Ironically, there is temporal gain in this world that later results in great loss, and there is also temporal loss that later results in great gain. A wise person considers the long-term effects of day-by-day decisions.
When Jesus was on earth, He taught that there were consequences to all decisions that may be completely different from what was expected. For instance, recorded in Matthew 16:24–26, literal translation, is this seeming paradox: “Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?’ ”
That is interesting, for the result is the opposite of what is expected. If you save your life, you will lose it, and if you lose your life for Christ’s sake, you will end up finding it. Jesus mentioned this several times (see also Mark 8:35 or Luke 9:24). If you find what you think is success in this world and have not denied yourself by taking up your cross and following Jesus, you may have gained the whole world, but you could eventually lose your own soul. Jesus asked, “What have you gained?” In light of eternity you have gained nothing because any gain on this earth is temporary.
However, there have been those who have apparently lost everything who will end up gaining more than they lost. Matthew 19:27–29 says, “Peter answered and said to Him [Jesus], ‘… See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit ever-lasting life’ ” (literal translation). Jesus greatly rewards a hundred fold those who are prepared to put all on the line in order to follow Him.
The Bible gives many stories of people who made both decisions. There is nothing in this world more valuable than the offer of eternal life. In Luke 12:18–21 there is a story about a rich man who said, “ ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
The apostle Paul, before he met the Lord on the Damascus road, was a zealous persecutor of the Christian church. In fact, he was on his way to Damascus with orders from the high priest in Jerusalem to take captive any that were found in the city of Damascus who were Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem bound for judgment and punishment when Jesus caught his attention in a mighty way.
It says in Acts 9:3–6, “… suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.’ … So he, trembling and astonished, said, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’ ”
After that encounter, Paul could not see anything for the light had completely blinded his eyes. So he arose and had to be led by the hand by his fellow traveling companions into the city. The Bible records that after a few days he was baptized by Ananias in the river. Paul was given back his eyesight; however, the vision that he had on the Damascus road affected his eyesight for the rest of his life.
After Paul’s baptism, he went back into the city to fellowship with the Christians. Now, instead of taking them prisoners, he shared with them his testimony of how, during his three days of blindness and fasting, he had reviewed in his mind the knowledge he had of the Old Testament prophecies. He now saw how the Old Testament prophecies pointed specifically to Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and how everything fit perfectly together. He knew the time prophecies in Daniel and saw that Jesus had come at exactly the time predicted in Daniel 9. He connected the prophecies in the minor prophets predicting that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, and that He would be born of the lineage of David. He recalled from the prophecies in Isaiah that the Messiah’s work would be headquartered in the territory of Galilee.
The scales were lifted from Paul’s eyes, and through his blindness, he now understood that the prophecies in the Psalms and Isaiah predicting that the Messiah would be rejected by the Jews and that He would be killed as a criminal by His own people had been fulfilled. He knew well from memory the prophecies in the Psalms, and in Isaiah, and in Jeremiah, and the minor prophets, in Daniel, and the prophecies given by Moses concerning the Messiah. But now he was able to see how these prophecies pointed directly to Jesus as the Messiah.
With this new understanding, he began to preach. First, he preached to the Jews and showed them from prophecy that this Jesus, who had been put to death, was really the Son of God. His arguments from prophecy were so convincing and conclusive, and his preaching was attended by the power of God so much, that the Jews who opposed him were confounded and unable to answer him.
In Acts 9:20–22, the Bible says, “Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. Then all who heard were amazed, and said, ‘Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?’ But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews that dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.”
Paul showed them that his change of mind was not brought about by some impulse or fanaticism, but had been brought about by overwhelming evidence from Scripture.
As he presented it, he saw more and more clearly that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. There was no more argument, for all the Bible prophecies of the Old Testament proved it. Paul met such fierce opposition from the Jews in Damascus that he had to leave. Instead of being converted by the evidence presented, they developed an intense hatred of him. The same result is often true today. When the gospel is presented, some people accept it, but most people resist it and when the evidence becomes exceedingly powerful that what is being resisted is the truth, people develop hatred against the presenter. That has been true for thousands of years.
The same intense hatred was now exhibited toward Paul as was manifested before toward Jesus. Paul’s life in Damascus was in peril and he was directed by the Lord to leave there for a time, so he went to Arabia. In that land, he had opportunity for close contemplation and communion with God. He had time to search his own soul to deepen his repentance and to prepare himself by study and prayer for the work that he was about to engage in, which seemed to him to be too great and too important for him to undertake.
The Lord had already plainly told him that his work was to be among the Gentiles. To the Galatians Paul wrote, “When it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem … ” (Galatians 1:15–18).
The time spent in Arabia was to him a time of great soul-searching, prayer, and study. He wanted to know for sure that his great sin against Christ and His followers had been forgiven. Jesus had told him that it was He whom Paul was persecuting. When you persecute a Christian, a person who is a real follower of Jesus Christ, not only by profession but in character, the persecution is accounted as being done to the Lord Himself.
In the book of Matthew Jesus pulls back the veil from the future and tells us what is going to happen when He returns to this world again. Matthew 25:31–33 says, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.” Notice what He says to both groups. To the ones on His right side He says, “ ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ ” To those on the left side, He will say to them, “ ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me’ ” (verses 40, 45).
When Paul went back to Damascus preaching boldly in the name of Jesus, the Jews could not withstand his arguments. So they counseled together to silence his voice by force, the only argument left to a sinking cause. In 2 Corinthians 5:11, Paul says, “We persuade men.” The only force that the apostles used was the constraining love of Christ. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:14, literal translation, “The love of Christ constrains us.” That is the force that God uses, the force of His love. If that doesn’t draw you, then there is no other weapon that God will use to win you. Revelation 22:17 says, “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.”
In the books of Daniel and Revelation, all persecuting powers are described as Satanic. God does not use compulsion, except for the force of love to draw and to attract. In Jeremiah 31:3, literal translation, the Lord says, “With an everlasting love I have loved you, therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” But, the only argument left to a sinking cause is to silence the voice by force that cannot be silenced by persuasion or any logical arguments. When you look down through human history you find that this has happened millions and millions of times. If you cannot gain the best of your opponent by logic or reason, or persuade him of the righteousness of your cause, and he is determined to resist, the only thing left to do is to kill him. When you do that, of course, you reveal which side of the great controversy between Christ and Satan that you are on. There is a great controversy going on in our world between two supernatural powers, and the methods that we use when we deal with each other reveal which side of this controversy we stand on (see Revelation 12).
Unable to resist the wisdom spoken by Him, the Jews decided that they would kill Jesus to get Him out of the way. They did the same with the apostles. James was the first to be killed. They wanted to kill Peter, but his time to die was not yet and they were not allowed to do it. The Jews decided to kill Paul in Damascus and the disciples in Damascus did not know what to do. It says in Acts 9:23–25, “After many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him. But their plot became known to Saul (Paul). And they watched the gates day and night, to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night and let him down through the wall in a large basket.”
After he made his escape from Damascus, Paul went to Jerusalem to see the great apostle Peter, who was with James, but there he met with a lot of trouble because the Christians would not receive him, remembering him as a persecutor. He had no way to even contact the apostles.
Paul had been away from Jerusalem for three years. He had many friends, acquaintances, and relatives living there and he thought that they would be excited about hearing the wonderful experience he had. He thought that they would accept Christ, too, but he misjudged his former friends and associates. Not only did they reject what he said, but their rage and anger against him knew no bounds. They sought to kill him. This is often the same reaction today when a person finds Jesus, the Pearl of great price, that is worth more than anything in the world. Often that person who is so excited to share their new love and hope in the One described as “altogether lovely,” the “Prince of Peace,” the only Person in the universe who can deliver you from the guilt of your sin and the power of sin, and put joy and peace and love in your heart, is met with ridicule and rejection.
When a person finds Christ, he knows he has found such a treasure so wonderful that he immediately wants to tell his friends, acquaintances, and relatives what he has found. But it is still true today, just as it was in those days, that the eyes of those who are perishing are blinded by the god of this world, so that they should not see the light of the gospel. The apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:3, 4, says, “If our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”
Not only did Paul meet with disappointment from his former fellow associates and friends, but the Christians would not accept him either because they were afraid that this was a set-up to flush them out and then destroy them. “When Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to Him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus” (Acts 9:26–30).
Throughout the ages, the person who knows the truth and wants to share it with others has been forced to flee because so many will not accept it. Paul was willing to stay in Jerusalem even if it meant giving his life to try to save his former associates. But while he was there, he said, “It happened, when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I was in a trance and saw Him (Christ) saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me.’ So I said, ‘Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believe on You. And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by consenting to his death, and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’ Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles’ ” (Acts 22:17–21).
Although the Jews rejected the Lord Jesus, divine wisdom saw that there were multitudes in the Gentile world that if they heard the gospel would accept it. There are still people scattered here and there around the world who accept the gospel when hearing it.
Have you accepted the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you surrendered yourself to Him? Has He become the Sovereign of your life so that He can deliver you from the guilt and power of sin, and give you an inheritance among those that are sanctified? Have you found the real reason that you are here, the real reason for living? Do you have security for the future because you are following the One who never makes a mistake?
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.