But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Most of us focus on the incredible accomplishments of Paul.
How he wrote 2/3 of the New Testament.
Took the gospel to the ends of the Earth.
Became the greatest missionary and one of the greatest preachers ever.
Sometimes, we’ll point out his suffering. But it’s usually isolated. We use it to talk about pain and trials and how to get through them. Or how God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. All of that is true, but I think we often miss a crucial point.
Paul’s accomplishments and his suffering went together.
And there’s a reason for that.
It’s not because God had some kind of a secret vendetta against Paul. He had killed Christians, so why not make him drink a little of his own medicine while using him to spread the gospel.
As others have pointed out before, it’s because for Paul to be used greatly he had to be wounded deeply. The greater the calling, the greater the cost. Making a difference in the world means absorbing substantial pain. For the sake of God and for the sake of the people you’re making a difference for.
That was true for Paul.
And it will be true for you, too.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you’ve got flogging to look forward to. But I am saying that most of us want to do the kinds of things Paul did without having to go through the kinds of things Paul went through. And it doesn’t work like that.
God has to bruise you before He can use you. So you’ll be sensitive to His touch. So you won’t have an ounce of self-reliance in you. So you’ll be able to relate to the people you’re ministering to. So when everything is dark around you, your light within you will actually have a chance to shine.
If you really want to be used greatly by God, accept this now:
You’re going to be tired.
You’re going to be betrayed.
You’re going to suffer.
Like Paul, your great calling will exact a great cost. You’ll be able to say, “For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.” (2 Corinthians 4:11)
But also like Paul, that won’t be the final word for you. You’ll be able to say, “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)