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Charles Swindoll: The mystery of what Paul did in Arabia for a thousand days

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Maybe one of the great mysteries of the Bible is what did the Apostle Paul do while he was hanging out in Arabia for three years? according to Chuck Swindoll's book Paul: A Man of Grace and Grit. Swindoll mentions three different theories that scholars have come up with to explain his activities there but since the Bible is mum on the subject Swindoll says no one knows for sure.

People who have read the Bible are familiar with Paul's dramatic confrontation with God on the road to Damascus. That incident marked a change in Paul's life from when he observed the stoning of Stephen in Acts 6 and also participated in the persecution of other believers.

But Swindoll mentions in his book that nowhere in the Bible does it say why Paul went to Arabia after his life was transformed on the road to Damascus. He had suddenly morphed from being a terrorist into being a supporter of Christ. But why did he disappear into apparent obscurity in Arabia?

Swindoll said, "Whenever the Bible remains silent on a subject, scholars and theologians have to fill in the holes with theories." He goes on to mention several theories.

Early church leaders evidently believed Paul trekked to the ancient land of Arabia as a missionary. He brought "the Gospel to a savage group of desert dwellers," according to Swindoll's interesting book.

One Biblical scholar theorized that Paul fled to Arabia to escape persecution from the terrorists who had heard of his newfound faith in Damascus and sought his death. Swindoll says "that too is a compelling thought but nowhere is it mentioned in the Bible."

Another scholar has speculated that Paul needed three years "just as the original disciples did when they traveled with and learned from Jesus."

Swindoll sticks with the Bible though saying that we really don't know. " It's a mystery. There are well over a thousand days unaccounted for in Paul's life. Swindoll interpreted this to mean, "A thousand plus days he most likely spent alone. All alone. Thinking. Praying. Wrestling within. Listening to the Lord. If he had ever been addicted to popularity, he lost the urge to pursue it during those years in the desert."

Swindoll believes "in that barren place of obscurity, that Paul developed his theology. He met God, intimately and deeply."

Swindoll compares Paul's experience of that to Tom Hanks who starred in the movie Castaway. He played a Fedex executive whose plane crashes in the Pacific Ocean living him stranded on a lonely, uninhabited island. He goes through bouts within himself for four long, solitary years. When he returns to civilization he returns a deeper man. Similar to the way Paul was a deeper man after Arabia.

Jack Hill, Biblical scholar, said he remembered Tom Hanks' only friend was Wilson. He formed a relationship with Wilson, which was the name inscribed across the volleyball on the island. Jack and wife Carolyn have been leading discussions relating to Swindoll's book.

Swindoll reaches a conclusion that people today need to slow down and re-think things similar to what he believes Paul did in the solitariness and obscurity of Arabia Swindoll makes the radical remark that maybe people should throw their cell phones in the nearest lake so they can have some time to themselves when they can think.

Image the heresy of that! Expecting people to throw their cellphones away in modern America.

Swindoll says people won't miss it if they occasionally turn off our computers and fax machines. The worst that will happen is emails will build up.

Swindoll has truly written a revolutionary book if he expects people ignore their voicemails for several days or weeks!

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