“I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” God told Ananias (Acts 9:16). Saul, that great persecutor of the first ‘Christians’ had experienced a powerful personal encounter with the Living Lord. He had been “advancing in Judaism beyond many” and “extremely zealous for the traditions” (Gal. 1:14). But now, like a two-by-four between his eyes, the Lord had knocked him flat and blind on a the dirt of a Damascus road.
“Go to His house and pray for him,” that same Lord spoke to Ananias, even giving him the address! “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.” This man Saul, soon to be known as Paul, was God’s “chosen instrument”…. “set apart from my mother’s womb and called by his grace” Paul later testified (Gal. 1:15). Yet, of him the Lord also added, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Suffering as a calling. Certainly not one which a man would think to give. No, no… call me to run for office, to become a great doctor, a successful lawyer or wise teacher of multitudes. Call me to something higher, not lower… not sorrow… not suffering.
“Man of sorrows” Isaiah called Jesus… “Suffering servant.” The “weeping prophet” they named Jeremiah. These too were callings. They were all callings to sane men who received them willingly because they were men who knew God. Hebrews 11 is filled with them.
Moses “chose to be mistreated along with the people of God” and “regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt.” Why? Because he, like Paul, “was looking ahead to his reward.” Moses knew God. “Don’t send us anywhere without You,” he begged (see Deut. 33:15).
The narrative continues: others were tortured, some faced jeers and flogging, chains and imprisonment. Some were slain by stoning, sawn in two, killed by sword… destitute, persecuted, mistreated. Deserts, mountains, caves and holes were their homes–and our Saviour had no home at all (Matt. 8:20, Luke 9:58).
Suffering cuts one back to one’s essentials. It reveals the foundation (sand, rock) (Matt. 7:24-27) and tests the superstructure (wood, hay, stubble, gold, silver, precious stone) (1 Cor. 3:12). Suffering reveals your treasure (Matt. 6:21), shows the singleness or duplicity of your eye (Matt. 6:22), and of your mind (Jas. 1:6-8). It is the kiln that completes or cracks the well- or mal- formed vessel.
What must remain is that one knows the Lord. “My sheep know My Voice,” (John 10:27) said Jesus. Nothing else will matter when it is just you as soul, Almighty God, and eternity… to His left, or to His right (Matt. 25:31-46) .