While I was living my life as a Born Again Christian, I decided to finish my education at Biola University. As part of the curriculum, one of the classes included a study on the Book of Acts. This introduced me to Saul of Tarsus. Saul was on a mission to destroy Christians. He covered all his legal bases by making sure that he had the proper documentation to bring Jesus’ followers back to Jerusalem to stand trial before the Sandhedrin, the governing assembly of rabbis appointed with legal authority in ancient Israel.
But God had a greater plan for Saul’s life. Since his father was a Roman citizen, Saul claimed dual citizenship (Acts 16:37). He studied under the most highly revered teacher of his time, Gamaliel. Saul was a Pharisee and tentmaker by trade. He was fluent in both Hebrew and Greek. Saul was hell bent on bringing every new Christian to trial, hoping they would be sentenced to death. God used all of these attributes but redirected his energy to bring about his conversion. Saul was gifted with zeal and this, too, was used in every area of his life.
God used Saul’s career to support his missionary work. A tentmaker was always in demand because Roman soldiers had to serve in the Roman army for 24 years, and their service included most of Asia Minor and the Holy Land.
The Road to Damascus
On his way to Damascus, Saul was blinded by a bright light, so bright it knocked him off his high horse.
Acts 9:4-6 New American Bible (Revised Edition)
4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”
From this point on, the conversion transformed Saul’s life. He later adopted his Roman name Paul because as he traveled deeper into Gentile territory he became one of them.
When Jesus questioned Saul, “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me?”He had no idea who Jesus was because he was spiritually blind; but he understood that the voice was divine. This was a mystical encounter! Jesus’ message to Saul was whatever you do to the believers, you are doing it unto Him. For three days Saul fasted and prayed. When the scales fell off his eyes he became more than just a believer; but would go down in history as one of the most influential writers of our times.
The Lord has given us all gifts; these gifts are for His purpose. He has called us by name and instructs us to preach the Gospel. When I think of St. Paul and how the Lord prepared the way for him, it gives me deeper insight into how each of Paul’s gifts were used in order for him to preach the Gospel. We all have gifts; not one person was left out of this category. I always felt the calling to preach the Word of God; I also wanted to share my spiritual life experiences through writing. God knows I can’t cook, but my husband is gifted in this area. Mike is also a gifted servant; he does what is right before God and goes above and beyond for others. Our son Mikos is a gifted orator and great story teller; he can calmly win people over by expressing his ideas through humor and speech. Our daughter Sonja is gifted in mentoring others; she makes a difference in the lives of each of her employees by teaching them the value of having a great work ethic and ethical business practices. We all have many gifts, but it is our responsibility to search them out.
St. Paul gave us a treasury of gifts through his writings.
Discovering Your Gifts
How do we discover our gifts? To some people it comes naturally; to others, like St. Paul, it’s through life lessons. For me it was the latter: all my misgivings, my disobedience, my stubbornness, my self-righteousness finally brought me to my knees. I am nothing without Christ! In St. Paul’s case, his blindness was a punishment for his disobedience. When Annaias laid hands on St. Paul, the scales fell off and he was immediately baptized. St. Paul didn’t stop and say, “This was a traumatic experience, I need to rest and figure this out.” By this critical transformation, all of Paul’s gifts were perfectly aligned with his service to God. Through his baptism St. Paul’s sins were washed away, putting to death his old life.
Acts 9:15-16 New American Bible (Revised Edition)
15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites, 16 and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.”
Through praying the scales finally fell off my eyes as well. The deeper I searched for holiness, the less I desired worldly things. We are a family who lives within our means. Through Mike’s example our children have learned the dignity of having a work ethic. God gave us the means to educate them and now it’s our responsibility to keep them in prayer and for them to follow our lead in putting God first in their lives.
Through the grace of God, Mike managed to keep us all in college simultaneously. I attended Biola for two years, Mikos attended Westmont, and Sonja was at Pepperdine with the help of an academic scholarship. Although it seemed financially impossible, God made a way for all of us to finish our education. All the loans were paid off, and Sonja and Mikos paid their share as well. This gave us a sense of accomplishment; we never looked to the government for aid because God was our guide. When you put your full trust in God, nothing is impossible (Matt 17:20; Mark 9:23).
St. Paul’s Gift to Us
Of thirteen epistles that St. Paul wrote, some of his most prolific writing was written while he was in prison. Ephesians, Philemon, Colossians and Philippians were written during his first Roman imprisonment. 2 Timothy was written during his second Roman imprisonment. Even behind bars, nothing could quench the fire of the Holy Spirit in St. Paul. He rightfully gave God the glory for all of his gifts ( 1 Tim 1:12, 1:16).
Ephesians 3:7 New American Bible (Revised Edition)
7 Of this I became a minister by the gift of God’s grace that was granted me in accord with the exercise of his power.
May we be forever mindful and grateful for the gifts You have bestowed on us. Teach us to humbly walk the talk. Allow us to seek the same light You shed on St. Paul. Remove all iniquities and purify our minds so that we can recognize You in all things. I pray for those who are still on the road to Damascus; direct them to the street called Straight and remove the scales from their eyes. Amen.