Never Give Up on a Lost Cause

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 too late yet.