Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2018
Texts: Acts 26:9-11; Deuteronomy 21:23; Acts 9:1-20; 1 Corinthians 9:1; Galatians 1:1; Acts 9:20-30
Isaiah Prince has changed. The Ohio State football player had such a rough time just two years ago that he had the worst pass-block efficiency rating in the country. “That was a really low point for me—all the criticism, everybody talking bad about me,” the Buckeye player explains. Even social media was taking hits on him. A fake fan page had been set up and lobbed cruel statements at him.1
But then Prince was determined to change his game plan. He began working extra hard, not focusing on his mistakes, accepting encouragement from coaches, teammates, and family, and ignoring critical comments from the outside. The Buckeyes even experimented with moving Prince to left tackle. “It’s completely different,” he said. “It’s like writing with your right hand your whole life and switching to your left. Your muscle memory is different. Everything is backward.” In 2017, Prince earned third-team Big Ten honors and ranked in the 90th percentile for pass efficiency.
Saul of Tarsus had a dramatic change, as we learn in this week’s Sabbath school lesson, while traveling to Damascus where he planned to persecute Christians. He was feeling pretty confident about his religious duties, but then experienced a literal downfall when heaven knocked him to his knees and Christ spoke to the enemy of the church.
“As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ So he, trembling and astonished, said, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do’ ” (Acts 9:3–6).
What Saul (who became Paul the apostle) “did” was nothing short of miraculous. The man who jailed and murdered Christians became one of the churches greatest voices, serving as a missionary, writer, teacher, and ending his fruitful life as a martyr for Jesus. Never had there been a more dramatic turnaround in the life of a person than was seen in the life of Paul.
Last week, Isaiah Prince was one of Ohio State’s three player representatives at the Big Ten football media gathering in Chicago. The now senior leader said, “I don’t think I would have had the success I’ve had today if I didn’t have the downfalls I had then. Those downfalls showed me who I am as a person.” The apostle Paul could have said those exact words.
~ For Reflection
Connecting: Divide a large sheet of paper into three parts: Name, Before, and After. In pairs or trios, write names of Bible characters and the traits they possessed before and after meeting God.
Sharing: Read Acts 26:9-11. In this passage, Paul recaps what he did to oppose Jesus. Now read Galatians 1:1. How do we reconcile what Paul did with him saying that God had called him?
1. God wanted Paul to pay for what he had done.
2. God didn’t really call Paul; Paul appointed himself.
3. God only uses people who have led sinless lives to share Jesus with others.
4. Paul was just being boastful.
5. God often uses unlikely but willing people to share the message of Jesus.
Applying: Think about the traits Paul exhibited and discuss how those traits helped to spread the message of Jesus. What traits could group members use to speak for Christ?
Valuing: Think about an incident when you were aware of God’s leading or protection. Thank God for that experience as you rededicate your life. Search for a text that you could write on a card to remind you of God’s leading and share that verse with someone this week.