When God Knocks You Down
As he traveled he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him [displaying the glory and majesty of Christ]; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice [from heaven] saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting and oppressing Me?” Saul got up from the ground, but though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.
Saul, who later became known as Paul, was a member of the religious elite of Israel. He was trained by the best teachers, and his passion led him to capture and persecute members of a new sect: Christians. Saul was one of those people who are thoroughly convinced they’re always right.(You know the type.)
On the road to Damascus, God met Saul in blinding light. In an instant, Saul realized that all he had believed had been false and that his life had been a lie. That moment was the pivotal point in this strong leader’s life.
Was he devastated? Yes and no. He was literally and figuratively knocked down. His pride shattered, his confidence blown away. But he submitted himself to Christ and to Christ’s gospel, and God rebuilt him to become the most influential leader the church has ever known.
Great leaders often have great pride. To become useful to God, their pride has to be crushed. God can then use the broken pieces to create new, humble people whose consummate abilities are under the leading of the Spirit instead of driven by selfish ambition.
When God knocks you down, don’t shake your fist at Him. Instead, let God reform your passions and redirect your path so that you can use all your God-given abilities for Him and for others instead of for yourself.
Until a man has found God and been found by God, he begins at No beginning, he works to no end. He may have friendships, his partial loyalties, his scraps of honor, but all these will fall into place, and life falls into place, only with God.
H. G. Wells
I’m sure the title today is shocking for many of us for our concept of God is that He is some kind, gentle old man who is always giving us what we ask and giving us grace to live as we choose. But God is much more than that, He indeed is the Sovereign Lord of the universe and the Creator of all things, and He has a plan and a purpose for all He has made.
The Bible says that everything He has created has been done so to give Him glory. Sometimes, like Saul, we engage in doing things that we really believe are right. In his case, he saw this new group as blasphemers, hurting the cause of God in the world. He saw himself as the protector and defender of God- as though God needs such things. Headstrong and sure of his rightness, he began his operation to eradicate what he believed was a disease. Left to himself, he would have no doubt been hugely successful and yet what he thought was successful was in reality in opposition to the will and plan of God. So God had to get his attention. Apparently he was so determined that he was right that God had to use force, and on his way to wreck more havoc on the church, he ran into God. The impact of running into God was of such magnitude that Saul was literally, physically knocked off his horse. You see if you’re running the wrong way, you will always hit the wall. God doesn’t build such walls to bring suffering or pain but to stop us in our tracks so that we won’t continue down the path of destruction. We may never be literally knocked off a horse, but many of us have experienced being knocked down by life. Again when these things happen, we can either shake our fist at God with anger and rebellion or we can acknowledge that maybe we were headed the wrong way. We read of another character who was headed the wrong way that needed God to get his attention-Jonah. Jonah was God’s spokesman and so God called him to go to Nineveh and speak to them about their spiritual condition. The people of Nineveh were cruel and in their history had exacted terrible things on the Israelites. In fact at this time they were enemies of Israel. So Jonah who didn’t want God to show them mercy, went the other way. The Bible says he went down and got on a boat headed to Tarsus- the opposite way from Nineveh. So God intervened and a storm blew up with such intensity that the boat was going to sink. The crew was doing everything they could and finally came to the conclusion that someone on board was displeasing the gods. It became apparent that it was Jonah and though they tried to keep him safe, the storm intensified until at last Jonah was thrown overboard. God, who had no plans to drown Jonah, had prepared a big fish that swallowed Jonah and that fish turned around and began to swim to Nineveh. While in the belly of the whale, Jonah in his distress repented of his disobedience and the whale spat him out on the shore of Nineveh. Now you would think that the whole episode would have changed Jonah’s heart but as he enters the city of Nineveh, he begins to proclaim that in thirty days Nineveh will be overthrown. I can almost hear the wish in his words. Something amazing happens. The king of Nineveh calls the people to a time of fasting and repentance and God hears and spares the people. Again you would think that Jonah would have been glad to see the mercy and grace of God. Instead he becomes angry and God had to give him further lessons about grace and mercy. Finally Jonah recognized that the grace and mercy of God was to everyone, not just a select few.
I hope both these stories speak to us in a way that we view obstacles and challenges differently. I hope that first of all we will know that God loves us and He really does want the best for us and our lives. I hope that when we get knocked down or get swallowed by the big fishes of life that we turn to God in prayer and ask if perhaps we’re headed the wrong way. Not every challenge or obstacle is because of that, but it’s worth considering. As I look back over my life, I can see many times when my way was blocked or something removed from me or a time of struggle that God was using to shape me and direct my life. Going through an adjustment is no fun-just ask Jonas and Paul- but the outcome is worth the pain.
To be sure, these were extreme measures that God had to use to get their attention. We don’t need to go to this extreme if we will simply listen and obey. It’s not to say that life won’t have its trials and that many of them are brought about by our activity or the work of the devil.
I hope that all of us are listening and following God and that He never has to use extreme measures to get our attention. Having said that, He loves us enough to do what is necessary to get our attention, even to the point of knocking us off our horse or taking us to our destination in the belly of a whale.
Dr. John Thompson