In studying Paul’s missionary journeys I have always been taken back by his life being hounded by one trial or persecution after another. The man who persecuted the church found himself the focus of attacks from the very ones who supported his efforts against the church. The Jews hounded every step of Paul’s journey and at first glance it looked like Paul was forever having to defend the church and his message. But there was something else at work.
If we step back and take a look at the bigger picture of Paul’s trials and persecution we can see a thread, a common factor, that is woven through it all. And that thread hearkens us back to the words of Jesus…
Luke 21:12 But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake.
Paul, as well as the other apostles, looked at every trial from a different perspective that I did. To me, they were all attacks of the enemy to stop the spread of the gospel, and that’s true but the Lord looks at them differently.
Luke 21:13-1513 And it shall turn to you for a testimony. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: 15 For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.
Challenges and trials they were, but for Paul they were opportunities to preach the gospel. Instead of looking at the trial and planning a defense, his first thought was how this affected his testimony. What a difference it would make if the bride of Christ were to follow Paul’s leading and look at the opportunities rather than the circumstances we face on a daily basis. J.B. Simpson puts it in perspective:
The challenge is just a providential pulpit and congregation which God has given you for the purpose of reaching people who you could reach in no other way, and teaching or learning lessons which could only thus be exemplified. Stop looking at your end of it, and begin to think what it means for your Master and your fellow-men, and so your hardest trials will become your most precious opportunities.
Think about Paul and how he responded: Arrested in Jerusalem and he testified on the castle steps in the Temple Square; detained in Caesarea for two years and he used the time to testify before governors and kings he would never would never could have listened to him otherwise; his appeal to Caesar and the trip to Rome to carry the gospel, paid for by Rome; shipwrecked en route and the opportunity to share the gospel with the soldiers and sailors accompanying him… the list goes on and on.
The Lord is constantly providing us with new opportunities to share the gospel, even if they are disguised in darkness. Let’s us not fail to recognize them and use the circumstances for His glory… see the light in the darkness.