Change. Is there anything more mysterious? So many of us fervently desire what we don’t possess. If only I were older . . . If only I were healthy . . . If only I were in college . . . If only I had a job . . . If only I had a better job . . . If only I were married . . . If only my spouse wouldn’t do that . . . If only we had a home of our own . . . If only we didn’t live here . . . The list is as endless as our desires.
And yet, we fear change—the unknown and the possibility of failure or disappointment. Our frequent yearning for something different often clashes with our fear of change. We can’t experience the new without going through some type of change.
There is a Bible character whose life seemed defined by dramatic change and who serves as an example of how to handle it. Aside from Christ Himself, he is the most quoted and most discussed figure from the New Testament. While his name and letters are well known, we often ignore his story. He is the apostle Paul.
It is natural that Paul’s name finds its way into many conversations among followers of Christ; he was an extraordinary man. His mission and travels were epic, his mind is esteemed, and his writings fill much of the New Testament. Yet his very name awakens us to the realities of the challenges of change.
Our discussions of Paul usually revolve around one of his letters, a statement from his theology, or some instruction he gave and how we should apply it. But what about the man himself? Far from being a larger-than-life figure carved out of marble, Paul was a man who discovered that the changes he violently resisted were in fact drawing him to the God who was greater than he had ever imagined. His transformation was so profound that even his name changed (acts 13:9). But swapping a P for an S, turning Saul into Paul, only skims the surface of the changes that fundamentally reshaped him. We will examine how God transformed the heart of a man who then turned the world upside down.
So who was this Saul/Paul? Let’s look at his story.