“But the Lord said to him (Ananias), ‘Go, for he (Apostle Paul) is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.’”
– Acts 9:15-16
And so it was for Paul: arrests, trials, beatings, shipwreck, imprisonment. Doctor Luke, the author of the Book of Acts, portrays Paul as a disciple with unswerving resolve to spread the gospel of Christ regardless of the personal sacrifices.
Faith and foolhardiness are vastly different, and Paul was no fool when it came to taking a stand for his faith. However, at one point in his trial before the Sanhedrin (the supreme Jewish council), Paul did act foolishly. Upon being physically struck in the mouth, he verbally struck back at the high priest, whose name coincidentally was also Ananias. Paul later apologized saying that he did not know he was the high priest, quoting Exodus 22:28, “You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.”
Regaining his composure, Paul quickly seized upon the fact that there were Pharisees and Sadducees present who differed strongly over the subject of the resurrection; therefore, he created an intense argument between these Jewish parties, thereby creating a diversionary tactic. Otherwise, Paul would have never reached Rome.
The trial made him realize that there were serious death plots against him.
The Roman tribune rescued Paul from the angry, divided assembly. God still had more for Paul to do before he could rest from his labors via death. More sufferings were in store “for the sake of my name.”
Paul’s perseverance in the face of dire circumstances was fed by the realization that if Christ’s life-threatening events surrounding his life and subsequent death were full of God’s redemptive activity, then all of what was happening to him was not in vain. The same God who brought victory from Christ’s suffering and death would bring redemptive victory from all of his trials and tribulations.
What kept Paul going, what has kept me going, and what can encourage us all in times of despair is affirming the presence of God’s power and peace behind the crisis we are going through. The hymn I find so affirming is God of Grace and God of Glory.
THE REV. GENE NORRIS IS A PRESBYTERIAN PASTOR IN AUGUSTA.