Never Give Up on A Lost Cause


Passage: Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-9,10-19
We all know someone who fits the mold of the lost cause. For each of us
someone comes into our mind when we say the word "impossible" Think
about that person for a moment that you have tried a million times to
work with and they do nothing but make your life and your job
miserable. Or what about that person from years ago that knew you when
and now doesn't respect your faith because of how you used to be. Think
about that person that you have given the gospel to a dozen times and
yet they still won't believe.
The gospel of Jesus is communicated and Refused. Love is offered and
rejected. your heart feels ripped out and your own faith feels shaken,
you finally come to the conclusion that this person will never fully
comprehend the power of God and will never be able to share your joy.
You feel like you've done everything you can to bring about change in
their life and yet you find yourself still rejected and ridiculed. You
believe you have found a lost cause, a hopeless case. And sometimes we
feel like giving up.
But God never gives up on a lost cause. God doesn't see it the way we
do. The disciples had found one man who had heard the Gospel and
rejected it, and they had totally given up on him.
In Chapter 7 of the book of Acts, we are introduced to the young man
Saul. He had no doubt heard the gospel being preached and knew what was
being taught. Why I'd say he even understood the ramifications, but he
pronounced them as false and he became the first major persecutor of
the Christian church. We are introduced in chapter 7 through the
stoning of Stephen.
Stephen, was a man full of the Holy Spirit. And he delivered a great
discourse on the salvation of Jesus Christ, he was dragged outside the
city and stoned to death. While he was being stoned the witnesses laid
their coats at the feet of Saul. Soon thereafter Saul began a
concentrated and intense persecution; he would even go into people's
houses and drag them out and have them jailed for being a Christian.
And we read as a result of this persecution, that all the Christians in
Jerusalem were scattered. Surely if there was ever going to be a person
who would be considered beyond God's help and hope, Saul would be that
man .
But Saul was a man in conflict. (Acts 7:57-8:3; 9:1-2)
Skipping forward to Chapter 9 verses 1 and 2 we read that Saul was
still breathing out murderous threats and now he was on the road to do
damage beyond Jerusalem. Is it any wonder that a disciple of Jesus
Christ would think of Saul as a lost cause?
Now, I know that we are aware of the rest of the story, but stop for
just a minute. Think about your lost cause. Now you might be thinking,
"oh yeah, Saul is one thing, but this person is entirely different…"
Or perhaps you're thinking, "God doesn't work that way any-more…"
That's a cop-out I'm more inclined to think that my lost cause is not
as bad as Saul was. Sure, I've been ignored, sure I've been concerned,
and sure I wish the problem would just go away, but what's the worst
that happens to us if our lost cause gets around us?
We might get ridiculed, we might get ignored again. Perhaps we'll be
taken advantage of because we're Christians and we actually turn the
other cheek. But we most likely won't get jailed or beaten on sight.
That, however, is exactly what would happen to followers of Jesus if
Saul caught them. They would be sent to Jail – or worse.
Saul was a man in conflict. He was fierce in his devotion to
his God as he knew him. More than his love for God though I think was
his love for what he thought he knew about God. Saul was indeed a man
in conflict.
We know someone in conflict don't we? Think of that person at
work, that family member who is filled with such venom. Hatred and
anger and strife seem to seep from every pore. They lose their temper
at the slightest move. They have no hope within them. Maybe you know
someone who you haven't told the Gospel because you are afraid of them;
afraid of what they might say. Afraid of their opinion of you. Afraid
they'll call you weak or make fun of you.
But let's not give up on someone. History is filled with the stories of
men and women who after years of fighting God, they finally come
running toward him. One woman recounted that for 36 years she had
prayed for her husband before he accepted Christ. Remember the parable
of the Prodigal son. Every day for who knows how long the boys father
must have waited for his son to return, He didn't give up and one day
the boy came home, and was received with open arms.
In Acts 9:3-9- Saul changes from a man in Conflict to a man Confronted.
Here in Acts 9 we get the pleasure of listening in as God addresses
Saul and his soul is re-born to eternal life. Paul's question is a
question that many must ask. We have friends and neighbors, relatives
and coworkers that need to have the grace of God born in their hearts.
Saul was a man who many would have automatically deemed a lost cause.
In fact I think we need to realize what an amazing demonstration of
God's grace this is. Here's Saul practically spouting fire over the
spread of this group of followers of Jesus. And here comes God
basically scares Saul into salvation! It's amazing that God didn't
strike him down, but instead he lifted him up.
Saul is no different than some of the people we know. From where we are
standing there's no chance they'll come to Christ. We feel as if they
are destined to be left behind. And we have no hope for them.
But God sees things differently, he will go far and beyond in order to
bring someone to salvation. JUST REMEMBER WHAT HE HAD TO GO THROUGH TO
SAVE US. Death on a cross, after cruel torture, and mocking. And Jesus
endured all of that for us. He didn't consider himself and the cost he
had to pay. He considered the need of all of us for salvation. And so
he came.
We need to remember that God's grace is immeasurable. God has set his
sights on Saul, and Saul hasn't got a clue. We know someone don't we
that seems as if they are without a clue don't given up on that person.
I think someone had been praying for Saul, doesn't God say pray for
those that persecute you? I think that people maybe were praying about
Saul and look what happened. He falls to the ground and is struck by
the glory of God as he hears Jesus and calls him Lord.
Jesus says to him "Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?" Now Saul knew
that the one addressing him was none other than God and so he replies,
"who are you Lord?" Imagine his heart sinking as he hears the reply, "I
am Jesus whom you are persecuting"
What do you think went through his mind at that moment? Here now Saul
thought he was living for God and he wasn't, Here Saul thought that
legal perfection was required to live for God and it isn't. Here Saul
had been relying on his own righteousness, and he had none. Saul
thought he was defending God and he was persecuting him. Saul was like
so many others in our day though. At that moment he must have believed
that he was going to be punished. Indeed, many of the believers at the
time must have believed that Saul was doomed to hell with no chance of
recovery.
And like many today they feel that if they were to come to church that
the walls would collapse around them in judgment. But if God can have
the grace to forgive a murderer and a blasphemer, than God can have the
grace to forgive anyone.
You might know someone in CONFLICT with Christ like Saul. The
Bible says that no-one comes to the Father except through Christ. They
need to be confronted with Christ by Christ!
Ultimately Saul was CONVERTED by Christ. (Acts 9:9-19)
There are many lessons here. But let's look at just a couple of them.
Ananias didn't trust Saul,- here Ananias receives a message from God to
go and heal Saul, and he is terrified. God is asking Ananias to go and
heal the very man who as far as anyone else knows is still trying to
destroy the followers of Jesus Christ. And Ananias is afraid. But God
reassures him by saying, GO he is my chosen instrument.
Notice that God in no way promises the safety of Ananias, and he
certainly doesn't promise us safety as we witness. He promises that he
will be with us, and if God is with us, and our souls belong to him,
what harm can really befall us? Jesus said don't be afraid of those
that can kill the body but be afraid instead of the one who can kill
both body and soul.
CONSIDER also that when that person finally comes to Christ
they need your trust. Later on Saul would travel on to Jerusalem and
none of the disciples will trust him, but Barnabas will come along side
of him and be his advocate. It falls upon all of us to be the advocate
for new believers. Because God has huge plans for those that come to
him,
And God had Huge plans for Saul. Consider that there were 12 apostles
and none of them were going to the Gentile nations. They were all
dealing almost exclusively with the Jewish people. But God's plan for
Saul was to be the apostle to the Gentile nations.
Perhaps God has huge plans for your lost cause. Think in your mind
about your lost cause person. Consider the times you wanted to give up
on them. I want to remind you today that God can still reach them. It's
not yet too late.