“when i had returned to jerusalem and was praying in the temple, i fell into a trance and saw him saying to me, ‘make haste and get out of jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ and i said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another i imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. and when the blood of stephen your witness was being shed, i myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ and he said to me, ‘go, for i will send you far away to the gentiles.” [acts 22:17-21]


the Lord, our protector


God does not promise we will not suffer for our faith in Him; in fact, Jesus promised the opposite. But in this situation, the Lord warned Paul and sent him away from death into ministry that would be fruitful. paul’s ministry to the gentiles also led to his suffering, but the suffering God intended. in paul, we see a man who trusted the Lord in the midst of suffering. why was he able to do this? the answer lies in philippians 3:8: 

indeed, i count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. for his sake i have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

Christ himself was paul’s supreme value. he counted all else as rubbish, which is actually a word that refers not just to trash, but to excrement. everything else, unless it pointed to Jesus or served his purposes, had a repulsive stink. simply put: paul was a worshipper. his high view of Christ put his suffering in perspective.

Lord, increase our desire for you, and decrease our taste for the things of this world. may we, with paul, count all else as rubbish compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing you. we love you; grow our love for you so that we may face suffering with joy!

~ stephen hall