Time and time again I am blown away by how much Paul is willing to endure for the gospel. As I comfortably sit in a local café writing this devotion I wonder if I could ever really withstand the persecution Paul faced. I don’t want to take away from the hard times we all face, because in our own ways the world is testing us and pushing us in different directions. So it might not be a mob chasing after you but I know that there are all moments in our lives where we feel like we are stuck in a hard place. The truth is I don’t think I’ll experience the things Paul did, but it doesn’t stop me from using him as an example of what it looks like to live life as a disciple of Jesus.
As Paul does what the elders have asked him to do in the previous reading, we find him in yet again another difficult situation. Paul showed himself to be a good Jew and followed the requests of James and the elders yet while he was in the temple doing so, he found himself quite suddenly in the middle of a commotion. He is seized by a mob and they attempted to kill him (verse 30-31).
There is a very poignant image in verse 30, “seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut”. The slammed gates seemed to symbolise the final Jewish rejection of the gospel. They weren’t open to having their lives transformed by God and as a result Paul is yet again stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Paul was never more like Jesus, than when he suffered like Jesus. It is in suffering for righteousness sake that Paul demonstrates for us that he had been transformed by the Gospel and was being conformed to the image of Christ. When we endure persecutions, hard times and struggles for Christ’s sake, we demonstrate that we have been transformed by the power of the Gospel.
Throughout this week, when you find yourself in a hard place—then follow the example of Paul. Respond with God-centred humility, trusting Him for the outcome that most glorifies Him. After all, Paul was simply following the example of his Lord—the same Lord whom we are called to follow.