn’t say it like in an arrogant, like, “Because I felt like doing it” [laughs] kind of way He says it, he says it just very matter-of-factly, like “That is honestly the best explanation that I can come up with “for why I would ever choose “to do such, such a thing.” I mean, there’s no, there’s no good explanation that my son in that situation could give me that would make me feel like, “Oh, okay. Yeah, that was a good thing that you did.” And he knows that And so he just speaks the truth And he says, “Because, “for whatever reason I felt like doing that in the moment.” And is there a better explanation for why we do the things that we do that aren’t always that great? Just honestly, because that’s what we feel like doing in the moment? Just honestly, because that’s what we feel like doing in the moment? Is there a better explanation for why Is there a better explanation for why we sometimes resent the people who are closest to us? Or that we push away the people who are helping us? Or why the unkind word comes out very quickly? Is there a better explanation for why we worry? Or for why we doubt? Or for why we can fall into the same temptation again and again and again And for why we’re often so quick to make, to make excuses Is there any better explanation than simply to say that’s who we are? And that’s how we feel? I don’t know if there’s a better explanation And if you ever look at your life, if you look at the things that you’ve done and if you ever wonder if that just makes you unlovable, then just remind yourselves why, when Jesus appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus, he had nail marks in his hands And nail marks in his feet Saul, after he became the apostle Paul, he actually tells us why that was the case When he greets, in one of his letters in Galatians, he says, The reason those nail marks were there was because he had given himself, his whole self for a guy just like Saul And he’s done the same thing for you And for us all Do you remember a couple of days ago, I told you about a farmer out in Oregon who was pinned underneath his tractor? Well, he had two daughters And his two daughters, ages 16 and 14 at the time, they eventually came home and they decided to take the dog for a walk And as they were out on their walk, they saw the tractor And eventually they saw underneath the tractor, they saw their dad And so they called 911 but they knew there wasn’t, there wasn’t any time to waste there wasn’t any time to waste They needed to try to get that tractor They needed to try to get that tractor off their dad These two scrawny high school teenagers, 16 years old and 14 years old And so they, they each grabbed a side of the tractor and they lifted Nothing Then they lifted again Nothing Then they lifted again They lifted seven times ‘Til finally they were able to lift this 3,000-pound tractor off their dad And save his life How did that happen? Why was that able to happen? Sometimes there’s no rational explanation Sometimes it just does Kind of like, is there any rational explanation for why God would choose to find maybe the greatest missionary that the world would ever see in a guy who was blind and hungry and thirsty and then made his living killing Christians? Because that wasn’t easy, either In order for that to happen, in order for God to apply grace into the life of that man, do you know what else would need to happen? It means that God the Father would need to watch his own son suffer under a weight much heavier than the weight of a 3,000-pound tractor He would need to suffer under the weight of all the world’s sins And he would need to watch him cry out from a cross Cry out for help, knowing that no one, not his, no daughters, no friends, not 911, not even his father in heaven was going to come in and rescue him It meant that he would have to watch his own son go through the agony of hell The hell that we deserve So that you and I can be set free from the unbearable weight of regret and guilt for all the times that we’ve sinned against him And is there any better explanation for why that happened then simply to say that, “Well, that’s who our God is “And that’s how he feels about us.” I don’t know that there is When Ananias looked at Saul, he saw a dead end When God looked at the same person, God saw a new beginning When Ananias looked at Saul, he saw a lost cause God looked at the same person and he saw

a chosen instrument And what we see in all of this, and how God views even the most messed up and broken people on the planet, we see grace We see grace even in our weakness And Saul saw that again and again and again In 2 Corinthians, chapter 12, he says it this way He says, In other words, his weaknesses were good opportunities for him to see the strength of God’s love for him In this coming year, there’s one thing I can guarantee you about your life And you won’t even need to look hard for this You’re going to see your weaknesses You will So everyday make sure you set aside time to find strength in God’s grace You’ll often hear people say that Murdering Saul became the Great Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus That that’s when he became a Christian And I guess I don’t totally agree with that So, Jesus appeared to him and he blinded him on the road And for the next three days, he was, I mean, he was blind He couldn’t see He was hungry He was parched And he was convinced that nobody, not even God, loved him I don’t think that’s the kind of life that any Christian wants to have I don’t think that’s a place where anybody wants to be And the apostle Paul didn’t. But, either, you know, God, God needed to lead him there so that he could see the reality of what he was doing But finally, in the end, God’s goal isn’t to sap our strength It’s to renew our strength And there’s one moment in this whole interaction in Acts, chapter 9 when that finally happens, when Ananias, the guy that God had called to go to Saul, he, he finally shows up and says, And there’s something significant that Ananias said to Saul at the very beginning Did you notice what he called him? “Brother.” “Brother Saul.” He treated him like a member of his own family Which is exactly what God does for each of us through Jesus Jesus himself calls himself “Our brother.” The Bible says that Jesus is not ashamed to call us his brothers and his sisters And that was the moment I mean, that was the moment when somebody applied grace, when Saul saw so clearly that he did not deserve Ananias’ or God’s love And yet he received it anyway And how many people in this world have been waiting for longer than three days for someone to treat them that way? I mean, just look into the world and what do you see? You see people whose hearts are hurt and broken Hearts that are full of pessimism and rage and anger and discouragement People who’ve been given up on by others and who a long time ago, gave up on themselves But you know what God sees? He sees something that they don’t He sees a chosen instrument He see somebody with amazing strength to lift off human hearts the heaviest weights Because he see somebody who lives not by sight but by faith when he looks at you Somebody who knows the message that can lift those weights off a person’s heart And somebody who will have opportunities, so many opportunities to do just that To do for others what Ananias did for Brother Saul To look at people who are hurting others, hurting themselves, hurting their relationship with God and reaching out to them with love and with grace The apostle Paul eventually he did become author of thirteen books in the New Testament And, you know, books in which he calls himself “the chief of sinners,” and “the least of the apostles,” and the “least of all the saints.” But that didn’t stop God from calling him and you and me “forgiven” by God’s amazing grace

How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me I once was lost but now I’m found Was blind but now I see