In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul takes up a defense of himself in his ministry. He then goes on one of his famous run-on sentences. In this dissertation, Paul delineates a few of his accomplishments:
- He preached for free
- Not burdensome
- He is a Hebrew
- He is an Israelite
- A descendant of Abraham
- Servant of Christ
- Far more labors
- Far more imprisonments
- In danger of death
- Five times he was flogged
- Three times he was beaten with rods
- Spent a night and a day in the deep
- Danger from rivers, robbers, from his own countrymen, Gentiles, in the city, in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, amongst false brethren
- Many sleepless nights
- Hungry, thirsty, without food, in the cold and exposed
I don't know about you, but reading that makes my palms sweat, my head hurt, and my knees ache. He finishes his 'resume' in chapter 12, verse 1...boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable.
Paul viewed his sufferings as badges to wear; badges of honor. He approached his 'boastin' somewhat reluctantly. But when he got rolling, wow...did he ever get rolling!? But it makes me think about what my journey as a Christian has been like. Thankfully, I live in a country where I am able to worship freely (just not too loudly). I am blessed to have a forum such as this to type. I don't pray for persecution, and I am glad I have not experienced it. But I wonder, has my lack of persecution made me soft? I mean, I look at Paul's resume and I can't help but ask, "Why did you keep pressing on?"
I think the answer has to be found in Acts 9. My NASB bible has a heading of "The Conversion of Saul." And it is an amazing story of God coming to earth, again. Speaking to Saul/Paul. His conversation wasn't just an impression, a small quiet whisper. It was of such a volume, that the men traveling with Saul/Paul could hear the voice, but could see no one. Saul/Paul was assaulted by a light from heaven and the voice of Jesus engaged Saul/Paul right where he was! This encounter was the key to Saul becoming Paul and Paul becoming the most prolific writer of the New Testament. It is also what Paul would have referred back to in those lonely times. While bobbing like a piece of driftwood in the Mediterranean Sea, while the lashes came, while imprisoned, while stoned, in danger, sleepless nights, etc.
I am convinced that any encounter with the Living God will give you some 'stickiness'. You will stick to what you are called to. God called Paul to be an apostle. He didn't let a little shipwreck bother him!
So, when we feel like life is tough, when we think we cannot possibly go on, when none of it makes sense, remember--God is with you as much as He was with Paul.