He was steadfast. Despite being beaten, stoned, and thrown in prison he forged on with his mission. He was even singing and praising the Lord in prison while in chains from head to toe. That wouldn’t have been my initial response or likely one at all. But the Apostle Paul did not let anything deter him from carrying the message of Jesus all over the Roman Empire. He took Jesus’ last words, “Go make disciples of all nations” seriously.
Ironically, Paul would not have heard Jesus speak them. He certainly wasn’t there when Jesus gave the Great Commission to his followers. Before becoming known as the Apostle Paul, he was known as the Pharisee Saul, who saw the early Christians as a threat and tried to exterminate them. But God redirected Saul on the Road to Damascus with a blinding flash of light, and his life’s purpose was forever changed. Who would have thought that the persecutor of Christians would become their preacher?
I love the first story after Saul’s conversion in Acts 9:20: “At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.” When he received his commission from the Lord, he didn’t waste any time starting his ministry – and nothing was going to stop him from finishing it.
In unsettling times like these, I believe Paul’s story can be a timely reminder and, hopefully, an encouragement. His calling was not easy. He was thrown out of most towns that he preached in, but he persevered. Paul was not focused on his immediate circumstances or the results of his work. He was single-mindedly fixated on the Lord and his calling – often knowingly walking head-on into danger. “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (Acts. 20:22-24 NIV)
Paul was going to finish the race no matter what. He was steadfast and persevered, not distracted by his current situation. In these challenging times what can we learn from the Apostle Paul, who exuded joy despite continual suffering and setbacks?
"About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose." (Acts 16:25-26 NIV)