In Paul's second letter to the Corinthian church, he reminds his followers of his sufferings. It seems that there were people in the church that thought they could be ministers at bargain basement prices. They had become abusive and even slapped some of their constituents. They demanded exorbitant fees for their services. Discipleship, however, cannot be purchased at the bargain counter. The cost of Paul's discipleship is measured by what he endured on his walk of faith.
Concerning Paul, the Lord Jesus Christ told Ananias, "I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name's sake." The sufferings began immediately, and continued in unbroken succession for over thirty years.
Other than Job, few have suffered as much as Paul. Let's contrast Paul's suffering and hardship with yours. Do you suffer? Do you have problems? Are you misunderstood? Let's find out by using a system that Ben Franklin devised in order to make a decision. Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper and on the left side write each and every hardship and suffering that you have experienced in your lifetime. Number them. On the right side let's number some of Paul's hardships on behalf of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.
They plotted to kill him in Damascus and in Jerusalem. They drove him out of Antioch. They attempted to stone him in Iconium. They did stone him, and leave him for dead, in Lystra. In Philippi they beat him with rods, and put him in stocks. In Thessalonica the Jews and rabble tried to mob him. They drove him out of Berea. They plotted against him in Corinth. In Ephesus they almost killed him. In Corinth again, shortly after he had written this Epistle, they plotted his death. In Jerusalem again they would have made a quick end of him, except for the Roman soldiers who came to his rescue. Then he was imprisoned in Caesarea for two years, and two more in Rome. Five times of the Jews he received forty stripes, less one. (The legal limit was thirty-nine.) Three times he was beaten with rods, once he was stoned, three times he suffered shipwreck, spending a night and a day in the water. He was in perils of journeying, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by his own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren. In weariness and painfulness, in sleeplessness, in hunger and thirst, in fasting often, in cold and nakedness. Yet through all of these he still had deep concern for all of the churches.
Now back to the Ben Franklin system. Count your hardships and sufferings, and then count Paul's. How do we compare?
Paul having a lot of hardships doesn't minimize ours, but it does help us to place them in a proper perspective. What was Paul's answer to all of these things that happened to him? Remember this man was able to lead in songs of praise while in prison, in stocks. His joy was triumphant in adversity. The body can be chained but not the spirit. One of Paul's statements has been an encouragement to me, through the years, and I trust it will be for you. "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."
The final curtain for Paul was to be taken to Rome and executed as a common criminal.
References: Acts Chap.4; 6; 11, Rom. 8:18, 2 Cor.11: 23-27 The Holy Bible
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