continued from two weeks ago
... Paul had spent about eight years back in his home country of Cilicia after Jesus appeared to him. In the days immediately thereafter, he was in the city of Damascus, trying to find his way. Everything he had centered his life around had turned out to be wrong. He thought he knew everything. He thought he was fighting for God. And here he was fighting against God.
Those with him took him to the synagogue to look for a Jewish doctor, to see if someone could help his blindness. At first those with him were surprised to hear him ask, "Do any followers of Jesus worship in this synagogue? Is there anyone who has performed healings?" Then his compatriots thought he must be using his eyes as an excuse to find those he had come to arrest.
But he felt the Lord was leading him to them. He somehow believed that Jesus might heal him, if he came to put his trust in him. Most of the believers had no interest in meeting with Paul. They knew what he was about. Zealous Simon left town almost immediately after Paul arrived.
Finally, a man named Ananias took him in, and Paul sent his co-workers back to Jerusalem. After a few days, after Ananias was convinced that Paul truly believed, Paul was baptized in the name of Jesus. Then Ananias laid hands on him so that he might be full of God's Holy Spirit.
It was then that Paul had the most intense encounter with God of his life. At the time, he thought he actually traveled to the highest heaven in his body, but he would later wonder if it was only his spirit. In the third heaven, he came into the very presence of God, where he heard sounds and words that he could never repeat in his own power.
When he became aware of his surroundings again, a good deal of his sight had returned, although not entirely. He would struggle with his eyes to some extent the rest of his life. But he eventually came to see it as a gift from God. He took it as a reminder that his weakness helped show him his need for God's strength. Although he had to live with this "thorn in his flesh," it gave him an opportunity to depend on God...