“And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’ Acts 26:15-18
At the time of Paul’s conversion Jesus tells him what his job is going to be…he’s to be a minister who opens eyes to the truth and turns them from darkness to the light and he’s going to do it by being a witness to how God had appeared to him and of how God has rescued him. Jesus is telling him that he’s going to see some trouble, but he’ll be rescued from it and God will use it to bring forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among his people.
When Ananias was leery of receiving Paul, persecutor of the Christians, God told him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” (Acts 9:15-16)
Paul was chosen to suffer, not for the sake of suffering, but for the ministry of being a witness to God’s consistent, faithful deliverance.
Paul lists his many troubles for us: in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. (2 Chronicles 11:23-27)
Any of these was probably enough to kill the man. But he didn’t die. That wasn’t what he was appointed to. He was to be a witness to how God rescued him. And rescue him, God did. Later Paul does become a witness to the very fact and says of the many things he suffered, “Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.” (2 Timothy 3:11b)
We are told often in the New Testament of troubles. We are encouraged that our trials will result in our further sanctification. But maybe our troubles are for another purpose too, to give us the opportunity to be a witness of how God rescues his children.
So the next time you feel you are sinking under all your troubles, take your eyes off your problems and look to Jesus. Be still in your heart and watch for his mighty hand to reach down and rescue you. Then testify of our God who saves.