But in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in difficulties, in beatings, in imprisonments, in mob attacks, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, and in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown and yet well known, as dying and yet behold, we are alive; as punished and yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing and yet possessing all things.
For someone who suffered as much as Paul did, it might have been easy to overlook God’s grace. Just as we can easily question God’s character and provision when we are hurting, the same could have been true for Paul. Yet, we see here that he had a very different response.
Paul and many of the early apostles were endlessly persecuted, mistreated, and misunderstood. On several occasions, they even found themselves on the brink of death. It would have been more than enough for any of us to lose heart. Endurance by God’s power was their only means of moving forward in obedience. For many of us, we might believe the lie that if we trust God with our lives, then He owes us an easier path. If we sacrifice of our own, then God has to guarantee certain realities for us. Even in small ways, the lies of a prosperity gospel can creep into our hearts and minds. It is here that Paul would remind us that even if the world takes everything from us, we have everything in the person of Christ. And there is no gift of greater value than that.
In the western world, we will likely not endure even a portion of what Paul did. But there will be pain. There will be sorrow. And there will be a cost for following Jesus with everything we have. In the process, we may question God’s gift of grace. We might doubt whether His gift really is a gift. Perhaps you’ve had those moments of doubt already. We are allowed to wrestle with God, especially in our pain. But there isn’t anything this world can send our way that could rip us from God’s firm grasp.
- How does Paul’s life and experience shape your view of God’s grace? How is his response to God in his own suffering an encouragement to you?
- How do you struggle to remember God’s gift of grace in the midst of hardship, pain, and uncertainty?
- Take some time in prayer to rejoice in God’s grace, even if your circumstances aren’t ideal. Acknowledge your pain and the truth of God in the midst of it.