“And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me. But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of. For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.” – Acts 28:17-20
In this passage we see an account of Paul being taken prisoner and jailed for sharing the Gospel (or good news) of Jesus Christ. He had been turned in by his own people that he loved dearly, the Jews. In their lack of understanding, Paul’s zeal to tell them about the great and mighty delivering power and love of Jesus, had stirred their anger against him. When he was delivered to the Romans they found no fault in him and would have let him go but the Jews insisted that he be locked up. Paul was being attacked by the very people he was trying to save, yet he was grateful for the opportunity to be a witness to his people and rejoiced that “for the hope of (the salvation of) Israel, he would be persecuted and bound in chains.
I find this to be a very familiar experience. Very often when God calls you to be a witness for Him in someone’s life the first thing the devil will do is cause that person or persons to attack you, hurting you in some deep way. He does this because he knows that if he can plant bitterness or put you at odds with them then you will loose your heart to help them and he will not loose ground to you. Paul understood this and never allowed the attacks of those he was trying to save to discourage him or weaken his resolve to see them saved.
One reason for this is because Paul knew that he himself had once been a persecutor of the Christians. He knew that their hearts could be changed, their minds renewed, and their souls saved just as his had. No matter how wicked they were at this moment they could still be saved in the next, after all, who could be more wicked then he had been prior to his salvation experience on the road to Damascus. God had forgiven him, holding no ought against him for persecuting Him and he knew that he must do the same for others.
An other reason is because he looked to Christ as his example and we ought to do the same. When we call ourselves “Christians” we are saying that we are “like Christ”, and Christ suffered constant persecution from those He was trying to save. Even to the point of death. Jesus died to save the very people that were cursing Him, spitting on Him… killing Him; even praying for their forgiveness as he died.
Paul also knew, as all the disciples, apostles, and ministers of the New Testament church did, that the greater our faithfulness is to suffer for Christ, the greater God will trust us to be used all the more mightily by Him in this life and the greater our reward will be in the next. This is because when our faith is tested through trial and tribulation it is proven and also strengthened, preparing us to walk in authority and power through ever greater battles to come. Think of your faith like a muscle that must be exercised for it to be strengthened and grow, and the resistance that comes aginst you as nothing more then spiritual resistance training. If you don’t quit it will only make you stronger.
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.” – 1 Peter 4:12-14
“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” – Romans 8:16-18
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” – Romans 5:3-5
“Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:” – 1 Peter 1:6-7