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He took him aside, away from the crowd. (Mark 7: 33)


Paul withstood not only the tests that came while he was active in his service to Christ but also the tests of solitude during captivity. We may be able to withstand the strain of the most intense labor, even if coupled with severe suffering, and yet completely break down if set aside from all Christian activity and work. This would be especially true if we were forced to endure solitary confinement in a prison cell.

Even the most majestic bird, which soars higher than all others and endures the longest flights, will sink into despair when placed in a cage, where it is forced to helplessly beat its wings against its prison bars. Have you ever seen a magnificent eagle forced to languish in a small cage? With bowed head and drooping wings, it is a sad picture of the sorrow of inactivity.

To see Paul in prison is to see another side of life. Have you noticed how he handled it? He seemed to be looking over the top of his prison wall and over the heads of his enemies. Notice how he even signed his name to his letters— not as the prisoner of Festus, nor of Caesar, and not as a victim of the Sanhedrin, but as “a prisoner for the Lord” (Eph. 4: 1). Through it all, he saw only the hand of God at work. To him, the prison became a palace, with its corridors resounding with shouts of triumphant praise and joy.

Forced from the missionary work he loved so well, Paul built a new pulpit— a new witness stand. And from his place of bondage arose some of the most encouraging and helpful ministries of Christian liberty. What precious messages of light came from the dark shadows of his captivity.

Also think of the long list of saints who have followed in the footsteps of Paul and were imprisoned for their faith. For twelve long years, John Bunyan’s voice was silenced in an English jail in Bedford. Yet it was there he wrote the greatest work of his life, Pilgrim’s Progress— read by more people than any other book except the Bible. He once said, “I was at home in prison, and my great joy led me to sit and write and write.” And the darkness of his long captivity became a wonderful dream to light the path of millions of weary pilgrims.

Madam Guyon, the sweet-spirited French saint, endured a lengthy time behind prison walls. And like the sounds of some caged birds whose songs are more beautiful as a result of their confinement, the music of her soul has traveled far beyond her dungeon walls to remove the sadness of many discouraged hearts.

Oh, the heavenly consolation that God has caused to flow out of places of solitude!
~S. C. Rees

Taken aside by Jesus,
To feel the touch of His hand;
To rest for a while in the shadow
Of the Rock in a weary land.
Taken aside by Jesus,
In the loneliness dark and drear,
Where no other comfort may reach me,
Than His voice to my heart so dear.
Taken aside by Jesus,
To be quite alone with Him,
To hear His wonderful tones of love
’Mid the silence and shadows dim.
Taken aside by Jesus,
Shall I resist the desert place,
When I hear as I never heard before,
And see Him “face to face”?

Reference

Cowman, L. B. E.; Reimann, Jim (2008-09-09). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (pp. 329-330). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.