Why are we here? Have you thought about that lately? God, in all His glory, wanted us to exist. He created deep and vast oceans, cloudy blue skies, sandy deserts, multicolored birds, shining stars and endless galaxies, swaying palm trees and soaring mountains. Then He took a deep breath and breathed life into Adam. Ever wonder why? What if it was all because He simply wanted a friend?
For many years I believed in God, respected Him, and tried my best to obey Him. I thought it was enough. I knew about Him. I went to church every Sunday. I knew the parables by heart. I tried to be a good Christian. I was saved. But I didn’t know Him.
I heard a preacher a few weeks ago say that “Satan knew God well and he never doubted Him.” I had to think about that one for a while. Remember where Satan started out…worshipping God. Along with all his demons. Satan understood God’s power and glory. He knew scripture forward and backward. He knew the parables too. He understood God’s power and pull. He knew His characteristics and miracles. Satan knew all about God. Just like I did.
Then I think of Saul. The Christian Serial Killer. Scary guy. Smart, cultured and highly educated. The thing about Saul is that he was a stubborn man. He had a strong will and the blood of God’s people on his soul. All those years, he thought he was doing right, while God knew he was so very wrong. Saul knew more about God than almost anyone of his time. About the laws. About the church. About God. Just like Satan. Just like me.
Some people come quietly and peacefully to Jesus, conversion without resistance. They walk an aisle on Sunday morning and settle into a lifetime of worship. Some people, like Saul and me, don’t convert without heartache. People like Saul and me get Damascus-type conversions.
Saul had to be knocked down and blinded before God got his attention. He was blind for three days, as helpless as a child. How hard and humbling that must have been for a man as powerful as he. How embarrassing to be led through the streets terrified and trembling. How humiliating to depend fully on the very people he had spent years persecuting and murdering. Saul wasn’t one to walk quietly down the aisle on Sunday morning. Wasn’t in his personality.
But God knew Saul’s personality well. He created it, after all. But He also knew his potential. He knew the impact Saul could have for His kingdom. So He knocked him down, physically…then He built him up, spiritually. And Saul became Paul, and Paul became best friends with God.
I have a story similar to Paul’s. I inherited some of that stubbornness from my murderous ancestor. Needed some of his humility. Needed to walk that Damascus Road. To depend on others and God.
And though it took me many years to say it, I am so thankful that He struck me down and built me up. Thankful for the suffering that built the trust. Thankful that I didn’t waste a lifetime just knowing His stories. Knowing about Him. So thankful I can now call Him my Best Friend.
I heard the results of a poll recently where 70% of Americans claim to be Christians. I don’t second guess it. Only God could do that. But I doubt that 70% are friends with Him. If they were, this earth would look a lot different than it does. If 70% of us really knew Him, really understood Him, really were friends with Him, we wouldn’t have to worry about elections, world hunger or prison overcrowding. Orphans and widows would be loved. Families would stay together. Friendship with God changes a person’s soul. And when your soul is changed, your actions follow.
I think about Paul often. About all the good he did in Part 2 of his life. I think about how hard he worked for God. And I think about the friendship they shared. In the end, what could be better to say about someone than that were friends with and truly served God?
My deepest prayer for my children is not physical health or immeasurable wealth. It’s not happy marriages or dependable employment. It’s not a growing church or a thriving ministry.
My deepest prayer is that each of them will find friendship with God. A relationship of trust and love, study and devotion, consistency and worship. It changed Saul into Paul. It changed the fishermen into Disciples, it changed the Woman at the Well into a tool for Revival. It changed Abraham and Noah, and Enoch and Joseph. It changed Esther and Miriam and Mary Magdalene.
And last of all, best of all, it's changing me.