Desert Retreat

Acts 9:20-25; Galatians 1:11-17

I’m convinced it was there, in that barren place of obscurity, that Paul developed his theology. He met God, intimately and deeply. Silently and alone, he plumbed the unfathomable mysteries of sovereignty, election, depravity, the deity of Christ, the miraculous power of the Resurrection, the Church, and future things. It became a three-year crash course in sound doctrine from which would flow a lifetime of preaching, teaching, and writing. More than that, it’s where Paul tossed aside his polished trophies and traded his resumé of religious credentials for a vibrant relationship with the risen Christ. Everything changed.

It was there, no doubt, he concluded “whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7–8).

He had been so busy, active, engaged, advancing, and zealous. The same words describe many Christians sitting in churches today. And therein lies our problem. We’re not busy doing all the wrong things or even a few terrible things. We’re certainly not persecutors or destroyers. But if the truth were known, we’ll go for miles on fumes, all the while choking the life-giving spirit within.

Not long ago academy-award-winning actor Tom Hanks starred in Castaway. It was one of those films with few words but an enormous amount of emotion. How he escapes is fascinating, but the good news is he is picked up by a ship and is, at last, returned safely to the now-unfamiliar world of life as it used to be. And he doesn’t fit in at all anymore. The changes that transpired within him are so radical, so all-consuming, he finds himself a different man—much deeper, much more observing, much less demanding—all because of the lessons learned in solitude, quietness, and obscurity.

And so it was with Paul. He changed. How greatly he changed! And the change within him led to a change in the lives of millions of people down through the ages.

Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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