Your Chains Can Advance the Gospel
How are you using every opportunity to bring glory to God?
Paul the Apostle, originally known as Saul of Tarsus, was born in Tarsus in Cilicia roughly around 4 BC and died in Rome between 62-64 AD. Once a man who dedicated his life to persecuting and beating all Christians, Paul had an encounter with the risen Jesus that led to him changing course. For the remainder of his life, he was dedicated to Christ and sharing His message with everyone. From an enemy of the church to one of its most prominent apostles, Paul’s story is told in the book of Acts.
“As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.”
Acts 9:3-9 NIV
One detail that sometimes gets lost on me in this story is what happens to Saul next. Still blind, Saul’s companions had to guide him to Damascus, where he remained for three days without any food or drink as he waited and prayed for what was next for his life. Jesus, the same person Saul claimed was NOT the Son of God, had just appeared before him in a blinding light and asked him: “Why?” Confused and literally blind, all Saul had to go on was an understanding from the voice of Jesus and the light of heaven that flashed around him: “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
In Damascus, the Lord spoke to one of His disciples named Ananias. Even this disciple doubted Saul's intentions for Christ’s kingdom, and he said as much in response.
The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Acts 9:11-15 NIV
Paul’s spectacular confrontation with Jesus radically altered his life. Not only would Saul have his very name changed, but this was only the surface as his life received a conversion and a commission, and a total change to what he thought was his purpose on Earth. This was the beginning of Paul’s testimony of how Christ could take even one of his greatest critics and instead change them and use them for good.
As Christians, we are called to be witnesses for Christ, a task that we should not take lightly but rather view as a blessing for us to experience. Our suffering, chains, and struggles will bring glory to Christ (1 Peter 4:12-16). Just as Paul went about spreading the Gospel, we too should do it joyfully, and be thankful for the trials we face for they will be used to bring glory to our Father. Paul himself faced many trials as he was first doubted by his Christian brothers (Acts 9:26), and as he shared the name of Christ in the synagogues, he baffled his former Jewish brothers as well. In fact, his preaching lead to multiple occasions his death was plotted and yet he was kept safe and continued to preach Jesus as the Son of God till his eventual imprisonment in Rome.
Even from a Roman prison, with chains holding him down, and with his death looming, Paul continued to write letters to his Christian brothers and sisters he visited, encouraging them to trust in their Lord and be joyful (Philippians 1:12). Though confined by chains, nothing could prevent Paul from sharing in his trust and love for the Lord and in turn the man who one of the greatest advocates against Christ was now even causing his jailers to have second thoughts.
What chains are you bearing today? Amid your suffering, how can you continue not only trusting in the Lord, but also proclaiming His name with confidence and joy for all to hear? How can you speak the word of God today more courageously and fearlessly so Jesus can receive the glory? Christ Jesus took a man like Saul and used him, and changed him to become one of the greatest advocates for Christ. How will you trust in God to do the same with you?
I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.
Ephesians 3:7-9 NIV