Acts 24:23,27 - Then he gave orders to the centurion that [Paul] should be kept in custody… When two years had elapsed… desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.

The boxer goes down. And gets back up. He gets knocked down again. And returns to his feet once more. Then comes back to win the match.

Headlines are written. Highlights shown. The people marvel. How did he do it? What a glorious thing! He maintained strength, belief, power!

In the pre-match leadup, boxers often talk trash. But words aren’t enough to crown a champion. Action and endurance produce glory.

This may be one reason why Christians suffer in certain ways (surely, there are many reasons for Christian suffering - some for righteousness’ sake and some for discipline).

If we went around acting as “witnesses,” only talking of God and The Way, that’s good, but there’s an even greater witness.

What happens when Christians endure increasing abuse, pain, and suffering and yet continue to walk with God genuniely, worshipping him, talking of him with goodness, kindness, thankfulness, and love?

God is shown to be great! He’s shown to be bigger and stronger than the things that defeat so many without him. Over time, some people, previously apathetic or even antagonistic, eventually awaken and say, “That’s incredible! That seems real. I want that.” And there’s possibly no other way they would have believed.

God gathers more people to himself through suffering observed.

And so Paul prepares us for the road ahead:

2 Timothy 2:3 - Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:29 - For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake

2 Timothy 3:12 - all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted

Acts 14:22 - through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

The soldiers at the Cross, having likely witnessed many crucifixions, marveled at the strength of Jesus in adversity:

Matthew 27:54 - When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

Amazed, they were! “How did he just do that!?” We can live well. And, even under savage persecution, we can die well.

In God’s kingdom, those who believe in Jesus, endure the harsh difficulties of life, and remain standing will, just as in sporting life, get hardware:

James 1:12 - Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him

May God prepare us powerfully now for whatever future awaits. May he run our hearts. May he give us strength. May he do his work through us. And may he fill us with love.