What’s been making you happy lately? A promotion? A hobby? New circle of friends? Here’s an even greater question: Have you consulted God about that thing, or have you perhaps let it become the highest joy in your life right now?

Have you ever considered where Saul of Tarsus was headed in his career? Acts 22:3 tells us he was “educated at the feet of Gamaliel.” According to 3:34, Gamaliel was “a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people.” (ESV) In North American society, we can liken Saul to the student or apprentice of a prominent lawyer, politician or CEO. He was far from a nobody.

Not only a student, Saul had personally gained the admiration of all Pharisees. This order of Jews hated the “Sect of the Nazarenes,” as it was called. And as for Saul? “For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.” (Galatians 1:13) He described his position in Judaism as “. . . beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.” A few verses in Acts gives us an idea of the intense zeal Saul had:

And Saul approved of [Stephen’s] execution. (Acts 8:1 ESV)

But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. (Acts 8:3 ESV)

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. (Acts 9:1-2 ESV)

“I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women. . .” (Acts 22:4 ESV)

“He is the Son of God.” These words can be heard at a synagogue is Damascus. Who would speak such bold words? Surely the Jews would arrest such a man! The crowds look around to see who was speaking. As their gaze falls upon him, their breathing halts, and their eyes bulge.

Saul of Tarsus on a ledge in front of the people, full of courage given by the Holy Spirit.

The Pharisees are the most astounded of all the people. Most of them know the Rabbi on a first-name basis. The man who once proclaimed “Jesus is an imposter!” now calls out “Jesus is Lord!”

You know the rest of Saul’s story. So great is his reformation that his name is changed to Paul. His ex-colleagues loathe him, mock him, beat him. Arrested and put on display, the same Jews who called for Jesus’ crucifixion now call for Paul’s death.

“I have suffered the loss of all things,” Paul writes to the Philippians. Is there any regret in his mind? Not even a hint. “-and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8 ESV) Paul will never go back to his old ways. Though he was made the “scum of the world, the refuse of all things,” (see 2 Cor. 2:13) he was incomparably more joyful than he had ever been.

Do you see something in Paul that you wish for yourself? We so crave our worldly prominence that, even for Christ, we never wish to give it up. Yet we hear the Saviour’s words: “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25) Paul made an excellent transaction!

Even from ten years old, I wanted to be an authour – and I still do. Writing is what I’m good at, and I want to do it as long as I live. My teachers, parents and friends call some of my work phenomenal. However, when I turned back to God, I could hear his asking me, “Would you give up that talent and future if I willed for you otherwise?” God didn’t tell me I wouldn’t be a writer, but He doesn’t want me to place my will for my life over His will for my life.

Paul once thought God wanted the extermination of the Christians. How wrong he was! And so we must consult with God for everything, brothers and sisters.

Is there something you’re doing in your life that you’re doing for the approval of man? Does it bring you status and recognition among those older than you? Bring it before God constantly in prayer. Never let your dreams override His will. You may lose everything, but you will gain Christ.

The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you all.