Scripture: 2 Corinthians 11:16-33
Observation: Paul demonstrates how much he’s suffered as an apostle. Unlike the other false teachers who boasted about their own successes, he boasted about his weakness out of humility.
Application: I need to confess something.
I am a total fan girl of the apostle Paul. It’s probably borderline insane, but I can’t help myself. Y’all, Paul is just the man. He went from persecuting people who loved Jesus to proclaiming the name of Jesus. He survived pretty much every horrible thing you can think of. He was beat up, torn down, hated, and opposed – yet he was still humble and honest and hungry for more of Jesus. He didn’t care what people thought of him, and he never minced words. He even loved the very people who would try to kill him. Seriously, who does that?!
Sometimes, I’ll get caught up in my own suffering and start wallowing in the why – why is this happening to me? Why isn’t this person nicer to me? Why can’t I be nicer to other people? Why am I going through this? Why isn’t my marriage perfect by now? (For goodness sakes, I read 1 Corinthians 13 at my wedding and made a vow – isn’t that enough?!) Why, why, whyyyyyy?
And, in those moments, when I’m “why’ing” (which pretty much just sounds like whining to God and everyone else around me), I make myself read these words from Paul – and I remember what true suffering looks like. Many of Paul’s suffering stories are recorded throughout the book of Acts, but he gives us a brief overview here. While proclaiming the name of Jesus, he was:
- Whipped 39 times
- Beaten with rods three times
- Shipwrecked three times (Who gets shipwrecked not once, not twice, but three times?! Seriously, people, this man went through some crazy stuff.)
- Adrift at sea for 24 hours
- Faced with robbers, skeptics, and opponents countless times
- Hungry, thirsty, and cold
This leaves us with one of three conclusions:
1. Paul’s the unluckiest guy to ever live.
2. He’s a fool who’s gotten himself in some terrible, life-threatening situations.
3. He’s doing something so big and so purposeful that the enemy will do anything to deter him.
I’m going with #3.
None of my suffering even comes close to matching Paul’s – yet there’s an enemy working in my life. (And yours, too.) The enemy knows I’m working for the Lord. He knows I wake up everyday thankful for the cross that saved me and set me free. He knows I’m committed to using my spiritual gifts for the glory of the Lord. He knows I’m deeply in love with the church – even with all of its messy people and imperfections. He knows I pray for those who don’t know Jesus and consider it my personal mission to bring them into a relationship with him. He knows I’m steadfast in my commitment to Jesus.
But, that same enemy also knows what can deter me from all of that – my lack of patience, my propensity for pride, my struggle between how to be radical and remain relevant, my body image issues, my deepest insecurities, my people-pleasing ways. He wants to catch me off guard, make me question myself and plan God has for me, cause me to give up. He wants me to fail. But, my God designed me to endure.
And endure I will.
Just like Paul, I will not be defeated.
And neither will you.
Stand strong, my friend. Just like Paul, God has a great purpose for your life. He put a power in you stronger than anything the enemy can throw at you. He has called you and set you apart. He designed you to endure.
And endure you will.
Prayer: God, thank you for allowing Paul to be a role model for us, showing us how to live with faithfulness and endurance. I pray you’ll help me draw on your strength, remembering that you designed me to endure. I praise you today! Amen.