“they stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, . . .” Acts 14:19
Nothing accelerates our personal discipleship like hard times. Be it suffering, heartbreak, temptation, disappointment, sickness, thwarted desires, broken friendship. Whether it is a circumstance so harrowing, so unimaginable, that it leaves us speechless, unable to ask a question of God, or turmoil that tears us open, exposing the deepest fiber of our nerve. In these tender, painful moments God is getting at one thing in us.
God makes us broken bread and poured out wine to please Himself. God never asked Paul’s permission as to what he would or would not do, nor if he was willing to suffer. God simply took a surrendered life and constructed a servant who suffered for the sake of the Savior. Suddenly every ambition, every desire of life, every outlook is completely blotted out and extinguished. The only thing that remains is completely identifying with Jesus and His purposes.
Think of how Jesus trained His disciples. He placed them in circumstances to know whether they truly cared about God and to determine if their mood was to do the will of the Father. He used situations to reveal if they were held in the grip of God’s love and could be used as instruments in His hands. Jesus sought to root out any competing agendas.
It’s difficult to imagine what Paul must have felt as he was being stoned. It’s tempting to rush past the stoning of Paul with a devotional nod, or theological tip of the hat. But contemplating this moment in Paul’s life will help us to see what other Christians went through.
Stoning was a brutal, gruesome form of punishment. It would often take hours to die. The person’s hands were tied behind their back, then encircled by the townspeople and pelted with stones until he became unconscious, then drug to the outskirts of the city. Worse yet, was the unseen pain, mental anguish, and humiliation. Yet, it did not dampen Paul’s enthusiasm for the mission of God. It shouldn't ours either.
What are circumstances revealing about the depth of your discipleship?