“Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ ” (Acts 9:4).
Gary Heyward was happy to get a job as a prison guard. While going through training, his instructor told him there would be temptations behind those walls. “One of you is going to smuggle something inside.” Heyward was sure he would never do that. But when an inmate offered him $300 for contraband cigarettes, with a salary of $28,000 a year and large debts, he made the trade and rationalized it away, thinking that everyone smokes and that they weren’t illegal drugs anyway.
But one thing led to another and soon an inmate offered him $1,500 for a half-ounce of cocaine. Heyward’s debts went down as his smuggling went up. Soon it was cell phones and other contraband. He was finally caught when an inmate turned him in and video showed him in the act. Now the prison guard spent two years in prison himself.
Saul was on a rampage to put Christians in prison. The early church was growing and the religious leaders in Jerusalem were livid. They gave their most zealous worker legal documents to hunt down and grab followers of Jesus off the streets, in their homes, or wherever they could be found. But something was happening in the heart of this persecutor of the church. He couldn’t shake off the testimony of Stephen, an innocent Jew whose death he approved.
On the road to Damascus, Jesus spoke to Saul in a vision. Christ identified Himself with the very people he was attacking. The blinding light made him unable to see. As a prisoner of darkness for three days, Saul had time to reflect on this life-changing moment and became convicted to follow the very One he once hated. As an apostle to the Gentiles, the converted man was thrown into prison many times. It was behind bars that he wrote his most eloquent letters on the truths of Christianity.
Sometimes we need to go to prison in order to be set free.
Heavenly Father, as did the apostle Paul, may I have the privilege of becoming a prisoner of Jesus Christ.
For Further Study: Acts 9:1–9; 22:1–11; Philippians 1:12–18