Scripture Reading: Isaiah 24:1-26:21 / 2 Corinthians 11:16-33 / Psalm 106:32-39
When I was growing up, adults told me of the extreme difficulties they encountered as a child and that my childhood “world” was easy compared to theirs. They had to walk 5 miles to school everyday…uphill both ways! They painted an embellished picture of their childhood circumstances, in order to minimize my childhood struggles.
At times, we may even find it quite tempting to slightly exaggerate our own childhood tales when a child/teen grumbles and complains about their hard life. The truth is, there are some people who always like to outdo someone else’s hardship story with a bigger story of their own. Some do so for attention while others constantly live and struggle with their victim mentality.
The Apostle Paul shares of his hardships and sufferings but not for the purpose of exaltation but of evidence and proof of his Apostleship. Unlike so many today, Paul did not use his successes and credentials to establish credibility but he spoke of his weaknesses and sufferings. He did not have a victim mentality but a message of suffering for the gospel and the glory of God.
Paul did not embellish his words but had scars and wounds to prove them. His life supported his claim, “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.” (2 Corinthians 11:23) Paul went anywhere and endured anything in order that the gospel might be preached.
The Jews flogged Paul on five different occasions receiving 39 lashes each time. Flogging was designed to bring the greatest amount of pain without the victim losing consciousness. Scourging was brutal and left the victim’s body bloodied and flesh shredded like a ribbon. Paul had the scars to prove it.
The Romans severely beat Paul with a wooden rod three different times. Paul was pelted with stones and his accusers left when they thought his pummeled body laid lifeless in the dust. Paul speaks of three shipwrecks where he spent hours and even a long night and day helpless in the midst of a raging sea. His life was constantly in jeopardy as he faced impassable rivers, bandit riddled roads and attacks from his own people, Jews, Gentiles and false witnesses.
Paul did not speak of his huge revivals, miraculous healings or wonderful revelations from God but he refers to his sufferings. Yet in the midst of his hardships, disappointments and attacks; Paul found the purpose and strength of God in the midst of them. What an example for us…to discover the glory of God in the trials of our everyday lives. In our suffering we will find His strength!