If you haven’t yet done so, stand for a few moments in Ananias’s sandals. Understand how difficult it would have been to see how God’s plan could possibly work. How in the world could God take a man known for such vicious, merciless, and murderous treatment of innocent Christians and turn him into an ambassador for Christ? Perhaps Ananias failed to hear the answer in the Lord’s Word to him: “But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake'” (Acts 9:15–16).
God’s answer to Ananias’s question is clear: “I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”
Suffering. Down through the centuries it has been God’s taming ground for raging bulls. The crucible of pain and hardship is God’s schoolroom where Christians learn humility, compassion, character, patience, and grace. It’s true for you and for me, and it would soon be true for Saul. Years later, with scars to prove it and under the pile of heavy ministry responsibilities, he gave testimony that suffering had been his companion.
I don’t understand all the reasons we suffer for the Name. But I’m convinced of this: it is part of God’s sovereign plan to prepare us to be His instruments of grace to a harsh and desperate world. Clearly, that was God’s plan for Saul. On his body would be the enduring stripes of his suffering—imprisonment, severe beatings, stonings, shipwreck, near-drowning, ambushes, robberies, insomnia, starvation, loneliness, disease, dehydration, extreme hypothermia. Beyond all that, he faced the stressful, inescapable responsibilities of church leadership. Each painful, awful ordeal brought him to his knees, turning him into a deeper man of grace, humbly committed to following his Savior’s lead.