Sign On For Suffering

I love those curious little phrases in Scripture that pique my interest simply because they are unexpected. I found another one in my journey through the Book of Acts this morning.

The context? Saul has been carrying his religious zeal a whole lot too far by persecuting the followers of Jesus Christ. On his way to Damascus in search of believers to throw into jail he has an encounter with the Lord which is recorded for us in Acts 9. Saul's not slow and he immediately recognizes who he is talking to and how huge his mistake has been.

Blinded by the light of the Lord, he is led to Damascus. Instead of chasing down Christians, the seriously repentant Pharisee spends three days praying and fasting. In the Scriptures fasting is part of the act of repentance and without doubt Saul had a whole lot to repent of.

While Saul and the Lord are dealing with the dirt, the Lord appeared to a disciple in Damascus by the name of Ananias. He instructs Ananias to find Saul and restore his sight. The disciple is not too thrilled about the prospect considering Saul's reputation. Could it be that Saul was faking all this in order to capture a few more Christians? (Obviously Ananias hadn't thought this through. After all, would God be fooled by a faker?)

The Lord insists, saying: "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name" —Acts 9:15, 16, NIV.

It's that last phrase that attracts my attention: "I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."

I would prefer to be told how much God was going to glorify himself through me, or how much he was going to bless others through me, or how much I was going to be blessed by serving him! To be shown how much I am going to suffer by becoming a follower of Christ is not exactly my idea of good promotional material.

Something tells me that Saul would not have been surprised by the news that he was going to suffer as a believer. Considering that his very name struck terror in the hearts of believers because he was a notorious persecutor of the church, he probably had a good idea what he was in for.

Saul, soon to become Paul, never seemed to be bothered by what he suffered for the sake of the Kingdom. The list of his sufferings, at least those we know about, is impressive. 2 Corinthians 11:23-29, NIV tells us: "I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?" He goes on to say that he delights to boast in all this weakness because it is through that weakness that God shows his strength.

But who in their right mind would sign up for such suffering? It appears that Paul was given some idea right from the beginning as to what was waiting for him, but he signed on anyway.

I am such a wimp. What little I have given up, what small inconveniences I have suffered to serve the Lord, pale in comparison to what Paul joyfully embraced head-on to be Christ's ambassador. Paul's commitment to the cross that came with his commitment to Christ had been indelibly marked by his understanding of the value of the forgiveness that God had offered to him on that journey to Damascus. I pray to the Lord to understand more fully the depth of that forgiveness in my own life. In gaining that understanding I suspect I will not even notice what little I might be called upon to "suffer" for the sake of His Kingdom.


  1. So true. We're ALL wimps here. This is a powerful reminder. That verse has always grabbed me but I never really sat down and thought about it this way until today. Thanks.

  2. Good thoughts, Lynda! I so agree - we have suffered so little in comparison. Yet, I find I have to pray for willingness and strength to suffer, it surely is not automatic! I, too, am a wimp!


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