In the ongoing theater of human history, the contest unfolding on the American stage of governance right now is more dramatic and intense than any we have witnessed. The hyper-contentious atmosphere prevailing in the land has spawned conflicts and confrontations in nearly every category of human contact. Unknowns abound and new questions create another frantic search for answers on a daily basis, but one question seems to overshadow them all . . . Who’s going to win?
Other Haunting Questions ~
It’s impossible to overstate how much is riding on the answer to that question. Not knowing the answer to that question gives rise to others, like, “Who seems to be winning now?” Who’d be likely to win if votes were cast today?” “Is the adage that cheaters never win reliable?” And, some may even dare to ask a more significant question, “What does winning really mean?” That profound question invites us to turn our attention to another contentious time in the Church’s history. A man whose concept of winning underwent a dramatic and eternal alteration has some lessons worth sharing.
Saul of Tarsus was a fighter, but not just an average, run of the mill contender. He was determined to achieve victory at any cost. That was evident in his rise, as a young man, to a position of leadership and authority among the Pharisees of his day. That couldn’t have happened if he hid away from contention and conflict. His zeal and combative spirit were also evident in his response to theological challenges or those he considered to be dangerous heretics. Saul was not just a fighter. He was a winner, and willing to do anything necessary to vanquish any opponent, whether that opponent came in the form of an ideology or the people promoting it.
A Threat Emerges ~
To this ambitious young Pharisee, the explosive birth of the Church of Jesus Christ on the day of Pentecost posed an existential threat. It’s claim that the simple application of repentance and faith in Jesus could free people from sin’s condemnation and break the chains of guilt and fear was deeply disturbing to a man like Saul. He saw its reasoned reconciliation with oppressive Mosaic legalism amounted to a wholesale refutation of the Pharisees’ religious, judicial, and social system. Saul had devoted his life to enforcing its burdensome rules, and those exuberant followers of Jesus were contradicting everything he had worked for all his life. To him, the budding movement amounted to open rebellion and could not be allowed to continue. It had to be crushed before they could multiply any further, and Saul had both the will and the authority to carry out that mission.
Attacks against Jesus’ followers by both civil and religious authorities began almost immediately and soon resulted in the Church’s first martyr. As a leading figure among the Pharisees, Saul gave official assent and approval to Steven’s assassination. But instead of soothing his boiling religious indignation, overseeing Steven’s assassination only fanned the flames. Luke’s report reveals the devastating impact of his rage and notes that Saul made havoc of the Church (Acts 8:1-3). Believers began to scatter to avoid being arrested and incarcerated or killed. In his battle against the Church, Saul’s tactics were working, and he appeared to be winning. But something was about to happen that would change both his perspective on winning and what was needed to accomplish it.
One Meeting Changed Everything ~
The story is familiar. On his way to Damascus to hunt down and persecute more of Jesus’ followers, Saul’s journey was interrupted by the Lord Himself. Though his physical eyes were temporarily blinded in that encounter, the spiritual truth he saw that day changed everything, including his understanding of what it means to be the winner. He was introduced to life with a different objective and the kind of victory that has the power not only to change lives, but to transform nations. Solomon encapsulated it in a simple, but profound, observation.
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who wins souls is wise. Proverbs 11:30 (NKJV)
Lasting peace, prosperity, and relational stability aren’t achieved individually or nationally by simply winning arguments, debates, or elections. Every generation in our lifetime has declared victories in those arenas, but in spite of all that we claim to have won, we find ourselves immersed in a moral, ethical, and informational swamp. We have won lots of contests, but fewer and fewer souls. As long as we fail to win in the mission we were sent to fulfill, the quagmire surrounding us will pull us even deeper downward. As vital as winning elections can be, and this one is more so than any that have preceded it, that’s not the mission we were sent to fulfill. Jesus dispatched us to win souls, not just elections.
From Persecutor to Persuader ~
After meeting Jesus, Saul was transformed from a maniacal persecutor to a masterful persuader. He realized that winning souls is the one victory that cannot be lost, and that a failure to win hearts and souls makes every other victory shallow and temporary. On the other hand, winning the people ensures that we will eventually win everywhere else. Nations are not blessed with lasting peace and prosperity by administrative victories alone. That can only happen when people find a basis for real hope. When the gospel of Jesus Christ is presented by our words and His principles are demonstrated in the way we live, the impact is powerfully persuasive and the outcome can be a victory that lasts forever.
It has never been more important that we encourage everyone we know to vote as this intense electoral battle concludes, but winning this election won’t automatically produce the changes we desperately need. The lasting peace, prosperity, and social stability we long for require winning in a different contest. The vital role we have in our nation’s future can’t be carried out by simply casting our ballot or encouraging our neighbors to cast theirs. The winning that will lift us out of the chaos and re-establish the values that made us great begins by revisiting our commitment to Jesus Christ. Then, if our faith in Him is more than just a religious formality, the next move is to invite the Holy Spirit of God to use us from now on as an instrument of persuasion and a winner of souls. If we do that, there’s no way we can lose no matter what unfolds in November.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to Tweet & Share from the pull quotes below. Each quote links directly to this article through Twitter.
“Winning souls is the one victory that cannot be lost. A failure to win hearts and souls makes every other victory shallow and temporary.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
“Nations are not blessed with lasting peace and prosperity by administrative victories alone. That can only happen when people find a basis for real hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
“When the gospel of Jesus Christ is presented by our words and His principles are demonstrated in the way we live, the impact is powerfully persuasive and the outcome can be a victory that lasts forever.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
“The winning that will lift us out of the chaos and re-establish the values that made us great begins by revisiting our commitment to Jesus Christ.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
“If our faith in Jesus Christ is more than just a religious formality, the next move is to invite the Holy Spirit of God to use us as an instrument of persuasion and a winner of souls.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
Check out Ron’s book, “Right Side Up Thinking in an Upside Down World ~ Looking at the World through the Lens of Biblical Truth”
The Kindle e-version is just $1.99. No Kindle device is needed. E-book readers are included on most computers, tablets, and smartphones. If you don’t have one, the free Kindle app can be easily downloaded directly from the Amazon site on almost any device.
Click here for a “Look Inside” preview at Amazon.
Amen and Amen my friend. We can’t know what tomorrow brings, but we do know what the end will be brother. I so look forward to standing beside you as we cast our Crowns of Life at Christ’s feet on that day. As for the upcoming election, I’m viewing it as God’s answer to my prayers. Either He gives us another chance to repent and turn this nation around or His return draws ever closer. In either way, I believe we Christians are in for a fight. That fight? To maintain our faith, grow closer to God, and bring as many souls to His truth as we can in whatever time we’re given. I’m thanking God this morning for the wisdom and encouragement of godly folks like you sir. God’s blessings to you and your Ms. Diane.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Could not possibly have been said better, J.D., and I could not possibly agree more. The followers of Jesus have endured anything and everything hostile and ungodly administrations have dumped on them, and we’re still here. Our job description doesn’t change regardless of the demonic plots and conspiracies that will probably emerge in the next few weeks. The ultimate battle is against the devil and a world system designed to pave the broad road to hell and make it look as appealing as possible. If we manage get to Texas again, I’m gonna have to look you up and see if we can get a ticket for a genuine dude ranch tour of the Cross-Dubya. Meanwhile, keep on keeping the Truth front and center and the Light shining. I believe it’s going farther and doing more than we might think.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Not much “Dude” to this old ranch buddy, but always lots of great food and wonderful company. Well most of the time anyway. Quite frankly, the world can cause me to become quite the grump sometimes; just ask my Ms. Diane. 😀 God’s blessings my friend.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I am voting for the candidate who absolutely will uphold our Constitution, which guarantees our right to worship, and continue to win souls for Jesus. I think that choice is clear.
LikeLiked by 1 person
As usual, Martha, we’re on the same page. In our house, we’re praying every day for God to overcome all the demonically inspired forces at work to keep our candidate from winning, or to somehow depose him if he does win. We’re also praying for the additional miracle of winning back the House and expanding the majority in the Senate. But if the Church of Jesus Christ doesn’t get back to the mission He sent us on, we’ll eventually lose anyway. Thanks for being one of the sources of hope and encouragement in this contentious time.
LikeLiked by 1 person