Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
Our first reading for this week, from Acts 9:1-22, describes the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, better known to us by his Greek name, Paul. He was turned from a career persecuting Christians to one of proclaiming Christ’s forgiveness. In verse 16, the Lord tells Ananias, who prayed for Saul, “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (ESV).
Recently I have heard from many people who claim to be dedicated to proclaiming Christ. As these are mostly people I have never met before and will not be able to speak with at any length, I must take them at face value. We will assume they know the Christ and that he has called them to their work. However, I often wonder if they are prepared for the suffering they will endure. Saul was rejected by his own colleagues. He accepted a call to obey God rather than man. He endured hardship, imprisonment, torture, and, finally, death at a relatively early age, all because he was willing to proclaim that salvation is only by grace through faith, and not of our works. This message was counter-cultural. Rather than teaching people to strive for the things of this age and this world, Christians seek God’s kingdom as the goal above all else.
In our current world, when far and wide we see people seking political and cultural solutions to their problems, Christians are widely scorned and, in my nation, increasingly under attack. We look at our world’s problems differently than the secular establishment. We hope and plan for eternity, knowing that, even though we care for our planet and its residents, earthly solutions to eternal problems will never work. We have the audacity to hope in a God outside ourselves. So we are often under attack by a world that has very different priorities.
Do you wish to minister to Christ’s people, like the apostle? Prepare to suffer. Prepare to walk with Christ to death. And look right through that suffering and death to the resurrection that our Lord has promised. All these trials are temporary. God’s kingdom lasts forever.
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