Back to School
ILL.- Teacher to student, “What are you – animal, vegetable or mineral?” The boy replied, “Vegetable. I’M A HUMAN BEAN.”
ILL.- It was the little girl’s first day at school and the teacher was making out her registration card. “What is your father’s name?” She said, “Daddy.”
“Yes, I know he’s your daddy, but what does your mother call him?” “Oh, she don’t call him anything. SHE LIKES HIM.”
ILL.- The teacher said, “Why don’t you brush your teeth? I can see what you had for breakfast this morning.”
Boy, “What did I have?” Teacher, “Eggs.” Boy, “You’re wrong! THAT WAS YESTERDAY!”
ILL.- A girl student to a boy student, “Too bad you flunked the test. How far were you from the right answers?” Boy, “TWO SEATS.”
ILL.- A father was examining his son’s report card. He said, “One thing is definitely in your favor. WITH THIS REPORT CARD YOU COULDN’T POSSIBLY BE CHEATING.”
ILL.- A librarian said, “Please, be quiet. The people next to you can’t read.” The little boy said, “What a shame! I’ve been reading since I was six.”
ILL.- Johnny’s first day of school the class was to put their right hands over their hearts and repeat the Pledge of Allegiance.
The teacher watched the children as he started the pledge, "I pledge allegiance to the flag..."
She stopped when she noticed Johnny’s right hand over the left side of his rear end. "Johnny, I will not continue until you put your hand over your heart,” the teacher said.
Johnny replied, "Ma’am, it is over my heart." After several attempts to get Johnny to put his hand over his heart, the teacher asked, "Why do you think that is your heart?"
"Because whenever my Granny visits, she picks me up, pats me here, and says, ’Bless your little heart!’"
Saul’s conversion was instantaneous, but his transformation into the Apostle Paul took some time…and it all happened when he went back to school…in 3 key locations. And there are tools God used in Saul’s life in each location:
1st place God sent him: desert of Arabia.
And in Arabia, God used the tool of Solitude on Saul.
v. 23 many days were fulfilled
The Bible often takes long periods of time and compresses them into a short statement. In this case, a 3 year period of time, acc’d to Gal. 1.
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace,  To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:  Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.  Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.
He spent those 3 years in the Arabian Desert, alone w/ God! For 3 yrs., God Himself taught him!
Study the lives of great men and women of God, and each can point to some formative times they spent alone w/ God. They may have been surrounded by people, but they were at a point at which they felt that God was all they had…and in their solitude, God shaped and molded them.
Moses—you can divide his life into 3 40 yr. segments:
1st 40 yrs.—Pharaoh’s house
next 40—same Arabian Desert we read about today, just 3,000 years earlier!
Last 40—leading Israel out of Egypt and to Promised Land.
Which of these 3 40 yr. periods was most imp’t? We’d be tempted to say the latter, but I believe it never would’ve happened w/out the middle period of solitude and formation!
What was the last thing Moses did before leaving Egypt for the desert? He killed a man! He took matters into his own hands, in the power of the flesh, so God sent him to the desert and it took years to sandblast the pride out of him! He learned that when you come to the place that God is all you have you find He’s all you need!
David—when anointed king of Israel, the reigning king, another Saul, became so enraged w/ jealousy that he actually chased David thru the wilderness like an animal. Listen to the cry of David’s heart in his 7th Psalm:
O Lord my God, in thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me:  Lest he tear my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver.
There’s a man that’s down, despondent, a man that feels like God has forgotten him!
Then in v. 10 it says:
My defence is of God, which saveth the upright in heart.
He made a conscious decision to trust God! He learned in the desert, all alone, that when you come to the place that God is all you have you find He’s all you need!
How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?  How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?  Consider and hear me, O Lord my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;  Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.  But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.
In solitude he was learning that when you come to the place that God is all you have you find He’s all you need!
His faith grew the most in the garden of solitude.
Jesus—had an incredible 3 year ministry, opening blind eyes, deaf ears, and even raising the dead! And the greatest of all miracles, saving souls!
But what do you know about Jesus from age 12 to 30? Nothing! Those were silent years, in solitude, obscurity, working in a carpenter’s shop, no doubt communing w/ God in prayer, study, meditation, and preparation!
Then at 30, he didn’t come on the scene and say, I’m here, you lucky world! He didn’t do a direct mailing to all the synagogues saying, I’m available for meetings, conferences, healing services…no, He went out into the desert, alone for 40 days and 40 nights…He fasted, and whipped the devil personally before going out to tell others how to do the same!
He began his ministry in solitude, as He began each day…
And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.
I thank God for my Bible College education, but let me tell you something…it’s what I learn direct from God, all alone w/ Him, that matters!
Are you in that place of solitude? Let God do a deeper work in your soul during this time! Have daily devotions in solitude! Allow Him to do radical spiritual surgery on your life as He molds and shapes you as a vessel of clay in the Potter’s hands!
Saul came out of Arabia a different man…he went in a young man still scarred w/ hatred, bitterness, and no doubt a lot of confusion, but he came out the tender hearted Apostle Paul.
He was old school when he entered, having been raised under the OT law, but he went back to school in the desert and graduated, throwing his tasseled cap in the air saying, by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified! He went in w/ the OT in his knapsack and came out w/ the book of Romans in his heart!
In the desert, God used the tool of solitude.
Secondly, God sent him to Damascus. And there God used the tool of suffering.
v. 22-25 When Paul returned to Damascus from Arabia, he was a marked man. Many wanted to kill him. Can you imagine how he must’ve felt having to be smuggled out of town, down that wall in a basket, like some criminal? It was humiliating, but this was just a foreshadow of a lot more suffering which was yet to come.
v. 15-16 “suffer”
Read II Cor. for the listing of what else he endured…195 stripes from whippings/beatings, stoned, left for dead, shipwreck, persecutions, in prison, cold, hungry and thirsty, not to mention his disfiguring eye disease!
They say the measure of your character is what it takes to get you to quit…he must’ve had a lot of character.
What does it take to make you mad and get you to quit on God / quit going to church?
If Paul was a church member today, his suffering list might read: “no one shook my hand” / “nobody called me” / I didn’t care for that person’s tone / they didn’t give me the ministry I wanted / preacher stepped on my toes…
It was back to school for Saul and this was the school of hard knocks. And there’s some things we stubborn human beings will only learn thru suffering!
God looked down and saw you like a diamond in the rough and now He’s knocking off the rough edges…His hammer and chisel aren’t always pleasant, but are very much necessary!
He puts us thru the fire to refine us, so the impurities rise to the top and there comes forth a more valuable product!
Ill.—Sculptor took a block of marble and carved a beautiful horse / someone asked, how did you do that? / Easy! I looked at the marble block, I imagined the horse, and then I chipped away everything that didn’t look like it!
It’s in the valley that we learn some of our best lessons…and God’s chipping away at many of us.
Pray this: Lord, help me learn what I’m supposed to learn thru this suffering so I don’t have to repeat it!
…and then, thirdly, God sent him to Jerusalem, and God used the tool of seasoning on him.
A seasoned Christian has some experience under their belt.
v. 26 Why did he go to Jerusalem? Gal. 1 says it was to see Peter.
Pay attn. now…the word “see.” Used 1400 times in Bible, but this is the only time it comes from the Greek word historeo historeo … where we get the word History. You could say, he went to Jerusalem to do a history on Peter and the disciples.
You see, Paul had the doctrine, God had given it directly to him, but he didn’t have the experience…he didn’t walk w/ Jesus for 3 years like Peter did…he wasn’t there when Jesus healed multitudes, but Peter was! He didn’t witness the feeding of the 5k! He wasn’t there when Jesus arose…wasn’t even saved yet! Peter was!
And for 15 solid days he sat down w/ Peter and the disciples and said, ok, give me the background, tell me the whole story, give me details, don’t leave anything out!! [wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall?!]
Peter says, well, it all started one day when my brother, Andrew, walks in and, get this, says, “We found the Christ!” The moment I laid eyes on Him I knew it was true! And speaking of eyes, I know this is takin’ a rabbit trail, but lemme tell you about when I walked on water, and when I kept my eyes on Jesus I could do it, but when I looked away I sank! And the rest of these guys laughed and laughed at me, but lemme tell you: none of them ever walked on water! And Jesus could look into my eyes, buddy, yes indeed, he could see right thru me, and after I denied Him at His trial, from a distance our eyes met again…oh, the power of that moment…I’ll never forget His eyes!
Paul: hey, you skipped over a lot of stuff, let’s go back!
Peter: ok, guys help me out, let’s go thru it day by day, event after event…
…and Paul’s mentor, Peter, poured himself into his protégé, reproducing himself in him! And we all need a mentor, someone w/ more experience than us, who has been at it for a while, who’s been there and done that, and will give you the T-shirt they got!
Peter helped pull Paul up to the next level, showed him the ropes, and he gained valuable experience as he was “seasoned” for the practical ins and outs of the ministry.
You need a discipler, a ministry partner to be accountable to…let us hook you up!
And you need to be in church whenever the doors are open…God has great things He intends to pour into you 3 times a week and you cheat yourself when you forego that seasoning process!
I’ve had several wonderful mentors and I learned so much from them, and if I stand tall it’s on the shoulders of people like Steve Proctor, and several others…I “historied” them, and they give me a boost of several decades of experience!
One more thing:
Turn to Acts 11.
After Arabia, Damascus, and Jerusalem…Paul drops off the scene! It’s like he just disappeared!
Turns out he had gone back home to Tarsus…likely to win his family to the Lord…and there he waited on God…what’s next?
Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:  And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch.
He opens the door and there’s his old buddy, Barnabus. It’s time for ministry! Let’s roll! It’s time to “Do Something!”
Are you in a holding pattern? What is God trying to do right now? What tools is He using on you right now? Solitude? Suffering? Seasoning? It’s all a learning experience…let’s let God take us back to school!
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