I’ve been doing a study recently on suffering and trials and why God allows them into our lives. Today I came to a Biblical example of these things: the Apostle Paul. 2 Timothy 3:11-12 says that he endured persecutions and afflictions at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. We know that he battled a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12), and a couple of times he actually enumerated his physical sufferings for Christ.
1 Corinthians 4:9-10 tells us that Paul suffered
- Hunger and thirst
- Beating (“buffeted”)
- No home (I can identify with that one!)
- Hard work
- Made as “the filth of the world and the offscouring of all things.”
2 Corinthians 11:23-27 gives us an even more in depth look into Paul's sufferings:
- In Labors
- Stripes (beatings) above measure
- Imprisoned frequently
- Close to death often
- Beaten five times with 39 stripes
- Three times beaten with rods
- Three times shipwrecked
- One time stoned
- Spent a day and a night in the sea
- Frequent journeys (deputation anyone?)
- In various perils – from water, robbers, his own countrymen, the heathen, in the city, in the wilderness, from false brethren.
- In Pain
- Sleeplessness (“watchings”) often
- Hungry and thirsty
- Fasting often
- Cold and nakedness
Yet this same Paul declared that he suffered theses things because he was appointed as a preacher, teacher, and apostle to the the Gentiles, “nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persudaed that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” (2 Tim. 1:11-12).
This same Paul said that he said that he suffers trouble as an evildoer, but will “endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Jesus Christ with eternal glory.” (2 Tim. 2:9-10).
This same Paul declared boldly in 2 Corinthians 12:9-11 that he will gladly bear these infirmities and trials, even glorying in them, so that the power of Christ can rest upon him. He uses these words, “I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
This same Paul referred to his afflictions as “light” in 2 Corinthians 4:17, and taught us that suffering is but for a moment, and is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
This same Paul told the Roman believers that he has added everything up in his account book (“reckon”) and can see that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18).
Sometimes I feel crushed under the weight of my trials and tribulations. It seems as if there is no end in sight, no light at the end of the tunnel, no break in the pain. And I have not suffered anything close to what Paul endured, and he called it all “light”.
If I could see with eternal eyes, I would realize like Paul that what feels bulky, and heavy, and crushing to me now will be like a drop in the bucket compared to the weight of glory that it will be some day. I would be able to suffer and endure more easily because I would realize that this affliction is just for a moment, and it cannot compare to the glory which is coming. I would be able to declare truthfully that I rejoice when suffering comes, because I know that the weakness I am enduring is putting the strength of Jesus on display.
Lord, help me to see with eternal vision today.