…He is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake. (Acts 9:15-16)
This was a great call upon the life of a man specially used by God. In all history, there were not many people given the special call to bear the name of Jesus before those who have never heard His name (the Gentiles), before kings, and before the children of Israel.
With such a great call, we might believe that Saul of Tarsus (whom we also know as Paul the Apostle) was a “special favorite” of God. We might believe that as a “special favorite,” God would take special action to spare Paul pain and suffering.
That was not the case at all. When God gave Paul this great calling, He also called Paul to great suffering: I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.
This was a sobering addition to the great call God put upon the life of Paul. Paul would leave a life of privilege to embrace this higher call, but it was a call with much suffering.
In 2 Corinthians 11:23, Paul described some of these things he must suffer for the sake of Jesus’ name: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. He continued the description of his hard, stress-filled life in some following verses (2 Corinthians 11:26-28):
– In perils of waters: Paul crossed many dangerous rivers.
– In perils of robbers: Travelers in the ancient world were in constant danger of violent robbers.
– In perils in the city: Paul experienced many hostile mobs in the cities where he preached.
– In perils in the wilderness: Paul spent many dangerous days and nights in the wilderness.
– In perils in the sea: Paul endured many shipwrecks and difficulties at sea.
– In perils among false brethren: Paul had the danger of those who said they were brothers and his friends but were false brethren instead.
– In weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness: Paul simply lived a hard life as a missionary, traveling and preaching the gospel.
It wasn’t the mere fact of a hard life that made Paul fulfill his calling. Many people have hard lives but are in no way servants of Jesus. But for Paul, all these perils and hardships were freely chosen because he could have lived differently if he wanted to. But he didn’t want to. He wanted to serve Jesus, and if these hardships were part of serving Jesus, he would accept them. Paul lived this life, this calling – and he was happy in Jesus Christ.
God can make you happy in your life, your calling – even it means some suffering along the way. The same God work worked this in Paul can work it in you.