The prophet Paul was a bad person. He was a hateful Jewish follower that persecuted Christians, supported their arrest, enabled their persecution, and ultimately supported their death. Paul, formerly called Saul, supported the stoning one of the first disciples, Stephen.
Yet Paul came to commit his life to being a Christian prophet and became one of the most prolific authors of the New Testament and led the massive spread of Christianity after the New Covenant. For newer followers, the New Covenant was God’s promise to save us from our sins through our belief in Jesus after He died on the cross.
Paul suffered great challenges and pain during his life of prophesy of Christ’s doctrine. In 2 Corinthians 11:24-33, Paul outlines the suffering he endured. Paul said “From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren.”
The most influential and significant prophet of Christianity was persecuted, tortured, threatened, is thought to have maybe been stoned to death in Acts 14 and revived, and yet he still prophesied his love, devotion, and service to Christ.
Pain and suffering builds perseverance. Perseverance builds strength and resilience.
Paul said in 1 Timothy 1:12-13, “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly and in unbelief.”
Paul turned to God to save his life, not on this earth but for eternity. Our lives on earth are not always fun. Blessings don’t always “flow” and happiness does not always find us. We are sad. We are uncertain. We are mad. We are broken. We are addicted. We are scared. The plethora of emotions in our daily lives is real.
Here is why I choose to trust God in times of trouble and unhappiness. Pastor Andy Stanley stated in a sermon that “God allowed the worst possible thing to happen to the best possible person.” Why should I question God’s judgement about when I am unhappy? God sent His only Son to experience grave and unimaginable suffering as a demonstration to us that if we believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, we will live in eternity in Heaven. How can we expect that the God we believe in doesn’t have meaning or purpose for the challenges that happen to us?
Faith grows through challenge. Faith grows through sacrifice. We appreciate the good times more when we have experienced the bad. Paul was a testament to that principle, and we can apply those same lessons to our lives.