“And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of this Good News. THAT IS WHY I am suffering here in prison.” – Paul in 2 Timothy 1 (Emphasis mine)
I thought Paul was in prison because he got in trouble for preaching the Good News, not IN ORDER TO preach the Good News!
If we read this too quickly it’s easy to miss how incredible it is that Paul actually made the connection between the ministry God had called him to and the impossibly difficult circumstances he was writing from.
Seriously. Prison isn’t the first place anyone would expect to find themselves if God had just specifically called them to be preaching and teaching the Good News. I bet it wasn’t what Paul was expecting either.
But he embraced where He was and pursued his assignment undaunted by what must have seemed like a terrible detour.
It would be easy to think that this prison phase was just a season to be endured and then his ministry could be resumed on the other side of his release.
That’s how we think. Well, that’s how I think.
We see interruptions. Paul saw opportunity.
His perspective was transformed because he never lost sight of what he was called to do. We can’t either. He knew wherever he was, he had the awesome opportunity to talk about Jesus, and that ministry could not be put on pause just because of difficulty or trial.
What if our suffering is actually intended by God to amplify the power of our testimony?
How many times have I thought to myself, “I’d give anything to be able to share just one moment of the tangible experience of knowing Jesus” with my friends?
When life comes crashing down around us, and the supernatural peace and joy that only Jesus can provide is seen where grief, despair and anxiety should dwell, well…
What preaching is more persuasive than that?
Paul’s suffering was made infinitely easier by the fact that he trusted his trial to be an “assignment” that God had prepared for him in advance. The sovereignty of the Lord was never questioned by him, so his heart was able to rest in promise.
This gift is meant to be ours as well. God promises not an end to our suffering but rather the redemption of it.
As followers of Jesus, we do not suffer hardship without reason. We do not suffer without hope. And most importantly, we do not suffer without gain.
God uses trial to bring beauty from ashes. Let us not forget that ashes only exist where something has been devoured and destroyed by the ferocity of fire. It may have been something precious to us before, but here on the other side of our loss, we have a choice to make. Be swallowed up by the pain, or focus on the beauty He will bring through the sacrifice. We can choose to remember our position in Him, having not been given a spirit of fear but of power and a sound mind, and suddenly the ashes become the mark of where He met us to turn the course of our lives again towards His glory!
Never get caught up in the question “Why me…?” before you have set real time and prayer to the question, “Why are You, God, allowing this?”
The first question has its focus on self, the second on Him. Be assured, the answer to “why” will always come more easily through an acceptance of the plans He has for you. They are plans to prosper you, never to harm you, to give you hope and a good future.
As a loving Father, He will not ask us to suffer anything apart from Him and His promise to bless us and others through it. He works together in ALL things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.
Oh that I would learn to consider it pure joy whenever I face trials of many kinds! God is wanting to reveal something to me, and through me to others, that can only be discovered in the ashes of what has been burned up.
May I seek my answers in light of that promise.
When I “feel” as though I’ve been unexpectedly sidelined, or I lose sight of the path before me, I pray that God would help me to see the ways that I can stay in the race. I was meant to RUN. Even in the dark. I don’t want to be undone with the “why” of an unexpected turn, for it has come by God’s design, and the finish line can only be found if I keep on running through. I just need to continue to follow with focus the course the Lord has marked out for me.
As I run through these night watches. I know that these miles are all gain. For this is where the nearness of my God can be most keenly felt.
Yeah. THAT’S why I’m suffering.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time – to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. And now he has made all this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News. And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of this Good News.
THAT IS WHY I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.
2 Timothy 1:7-12 (Emphasis mine)