By Dr. Foster H. Shannon
One of the most impressive people in the New Testament is the Apostle Paul. We encounter him as a fiery Jew willing to attack anyone who diverted from the faith of the Hebrew religion in that day. Of course, we know that the doctrine of that religion included the promise of a Messiah who would save his people and the world. Jesus was the fulfillment of those Messianic promises which are embedded in the Old Testament. Paul (Saul of Tarsus) did not recognize Jesus and Christianity as being that fulfillment. He became a persecutor of Christianity, holding the clothes of those who stoned the Deacon Stephen, because of his Christian faith and witness for Christ. Paul went from Jerusalem to Damascus to destroy the Christian community there. On the outskirts of Damascus he was confronted by a vision of Jesus: “as he was going along and approaching Damascus suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice from heaven saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you Lord?”
The reply came, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city and you will be told what you are to do.” (Acts 9:3-6)
From that he became one of the greatest Christians who have ever lived, giving his life fully in the service of the Christ; he never married.
Along with many other faithful people, Paul proclaimed Christ, and was a key in establishing the Church in the Roman world. He was inspired by God to give us thirteen of the books in the New Testament. He was a man of prayer and prayed for the healing of many people. Yet he encountered a time when his prayer was answered with a No! We read about this in II Corinthians, chapter 12. Speaking in the second person he tells us that he was caught up to heaven:
“And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person…was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat….But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth.”
Paul then speaks of a thorn in the flesh that Satan gave to torment him–to keep him from being too elated. [we do not know what it was, but it is obvious that it was a serious matter] Three times he pleaded to the Lord that it would leave him.
The Lord said,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”
So his prayer was answered, but not in the way he hoped. At times God does not answer our prayer as we have wished, because he always seeks what is best for us.
“Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent.” (Revelation 3:19) God teaches us to pray; to be assured that God hears our prayers and answers them.
“You do not have because you do not ask.” (James 4:2)
“Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete,” (John 16:24)
Let us have a personal prayerful relationship with our Savior every day!