Monday, April 19, 2010

Suffering for Christ: II Corinthians 11:23-28

"Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches." -II Corinthians 11:23-28

Paul had probably the most radical Christian life in the history of the Church. He did great miracles, saw revivals, planted churches, and turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6) for Christ. However, these awesome events were not all that his life consisted of. Suffering was a huge part of his life. Paul's example in suffering is extremely powerful, and it is one that every believer should aim to follow.

Notice that suffering came from everyONE and everyWHERE. It was not dependant on company or location. First look at who the suffering came from. He mentions robbers, his own countrymen, the heathen, and false brethren. Suffering came from people like robbers who you would expect and people like his own countrymen which you might not. It came from people he didn't know like the heathen and robbers, and people he knew and probably loved such as his countrymen and false brethren. It came from the heathen outside the Church and it came from false BRETHREN inside the Church. All types of people caused him suffering. Now look at where he suffered. The three locations he mentions are the city, the wilderness, and the sea (and waters). Once again, these three locations cover everywhere he went, so there was no place where he escaped suffering.

His sources of suffering were everyone and everywhere. He also had a wide variety of MANNERS of suffering. These can be put into three main categories. In the first are the stripes, imprisonments, beatings with rods, and being stoned. This was suffering from man. Through this, not only was he subject to some of the worst tortures of the day, but he also felt the rejection and hatred of other men. The second category is the shipwrecks and being at sea. This is a natural, circumstantial event. Finally, there is the destitution category. This includes hunger, thirst, fastings, cold, and nakedness. He was able to give up his physical needs and wants for Christ.

Paul's life was marked by complete suffering. He suffered everywhere, every way, at the hands of everyone. Suffering that alone must have taken every ounce of Paul's energy.With this in mind, his statement in verse 28 is mind-blowing: DESPITE all this, he DAILY took care of ALL the Churches. What a huge responsibility. That is near impossible for someone without any suffering in their life, let alone someone who suffered as much as Paul. This puts a lot of things into perspective. All THAT in mind, look at what Paul says earlier in the same letter:

"For our LIGHT AFFLICTION, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;" -II Corinthians 4:17 (emphasis added)

Paul got it. If anyone could say that they had it rough, it would be Paul, and yet he calls all that he was suffering "light affliction". He understood that all of his suffering was temporary. He knew that all that he was enduring now was working towards an eternal reward in Heaven. He could endure trials because his aim was not to gratify himself now but to gain eternal glory. Imagine his reward in Heaven! What are YOU aiming for? Where is YOUR reward? Are YOU ready to give it all for Christ?

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