Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2016
Paul: Apostle to the Gentiles
Acts 6:9–15; 9:1–9; 1 Samuel 16:7; Matthew 7:1; Acts 11:19–21; 15:1–5
July 1, 2017
A surprising 18 percent of Americans have a mental health condition. Nearly $70 billion was spent on mental health care in the United States in 2016. Ninety percent of people who die by suicide have a mental disorder. While many people feel comfortable publicly acknowledging their physical suffering, many more who experience mental suffering almost never reach out for help.
Those cold facts have prompted the Change Direction initiative, a collection of concerned citizens, nonprofit leaders, and leaders from the private sector to work to change the culture of America regarding mental health. It is working to spark a movement that frees us to see our mental health as having equal value to our physical health. It seeks to create a common language for people to recognize the signs of emotional suffering and encourages us to care for our mental well-being and the well-being of others. 
This week’s Sabbath school lesson focuses on the life of a man who changed directions. The rage Saul of Tarsus felt toward Christians was over the top. His madness drove him to capture and kill anyone who followed the teachings of Jesus Christ. Many would classify him as a person with major mental health issues.
“Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1, 2, NKJV).
A life-changing encounter completely turned Saul (who became Paul) in a different direction. “As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven” (verse 3). Saul fell to the ground as Jesus spoke to him and told him to go into the city “and you will be told what you must do” (verse 6).
Saul did not eat or drink for three days. During that time he did something that helped to restore his mind. He earnestly prayed and asked God for help. And the Lord responded by sending to him a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. This humble servant came and laid hands on Saul and he received back his sight. Saul immediately confounded others by not only preaching about Jesus, but reaching out to Gentiles. It’s the most dramatic reversal in the entire Bible.
You may feel called to do ministry for Jesus, but feel you need a change of direction. You can take courage from Saul who sat blind as he prayed and waited for outside help. Sometimes we need human hands, guided by the Lord, to reach out and touch us that we might see.