“All things work together for good, for those who love God,” declares the Apostle Paul, and if there ever were anyone who understood the power of this glorious truth (after Jesus Himself), it was Paul, following his Lord.
When Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, his life changed forever. Paul truly repented. To repent means to “change directions” and Paul changed directions radically. A devout Pharisee and leader in his faith, Paul believed that the recent “Jesus” movement of Jews claiming that the crucified Jesus had actually been the Messiah and had now risen from the dead was a direct challenge to what he believed was God’s will. With misguided zeal he led the charge of those opposed to Jesus, believing he was acting for God. When the established leaders of a local synagogue heard Stephen claim that Jesus was the Risen Messiah, they decided that Stephen had to die. Stephen was taken out to the edge of the city and thrown down a hill or pit. Then those who opposed him threw rocks on him until he was dead. They did this in the name of God, and Paul held the jackets and egged them on. After this grisly scene, Paul went on a rampage. As Luke describes it in Acts: Saul was ravaging the church; and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
On his way to Damascus with a charge to arrest and imprison followers of Jesus, Paul met the Lord he thought he was serving all along. Paul met the glorified Jesus that day. He was blinded by the experience and when his sight was restored, he was a changed man. He belonged to Jesus, body and soul. Paul would forever after define himself as Jesus’ man. He was Jesus’ Apostle, and he lived for Jesus, no longer for himself. Paul would grow so much in communion with Jesus that he saw every single thing that happened to him as an opportunity to serve his Lord. Even the bad things. When he asked God to remove his “thorn” in the flesh and God refused, Paul found in the refusal a welcome opportunity to draw closer to God. God would not heal Paul of this malady but would give him strength enough to bear it. Jesus’ power would fill Paul in his weakness, turning that very weakness into strength. For this changed man, everything that happened to him was a chance to bear witness to Jesus. All things work for this purpose for Paul, even hard things.
This is a lesson we could use right now. As we struggle with challenges and changes in our lives, we run across many things we cannot change but wish we could. These are always an opportunity for finding Jesus if you look. Every annoyance, small as well as large, is a chance to learn and grow, perhaps even to
welcome. After all, that’s what Paul did. He who rejoiced in his sufferings saw everything as either a blessing from Jesus or a chance to serve Jesus. All
things could work for good in his life.
It is in this spirit that I share with you a life-changing prayer that I got from Richard Rohr’s book “Just This.” It is a prayer that many have found to be life-changing. It was first written by Mary Mrozowski and made popular by Thomas Keating and is known as “the welcoming prayer.” This prayer helps us organize our life according to the principles we claim to believe, which is easier said than done. When difficult things come our way, we have the power to choose how we respond to them. If we will seek Jesus each moment, we can learn to welcome even the tough times as opportunities to grow. We do this simply because those are the only times that we have. We become like Paul accepting everything that comes our way as a chance to grow and serve the Lord. Pray this every day and you will begin to see things differently. You might even find yourself whispering “welcome, welcome, welcome” in a difficult time and begin to learn what Paul learned. Join Paul as he follows his forever Lord, the King who shows us that even death on a cross can be redeemed by God.
The Welcoming Prayer
Welcome, welcome, welcome.
welcome everything that comes to me today
because I know it’s for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons,
situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem,
approval, and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation,
condition, person, or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and
God’s action within. Amen.
I’ll see you in Church,