"Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. (Now concerning the things which I write to you, indeed, before God, I do not lie.) Afterward I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ. But they were hearing only, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God in me."
My walk with the Lord started at a young age in my life. I always knew that God was there, and it only complemented that I grew up in a Christian home. It wasn't until my teens that I understood more and more what this relationship with the Lord really was all about. I had found where God had called me to be and it was something that God had been preparing me for since I was young. I remember as I committed my life more and more to Jesus, the people I was friends with at the time either blocked me on Facebook or stopped hanging out with me. My entire life and the way I lived was changing day by day. The preparation had just begun and whatever the Lord was going to do next only He knew, but it was going to be for His glory.
Paul's life before his encounter with the Lord was much different. At a time where Paul who was then Saul was practicing Judaism, he had persecuted the Christians even unto death. He even dragged them out of their houses. Yeah, He wasn't really a nice guy until his encounter with the Lord. The encounter was fairly to the point and it went something like this:
JESUS: "Um... Saul?
JESUS: "WHAT ARE YOU DOING???"
At this time, he asks who it is that is appearing to him. He says to the Lord "Who are you, Lord?" So it's obvious he knows by what authority this person comes from. After all, he was a jew so it wasn't uncommon to experience things such as a light appearing from heaven. When the Lord's presence is in a place, the light shines and it shines because of the glory of the Lord. We would not be able to take it if the Lord showed Himself in all His glory. So it was this encounter with the Lord that caused Saul to ask the Lord "What do you want me to do?" To which the Lord replied "go into the city and then I will tell you what you must do." For three days, he was blind and did not eat or drink. Shortly after this, he immediately goes to preach Christ. It says that he does not go to consult any of the apostles or anyone he knows about this matter. I'm sure the appearance of the Lord was convincing enough!
My favorite part of this entire story was that Paul eventually met up with Peter and James. Imagine how that conversation must have went with Peter!
PETER: "Jesus appeared to you? That's awesome man. You know, I gotta tell ya, when He was here on earth and I was walking with Him, I was so hardheaded! He told me to step out of the boat and walk on the water. Who does that?! Well, obviously Jesus did. Wouldn't you know It, I panicked! Don't even get me started about that one time where I argued with Him not to go to death... "
Now, obviously that's probably not how it went down. But one can only imagine. Their focus was most likely so much on the things of the Lord that they probably had no time to talk about anything else. Peter and James had already been doing the Lord's work and Paul was coming along very quickly.
Some may ask "What made such a horrible person have the will to turn around from his evil ways?". Well, let's start with the fact that there was nothing of himself that caused him to desire to seek after the Lord. This is why Jesus came to him. Jesus pursued Saul much like He does with you and I. He can come to us in whatever way He wants! So some people today will have visions of Jesus and that will turn them around. Some will hear a word of the Lord from a sermon at church. Whatever way it is spoken, it does not matter. If you've been spoken to, you have the choice to then say "Lord, what do you want me to do now?" And when you ask Him, be ready to act! Saul, being converted to a Christian and following after the ways of the Lord, was known thereafter as Paul the apostle.
You have a new identity in Jesus the moment you repent of your sins and turn to Jesus. From that moment on, the preparation is taking place. You are a work in progress and the Lord will work on you daily. It should be such a life changing experience that you want to tell everyone you see of the good news of Jesus Christ and salvation to all who believe. Christ's message and His presence in your life should be so compelling that you don't need to ask anyone about it! It's important that if you know you've been spoken to by the Lord not to consult with those who don't believe in Him. What would you expect to hear from someone who doesn't have the Lord working in their lives? It's important that once you've been spoken to, you must not doubt that you've been spoken to. It will cause you to second guess and God is not the author of confusion. He's either spoken to you or He hasn't. If anyone truly seeks after the Lord, they will find Him. He will show Himself to them in a way they've never experienced before.
"So... how'd it go for Paul being everyone knew him as a persecutor of Christians?"
Good question. People were amazed, and understandably so. His path was not an easy one because he was ministering to people whom at one point he sided with and, Well, now he doesn't. It goes to say that you will experience the same from people who know you. They will either be happy that you have decided to follow Jesus or they won't. Whatever it may be, you have gained much. It may seem as if you have lost some things in your life including those who were once your friends. But you're gaining so much more. An internal inheritance with fellow believers you'll get to keep for all eternity.
You may even get the reaction of "that guy/gal? No way! I never thought in a million years!". It says in the passage at the beginning of this post that people didn't even see his face. They only heard of what had happened and they praised God because of him. What a turn around!
"What about my other friends?"
Minister to them! They might not like what you have to say, but you can't reap a harvest you didn't sow. So it's important you lay the seed and leave God to His mighty work. It is not for you to control, it is for you to Believe, Act, and Trust in the Lord. You have an entire book filled with evidence of the kind of work the Lord is up to. There are certainly no excuses!