Paul, the apostle by Rembrandt (1635)
At least, my mood at these times is never that bad that everybody just wants to stay out of my way. I simply start withdrawing from people and become quiet. At least, I suppose, it never gets as bad as it truly can, but when it carries with it constant pain for almost 2 months like it did last year, then I want to crawl in a hole and die. It does happen sometimes that I can go for about 10 days without pain. Then it is like heaven on earth. A wonderful streak like that can be brought to an end very abruptly by something as simple as picking up a towel after a shower. A friend of mine said the other day that he was in agony when he hurt his back moving heavy stuff, and that didn’t even last that long! he couldn’t imagine how it must be for me when it carries on for days or weeks!
That brings me to the apostle Paul. Here was a man that suffered for his Lord! Several times he was left for dead after being beaten to within an inch of his life. Paul recounted some of his hardships, and I wonder how I would have taken these hardships. Would I have carried the torch of Christ like Paul did? Or, would I have thrown in the towel?
“23 Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” (2 Cor 11:23-27)
Have you received the 39-lashes even once? Paul had it at least 5 times! Can you imagine being beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked, in danger from robbers, wild animals, hungry, thirsty, cold and many more, but all for the gospel of Christ? It is easy for us westerners to say we would do it. However, put aside the false bravado for just a minute, and truly think about it. Use all the imagination you can muster, add all the emotions that will go with such a life and all the physical pain that you have to endure. Is that what you have signed up for as a disciple of Christ? Maybe not!
Yet, Paul was ready daily to die for Christ. I have a hard time with my physical frailties. What will I do when real persecution arises? I know in my own strength I can never remain steadfast. All I can do is trust that the Lord will strengthen me in those days, like He did with Paul!
What was Paul’s attitude in all this?
“Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:10)
“For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” (Gal 1:10)
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Gal 2:20)
“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” (Gal 5:1)
“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” (Gal 6:9)
“20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph 3:2-21)
“and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” (Eph 5:2)
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” (Eph 6:10)
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:6)
“21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.” (Phil 1:21-24)
“8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil 3:8-11)
I think that these verses that Paul wrote speak for themselves. He was completely sold out to Christ and lived for the spreading of the gospel of Christ, and indeed, died for it.
May Christ infuse me with a passion and volcano erupting love for Him that will propel me forward with boldness for the gospel!
|Verse of the Day from Bible Gateway|
“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:14 [Listen!]
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