Most people like the crowds, attention and popularity, planning the next event and all the perks that go along with speaking and rubbing shoulders with people of human importance.
Not Saul. For the next three years after Barnabas introduced Saul to the Jerusalem church, he goes off the church radar. The only thing we know about those years is what Paul writes in his first letter; “I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus” (Galatians 1:17). We are not sure exactly where Saul went in this large desert area, but I believe that indicates he was alone.
It was in this time alone that Saul developed the ‘hidden life’ and disciplines of solitude, silence and obscurity. It became the key to his tremendous effectiveness in the ten years that followed.
Charles Ryrie says, “In Arabia, he was alone with God, thinking through the implications of his encounter with the risen Christ on the Damascus Road” (Ryrie Study Bible, NAS, 1978, pg. 1771.)
It could very well have been that Saul received his vision recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 during this time. It was not wasted time. Often, we look at events that ‘hinder’ getting on with ministry as ‘delays, or a waste of time.’ In this time of solitude, Saul learned about the real Saul (Romans 7:7-25) and the greatness of God’s love and grace (Galatians 1:15-16).
What would you do with a time away from people, activities and normal responsibilities? Would you want to learn deep lessons in quietness with the Lord? Would you consider a time of obscurity a benefit to your spiritual growth and ministry? How quickly would you complain about the restrictions and quietness? All this depends on how you value an encounter with Jesus.
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