Chronicled in Acts; authored half of the New Testament
He started out as a devout Jew and persecutor of Christians. He was there when Stephen was stoned to death. He loathed Christianity and thought he was doing his religious duty by trying to shut it down. Then, Jesus got hold of Saul and he, quite literally, “saw the light.” Saul became Paul and was never the same man again. He went on to write half of the New Testament and is recognized as arguably the greatest apostle who ever lived.
Saul did not endure much hardship. He was a professional man (a tentmaker by trade) and was well respected in the Jewish community. Paul, on the other hand, was a radical Christian who the Jews despised for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a blasphemous betrayal in their eyes. The Roman Empire was not fond of Paul either. It was the Romans who eventually beheaded him, but not before untold thousands of souls were saved by this powerhouse of the faith.
In II Corinthians 11:24-27, Paul tells us that during his ministry, he went through all of this: “From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.”
Did I mention that he was imprisoned no less than four times (for a total of 5-6 years) as well? He suffered all those things for the sake of the Gospel. Honestly, most of us would not endure a fraction of that before we contemplated walking away from ministry. Paul relished it. He knew that his suffering would only magnify God. After all, it was he who wrote “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me (II Corinthians 12:9).”
Paul knew that he would be persecuted for Jesus’ sake, both by the religious folk and the heathens. His message was confrontational. Paul had no problems telling you like it is, so he was prepared to face the consequences. People don’t like to be called out. They get defensive. In Paul’s day, they would beat you, jail you, or kill you. Was he treated unfairly? Yes. Did he deserve to suffer? No. Did it matter to him? No. God got the glory. “Count it all joy,” he said, “when you face various trials.” Paul counted the cost. He could afford it. The reward was worth the hassle. Now, his legacy is among the greatest ever.
So, how do we triumph in the midst of trial? Through every hardship, stand strong. God will honor your sacrifice.