“We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; 6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 8 through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” 2 Corinthians 6.3-10
For anyone who thinks they have it bad or worse in life than most, read this. For those who believe they are suffering for the Gospel, read this. For those millennials, who get such a bad rap for being privileged, read this. For any believer of Jesus who just goes to church every week and lives in comfort, read this.
Paul’s hardships are no laughing matter. He speaks of them again in 2 Corinthians 11 and his ship wreck in Acts 27. Paul suffered difficulties not just because traveling during that time was treacherous, but because he was a weapon for the Lord and was in war against the forces of evil. These forces infiltrate human hearts and cause people to rage and hate against the gospel.
Yet in this litany of difficulties, Paul also raises hope. “In purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love.” “Through glory and dishonor…sorrowful yet always rejoicing, poor yet making many rich…having nothing yet possessing everything.” Paul took delight in his situation. His beating, his persecution, his imprisonments. For he knew he was working for the greater good of taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth. God was with Paul and so he was able to bring purpose, hope and love to him in the midst of his hardships.
The word for us today is this — when difficulty comes, we focus not on earthly outcomes but on a heavenly, spiritual reward. Our spiritual poverty while on this earth is nothing compared to the riches that are to come. Even if you have nothing this world can offer, you have everything found in the salvation of Jesus Christ.
What a blessing that the entire Christendom is not suffering. Although many in the church are persecuted for what they believe, there is a large portion who are not. Let us pray for those who are suffering for the Gospel. Let us not take our pettiness and make it prominent. Let us turn to Jesus, focus upon his love, and live within his will for our lives.
Although Paul suffered greatly, he also enjoyed the power and presence of the Lord. Can you say the same for yourself today?
“O Lord God, it’s the week of Thanksgiving and for this I am so grateful. For time off, rest and renewal, focus and faithfulness. I thank you for the power of your love and for your Holy Spirit who falls upon your people. Come now, Lord God, bless us. Protect us from evil and from disaster. Help us be a victorious people, residing in your love and pressing on with your passion. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen