Saul (Paul) was what you could call a man of vision until one day he actually had a real vision! This vision would change everything, so much so that Saul no longer chose to call himself Saul anymore but instead he changed his name to Paul. Paul was so ashamed of his former self that he wanted nothing to do with that person called Saul anymore. Paul spoke of his former self as being a man who “…profited in the Jews religion above many mine equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.” So Paul was quite a social climber at one stage in his life, particularly when he was called Saul. Saul went on in his great career to start a great campaign against Christians, his vision at that stage in his life was to wipe out Christians. We read of Saul, his former self:
“…yet breathing out threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way (Christian way), whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks (goad sticks). And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what will thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man (was blinded by the light) but they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.”
So not quite the blaze of glory (light) that Saul had been hoping for but instead quite the opposite and a very humiliating experience for him being knocked of his high-horse like that and then he was led away blind like a helpless child. He had been kicking against the pricks (against Jesus’ words) as it says here, this meant that Jesus had already been talking to him through various saints, one of these saints was the first Christian martyr called Stephen. Stephen had been stoned and the men stoning Stephen had taken off their coats and laid then at Saul’s feet, the impression you get is that they were trying to impress Saul, they’d taken off their coats so that they could more zealoudly throw these stones and rocks at Stephen, putting their coats at Saul’s feet meant that he would have been impressed by all of this, him being more zealous than they all and they wanting to impress him with their zeal; no-doubt they were looking for a pat on the head from Saul. So Saul was without excuse, Jesus had spoken to him loud and clear, he had seen the true zeal of a true Christian martyr who was truly willing to die for Jesus and who was a true visionary of Jesus. Before Stephen died he’d seen a true vision from God which he spoke of, he saw Jesus on the right hand of the throne of God and he himself had laid down his life for his enemies including Saul. Saul no-doubt hated all of this because it showed him up for the man that he really wasn’t! Saul was not the man of God that he through he was, his whole life had been one big lie.
Paul, the new man is recorded as saying, “But what things were gained to me, those I counted loss for Christ…for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and so count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Philippians 3:7,8). So after Saul had been knocked off his high-horse by a blinding light and was led away like a helpless child, another man received a message from Jesus, this message would tell Saul “…how great things he must suffer for my (Jesus’) name’s sake.” And so upon hearing these words, Saul’s sight was restored to him and so Saul now became the great apostle Paul and true to the words of Jesus, Paul did suffer many many things for Jesus! And as it says here:
“…in stripes (whippings) above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft (in fear of his life). Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one (39). Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I had been in the deep; in journeying’s often, in perils of waters, in perils (fear for your life) of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils by the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watching’s often, in hunger and in thirst, in fasting’s often, in cold and in nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches (Christian gatherings).” (2 Corinthians 11:23).
So all being said here and if anything shines through, then the message should be: Be careful what you wish for! Paul got everything that he wished for but it wasn’t quite like he first envisioned, in fact it was quite the opposite, it was more to do with humility than pride. Paul found that when he was weak, that’s when he was strong so he thanked Jesus for all the hardships and all the sufferings and all the cares and all the woes that came his way because they kept him humble and they kept him truly dependant on Jesus Himself and they stopped him from being exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations (visions) that were given unto him.