(Acts 16: 9-12; 16-34)
A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man from Macedonia stood pleading with him and saying, Come over to Macedonia and help us (vs. 9)! On the way to answer the “Macedonia call” Paul and Silas had to go through the “fire” being struck with many blows to the point of bleeding; they were thrown into prison (dungeon) with their feet fastened in the stocks (vs. 10). They faced many stumbling blocks, but none of them kept them from losing the focus of the call to Macedonia. Yes, they were bleeding and hurting physically, and their feet were fastened in the stocks, but they were strong spiritually to face the enemy’s weapons with praises to God, proclaiming His love to all who were listening to them in jail; and their spirits were free in Christ to proclaim the goodness of God.
That was the beginning of the fulfillment of the call. That stumbling block in front of them didn’t indicate a stop sign or a change of calling, but a yield sign in the calendar of God; an introduction to what God had in store for them. Their submission to God followed by praises to Him caused heaven’s door to be opened for God’s Power to be expressed through a powerful earthquake, where human powers could do nothing to stop it.
(Genesis 22; Job 1:8-9; I Peter 1: 7)
Blessed is the man who is patient under trial and stands up under temptation, for when he has stood the test and been approved, he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him (James 1:12).
“For when he has stood the test and been approved” there will be a crown waiting for him, the crown of life which has been promised by God Himself to those who love Him, shown in action of obedience and endurance. The crown of life is the crown that will be given to those who endure trials and martyrdom for their faith. “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).
In his testing of faith, the Patriarch Abraham answered the Lord’s calling by saying, Here I am! This is such a gesture of submission it cannot be ignored. Abraham had a friend’s relationship with God. His walk of faith confirmed it, and the fact that God Himself so expressed in Genesis 18:19: For I have known him [as My own], so that he may teach and command his children and the sons of his house after him to keep the way of the Lord and to do what is just and righteous, so that the Lord may bring Abraham what He has promised him. Abraham did not know about the test of faith he was about to go through at God’s calling his name. “Here I am” he answered. The Lord then commanded him saying, Take your son, your only son, whom you loveand go to the region of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I will tell you ( Gen. 22:2).
A man of perfect integrity
Was Job in the sight of God
With no equal
On the face of the earth
Blessed with wealth to share
Respected by all who cared
He lived his life shinning
The fear of God among men
Remember your Creator
Before darkness envelops the mind
And understanding flees
Before reasoning is confusion
Remember your Creator
When the sun shines brightly
And its rays penetrate the soul
And life smiles to you
(Micah 7: 7; Joshua 24:14-15)
After the death of Moses, God established Joshua as the leader to take Israel to the Promise Land. He was Moses’ assistant, who faithfully followed him all the way. Joshua was from the tribe of Ephraim. His determination to serve God was visible in all his ways of service to Moses. Joshua was born a slave in the land of Egypt, in the generation after Moses’. His father Nun was hopeful for the deliverance of Israel when he named his son “salvation.” That was of prophetical significance for the future of the nation of Israel’s freedom. Even more significant was the fact that his son would fulfill the prophecy to the letter. He stood as God’s warrior against the pagan nations before they entered the land and after. He remained faithful to the promises of God when he took charge of Israel: Only you be strong and courageous, that you may do according to the all the law which Moses My servant commanded you. Turn not from it to the right hand or the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe and do according to all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall deal wisely and have good success (Joshua 1: 7-8).
(I Peter 5: 10; James 4:7; Psalm 92)
The suffering of the believer is not something that happens by accident, neither it is to be regarded as in vain. But it requires a personal search of the heart to be allied in the right position with God, so to understand the perfect will of God in that situation. The sufferings of the believer in YAHSHUA caused by persecution are without a question, the most honorable way of suffering. He so confirmed by saying, Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven! Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things against you falsely on My account. Be glad and supremely joyful for your reward is great, for in this same way people persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5: 10-12).
In the school of life, suffering is very much a part of it. Because we were born in sin and born of sinful parents, suffering will follow us until death, in one way or another. When sin entered the Garden of Eden, then the curse entered with it. Therefore, suffering, generally speaking, is a result of sin. David confessed it this way when he was found guilty of adultery and homicide: Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; my mother was sinful who conceived me (Psalm 51:5-6). The Apostle Paul confirms: therefore, as sin came into the world through one man and death as a result of sin, so death spread to all men, because all men sinned (Rom. 5:12). And we were then by nature children of [God’s] wrath and heirs of [His] indignation (Eph. 2:3b). The Prophet Jeremiah puts all in perspective: Why does a living man sigh [ and why does] a man complain for the punishment of his sin? Let us test and examine our ways and let us return to the Lord; let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven (Lam. 3: 39-41).
After John had been in prison a while, he sent a message in the form of a question: Are You the One Who is to come, or shall we [continue to] look for another (Luke 7: 20b) One to come-the Messiah. John seemed to have lost focus and seemed to have forgotten the experience he had at the time when he baptized YAHSHUA and God had revealed and confirmed to him by showing him the Spirit in the form of a dove out of heaven descending and resting on Him, as he had said, I did not know Him nor recognize Him, but He Who sent me to baptize in water said to me, Upon Him Whom you shall see the Spirit descend and remain, that One is He Who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. I have seen and my testimony is that this is the Son of God! John looked at YAHSHUA and declared, Look! There is the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1: 29-36) But while in prison, things became obscure to John without outside reports from his disciples of what was happening. YAHSHUA, meanwhile, was healing many of sicknesses and destressing bodily plagues and evil spirits, and to many who were blind He gave sight (Luke 7:21). Seemly, John became offended in YAHSHUA when doubt entered his mind concerning YAHSHUA’S role as the Messiah. As a precursor of Christ, He needed to have evidences that demanded his beliefs that YAHSHUA was the One Who was to come. That was important to him as a prophet, who had introduced YAHSHUA as the One. YAHSHUA promptly sent John an answer that confirmed once again, Whom He was –the Son of God! He sent the message to John saying, Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the dead hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the good news; blessed is he who takes no offense in Me and who is not hurt or resentful or annoyed or repelled or made to stumble (Luke 7: 21-23).
(Deut. 9:1-6; I Samuel 17: 45-50)
To take possession of the Promised Land, Israel had to destroy the giants of the land. The Lord warned them that they were great and tall, they were the sons of Anakim, of whom they had heard, Who can stand before the sons of Anak (Deut. 9:2). When Moses sent spies from every tribe to spy the land they came with a frightening report: There we saw the Nephilim [or giants], the sons of Anak, who come from the giants; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight (Num. 13:33). In the days of Joshua, he cut off the Anakim from the hill country; from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, and from all the hill country of Judah and the hill country of Israel. Joshua destroyed them utterly with their cities. None of the Anakim were left in the land of the Israelites; only in Gaza, Gath and Ashdod did some remain (Josh. 11:21-22).
In the days of David, the Philistines came to fight with Israel with their giant, Goliath of Gath. This giant stood almost ten feet tall. His heavy armor was even more impressive and intimidating. Israel’s army was dismayed and very afraid of him. Israel came to battle in their strength; all they saw was the giant before them. They forgot what God had done in the past, but there was someone who had the faith and the courage to face this giant. The mountain Israel perceived to be was just a mole hill to David. In fact all he needed was a stone and a sling and bam, the giant was done and gone!
On his missionary journeys, Paul was confronted with angry Jews, and Gentiles. He was mistreated unfairly several times and sometimes thrown in jail. In one of his letter to the Corinthians he gives a summary of his experiences in his mission field. He wrote: five times I received from [the hands of] the Jews forty [lashes all] but one; three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I have been aboard a ship wrecked at sea; a [whole] night and a day I have sent [adrift] on the deep; many times on journeys , [exposed to perils from rivers, perils from bandits, perils from [my own] nation, perils from the Gentiles, perils in the city, perils in the desert places, perils in the sea, perils from those posing as believers; in toil and hardship, watching often, in hunger and thirst frequently driven to fasting by want, in cold and exposure and lack of clothing ( II Cor. 11:23-27). However, Paul arose from it all with a song of victory even in the darkest hours of his life: we are hedged in on every side, but not cramped or crushed; we suffer embarrassments and are perplexed and unable to find a way out, but not driven to despair; we are pursued, but not deserted; we are struck down to the ground, but never struck out and destroyed; always carrying about in the body the liability and exposure to the same putting to death that the Lord YAHSHUA suffered, so that the life of YAHSHUA also may be shown forth by and in our bodies. For we who live are constantly being handed over to death for YAHSHUA’S sake, that the life of YAHSHUA also may be evidenced through our flesh which is liable to death (II Cor. 4:8-11).