Every Wednesday, 8:00 AM - 8:15 AM
How Much He Must Suffer
By Phil Tedeschi
Acts 9:10-16 (NKJV) 10 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord." 11 So the Lord said to him, "Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. 12 And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight." 13 Then Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name." 15 But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake."
It all started when I watched the movie of the life of Paul the Apostle as told by Luke from the book of Acts. The convincing drama brought the Bible’s greatest evangelist to life in a powerful way. But I was struck by a verse containing the prophetic word of God like I never have been before. I went back and looked it up after the movie, just to be sure the producers hadn’t changed it somehow, but there it was: “And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Incredible! God’s plan was for Paul to suffer for Him!
So, I began to research the word “suffer”, and I found that this same Greek word was used to describe what Jesus went through on the cross for us! In fact, there are numerous New Testament terms for the suffering Christians will have to endure - some denote verbal abuse, some denote trials and persecution, but this particular one is the only one that directly relates to pain. God said, in effect, “I’ll show Paul how much pain he must endure for my name.”
Well, I clearly didn’t get it. Then the Holy Spirit clarified it for me with an object lesson: matches. Matches come in many different sizes and are made from numerous materials, but every match has but one function - to burn. The flame they give off may be for heat, for light, for cooking food, etc. Matches can even save your life if you’re ever lost in the woods. But in order for them to do any good, they have to burn.
Now, I’ve seen some pretty amazing things made of match sticks - model ships, dollhouses, even fancy boxes. They’re nice to look at, soliciting a few ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaaahs’ from observers, but they can’t “do” anything. In fact, to be sure their creation doesn’t accidentally ignite, many such sculptors cut the match heads off. What a waste!
But this is a picture of each one of us! We are all matches. We’ve been created to burn, to bring light to a dark world and to feed the hungry with the Bread of Life. But we can’t do it just sitting around in our “matchbox” homes or churches. We all have the potential - the Holy Spirit has put just the right mix of ‘chemicals’ on us. But there is a painful lesson to a burning match: To ignite, the match must be struck, and as it burns it gets consumed! To burn for God means we begin to die. No match is suitable to the user if it is wet. Wood used in making matches must be kiln dried, so that there is no life left in it. In the same way, if we are to burn for Christ, we must be dead to our flesh.
What does that really mean? Look at it this way: If the glory comes to the matchstick, it’s flesh. If the glory comes to the flame, it’s God. What are we building? . . . a matchstick house? . . . a matchstick box? . . . a matchstick ship in a bottle? Or, are we building a fire that burns brightly and shines into the darkness saying to the lost, come near the flame and get warm, stay dry and be well fed? A shivering homeless man may marvel at a display of matchstick creations he passes in a storefront window, but he’ll live through another cold night by the warmth of a match-ignited fire!
So, let me bring it home to us, here, today. Paul was ‘struck’ for Jesus on the Damascus road, and for the remainder of his days, he continued to burn until his stick was finally and completely consumed. What about you? Are you trying to save a little piece of wood that does no one any good? Or will you let the Holy Spirit strike you and set you aflame to do what God created you for? As for me, I say, “Burn, baby, burn!”