Have you ever had a piece of Scripture that you can't get out of your mind? It hovers and whispers, it lights in the brain repeatedly, like a persistent fly. I find that passages from the Bible do this to me, whereas passages in other books don't. Characters, plots, descriptions and scenes are memorable in other books, but not specific words.
Acts 9:1-25 is the passage that Peter chose to memorize for homeschooling recently. And every day when he would recite, one verse would hit me; I almost came to dread it because I knew it would ring in my heart. Saul has been confronted by Jesus on his way to Damascus. His life is changed forever. God instructs Ananias to go help Saul, but Ananias is hesitant. He reminds God of how dangerous the Persecutor Saul is. So, God tells Ananias this:
"Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name."
Suffering. Saul's suffering is only beginning. God has chosen him, and his job assignment will be a daunting one -- to convey the message of God's kingdom to the whole world. And with God's work comes suffering. "For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name." The beatings, the loneliness, the narrow escapes and shaves with death. The imprisonments and betrayals, the miles of traveling, homelessness and weariness.
God had planned Saul's life out for him already. God planned the suffering; in fact, he was just about to show Saul what was in store for him.
We should all be about God's work, our little chunk of business for His kingdom. Usually God's work comes with sufferings, to remind us of Jesus's sufferings and that we participate in His sufferings as well as His joys.
Some critics say that God cannot be in control of sufferings, that they happen without his allowance. They claim that if He allows suffering, they He is the author of that evil. What a misunderstanding of suffering! Christ's sufferings were a pattern for our own -- here's the recipe: sufferings are planned and given by God, they perform kingdom work and spread the gospel, they glorify God. If you have a different definition of the sufferings of a Christian, you might want to study the topic in the Scriptures.
"For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name."
When God designs the suffering, He controls and limits it -- what a comfort! Saul (Paul, later) considered his sufferings to be a blessing; in fact, he became thankful for them and gloried in them. Because with the increased sufferings came a greater work for God, and that work he was eager for. The suffering kept him humble, a necessity for a human who KNEW that he was chosen of God.
How much are you willing to give up for the sake of His kingdom, His name? Is the suffering a joy?