Paul explains how he was called by God and that he was virtually unknown to the Christians in Judea except that they knew he was once persecuting them and now was preaching the Gospel. "And they praised God because of me." (Galatians 1:24, NIV)
How COOL is it that these Christians' reaction was to PRAISE GOD because of Paul! I wonder what our reaction would be if someone shared that same news with us today? We might be suspicious, resentful, or even angry. It is not uncommon for people who were staunchly one religion (or no religion) to have an encounter with Christ that changes them forever and leads them to evangelize a great many people. I think it is our natural reaction to see them only as the person of their past, discounting the awesome work that God has done in them and the miraculous changes that come with it. We must celebrate God's work as the Christians of Judea did.
More importantly, what caught my attention about this scripture is that Paul was clearly a living testimony. His life was lived in such a way that when people heard him and saw how completely sold out for Christ he was, they didn't walk up and shake his hand to congratulate him. They didn't say "Good for you, man" and walk away feeling empty. They PRAISED GOD because of him.
We have to be careful to give God praise with every single person who comes into the light of Truth, whether they have spend most of their lives living contrary to the Gospel, speaking against it, or even leading others into darkness. When God does a work, he does it fully, and we must actively guard against judging others based on their past experiences.
As Christians, we must allow God's light to shine SO brightly that people see Him and their reaction is praise to the King. I often let my desire to be recognized for my efforts get in the way. I think, how great would it be to hear people say, "Good job, Michelle" or "Thanks for blessing me in such-a-such a way" or "You're such a great person." But the Holy Spirit reminds me that there is NO ONE essentially and completely "good" but Jesus Christ. If there is anyone worthy of praise, honor, and glory, it is Jesus Christ. When we put ourselves as the focal point of praise, we get ourselves in big trouble. Taking credit for God's goodness dishonors Him, discredits Him, and prevents others from seeing Him.
Lord, thank you for your power to fully save, deliver, and transform lives. I ask for your forgiveness for prejudging people and for judging them based on their past mistakes. I thank and praise You now for every single person you are bringing into the kingdom to be a light for You, and I pray that You would allow your light to shine brightly in my life. Lord, let my life be such a testament to your love and redeeming power that those who examine it can't help but praise you! Be glorified in all that I think, say, and do.