And I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.
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1 Kings 11:1-12:19
If ever there was a clear, unmistakeable example of a life turned upside down, it was Paul. He went from being the chief persecutor of Christians (much to the joy of the Jews) to becoming the chief defender of the faith (much to their dismay). His life of privilege became a life on the run. His blind eyes were opened; his pride replaced by humility.
From a human perspective, Paul gave up a life of ease for a life of upheaval and drama and pain. But that’s because he was chosen. And God’s idea of the word “chosen” will always include persecution, rejection and pain.
A.W. Tower said, “God never uses a man greatly until He has first wounded him deeply.” Those words are true, but they sound harsh to our ears. Yet, how can we relate to the wounds of others if we have none of our own?
If we would train ourselves to not only expect persecution, but embrace it as evidence of our calling, we would move forward with more joy and less worry. Trouble will come; we’ve been promised that. But it simply proves that we belong to God.
There’s a story about John Wesley, who, while riding along a road one day, suddenly realized that three whole days had passed in which he had suffered no persecution — not a single brick or egg had been thrown at him.
This alarmed him. Stopping his horse, he exclaimed, “Can it be that I have sinned, and am backslidden?”
Wesley slipped from his horse and went down on his knees right there on the side of the road, and he began begging God to show him where, if any, there had been a fault.
On the other side of the hedge, a rough man heard Wesley praying. Looking over the hedge, he recognized him. “I’ll fix that Methodist preacher,” he said. Then he picked up a brick and tossed it over the hedge. It fell harmlessly beside John, but it filled him with joy. “Thank God!” he exclaimed, leaping to his feet. “it’s all right. I still have His presence.”
People are going to be irritated with us, and they’re going to reject us, and they’re going to try to harm us (and they may succeed now and again). But it’s alright. It’s more than alright — it means we still have His presence.