Week 11 Devo – WEDNESDAY

Hope in Our “Arabia Experiences”

The apostle Paul came to believe in the Gospel of Jesus through the miraculous Damascus Road experience. This came after Jesus’ Resurrection. Paul went from persecuting and killing Christians to loving Jesus because of the Resurrection. Have you ever considered that, unlike the other apostles, Paul met Jesus after the Resurrection and ascension? Jesus’ disciples met Jesus before His death and Resurrection; Paul knew Jesus as the Resurrection – the same way we know Jesus today.

How did Paul come to this unshakable, unquenchable belief in Jesus and the Resurrection? When did he receive this creed, this Resurrection material that he passed on to the church of Corinth (1 Corinthians. 15:3–7)? And what difference does it make to our lives today? Those are the questions we will seek to answer here.

The villainous and psychotic Emperor Nero (who reigned AD 54–68) martyred the apostle Paul (and Peter) around AD 67. Nero’s persecution of Christians began in AD 64. This is an essential fact because Paul obviously would have completed all his epistles before his martyrdom.

Paul was converted to Christianity about two years after the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus. Paul visited Jerusalem three years after his Damascus Road conversion (Galatians 1:18). What was Paul doing for those three years? Paul first went to Arabia and Damascus (v. 17) to spend time with God, most likely in prayer, study and meditation. He decided to go to God first rather than any human source (v. 16) or even the other apostles.

Please take a moment to put yourself in Paul’s shoes at that point in his life. Can you imagine how Paul felt? He had overseen Stephen’s martyrdom and had persecuted Christians. Then, he met the resurrected Jesus. Identify the kinds of emotions you would have experienced if you were Paul.

Paul ran to Arabia. For three years, he wrestled with God, and like Jacob before him, who wrestled with God and was left with a limp (Genesis 32:24–32), God left Paul with a thorn in the flesh. Paul was alone with God for three years.

New Testament scholar and Anglican bishop N.T. Wright has pointed out some unique parallels between Paul’s Arabia experience and Elijah’s retreat to Horeb to escape Jezebel. Just as Elijah went into the wilderness to die but was spiritually resurrected (1 Kings 19), Paul had a spiritual resurrection in Arabia. As Elijah was cared for by ravens and a widow, when Paul left Arabia and went to Damascus, God, ahead of Paul, had instructed a Christian man named Ananias to care for him.

Perhaps, like Paul, you believe you have done the unimaginable. You may have gone one step too far with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Maybe you have gone through seasons of doubt. Perhaps you have been drinking alcohol underage for years. You may have been living a double life on social media. Because of our feelings about our sins, Christ’s followers believe that God could never or would never use us. And yet, consider the flawed people in the Bible whom God used – ironically, Paul once had Christians executed! The critical point is that God can use anyone who submits to Him. God used all of Paul’s experiences and his sufferings before and after coming to Christ to build his and others’ faith.

Our stories do not define us but provide ways for God to use us.

Do you need an Arabian experience with God – a time to spend alone with Him and seek His healing, direction and purpose? Describe what this would look like for you.

End today’s study by thanking God for your church and small group. Then pray in affirmation to the triune God, using the following as prayer starters.

  • Father, I believe that You …
  • Jesus, You are my …
  • Holy Spirit, I thank You for …