Have you ever been told that your suffering is because there is something wrong in your life? Or that if we are faithful Christians, then we should prepare to receive many blessings from God?
Many seem to believe that prosperity and blessings are the result of our living a good life for Jesus. If this is what we believe, then how do we handle difficulties and even persecution when they come? Notice what the apostle Paul wrote about himself.
Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I am talking like I am out of my mind!) I am even more so: with much greater labours, with far more imprisonments, with more severe beatings, facing death many times. Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with a rod. Once I received a stoning. Three times I suffered shipwreck. A night and a day I spent adrift in the open sea. I have been on journeys many times, in dangers from rivers, in dangers from robbers, in dangers from my own countrymen, in dangers from Gentiles, in dangers in the city, in dangers in the wilderness, in dangers at sea, in dangers from false brothers, in hard work and toil, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, many times without food, in cold and without enough clothing. (2 Corinthians 11:22-27 NET).
As far as a human “pedigree,” Paul’s was impeccable: a Hebrew, a descendant of Abraham, an Israelite. And not only did he have an immaculate Jewish heritage, he was a servant of Jesus.
But what showed his faithfulness? He mentioned harder work, more imprisonments, more severe beatings, and facing death many times. In other words, his faith caused him to live a certain way, and what he did brought him into conflict with those who did not believe in Jesus.
Did this stop him or cause him to “tone down” what he was saying or doing? Absolutely not! If anything, he did more, which brought on the hardships that he faced.
He mentioned five times he had received lashes by the Jews. As far as I am aware, we don’t have any of these recorded for us in the book of Acts (which details a good part of Paul’s life). He was three times beaten with rods – we know of one occasion in Philippi (Acts 16:22). He was stoned once and left for dead in Lystra (Acts 14:19). Three times he was shipwrecked (we know of only one occasion when he was shipwrecked on Malta, which would have occurred after this (Acts 27:39-44). He also spent a night and a day adrift in the open sea.
As he traveled, he was in constant danger from rivers, robbers, Jews, Gentiles, and false brothers and it didn’t really matter whether he was in a city, the wilderness or at sea. He also faced sleepless nights in which he did not have enough food, water, or clothing to stay warm.
Is this what being a Christian is about? Is this what we signed up for? Where are the blessings? Where is the “easy” life so many promise us?
Actually, this is the life we have been promised. Paul wrote to Timothy, as his death was approaching, “Now in fact all who want to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
There is no promise of an easy life for Christians. There is the promise of a crown of righteousness if we remain faithful even if we have to die for Jesus (2 Timothy 4:8). If we don’t have to die, it is what we go through that will help to develop us into mature Christians (James 1:2-4).
Readings for next week:
8 June – 2 Corinthians 12
9 June – 2 Corinthians 13
10 June – Philippians 1
11 June – Philippians 2
12 June – Philippians 3