I was looking at the suffering of the Apostle Paul recently. I was amazed how much he went through in his years of ministry. I was also amazed by his commitment to preach the Gospel in the midst of his suffering.
In 2 Corinthians 6:3-10 we see some of Paul’s hardships. On a number of occasions he was beaten by mobs, put in jail, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights and gone without food.
Also in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 we read he was also whipped nearly 200 times, beaten with rods, faced death again and again, was shipwrecked three times, was stoned, faced danger from fake Christians and nearly drowned from swollen rivers.
This does not even mentioned the “thorn in Paul’s flesh from Satan” mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. A thorn that he was able to bear by God’s grace.
Bible scholars tell us that Paul was converted about 36 AD and he died in Rome in 68 AD. So this means he was in Christian ministry for about 32 years. As 2 Corinthians was written about 57 AD these listed sufferings only record about two thirds of his ministry time!
So how was Paul able to stand firm and keep going in his ministry mission in light of all this suffering? Here are some of the reasons I think.
- His amazing conversion on the road to Damascus where he spoke with Jesus (Acts 9:3-19)
- He knew he was called by God to reach the Gentiles for Christ (Galatians 1:15-16, Acts 13:2-3)
- He knew he could do all things through Christ who was his strength (Philippians 4:13)
- Paul saw his mission as a race he needed to run with endurance (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Hebrews 12:1)
- He knew he had to keep his eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2)
- Paul saw that he was no longer living, but Christ living in and through him (Galatians 2:20)
- Paul knew he would receive a crown of righteousness from the Lord (2 Timothy 4:8)
- Paul saw his life as a drink offering being poured out to the Lord (2 Timothy 4:6)
I am really inspired by the life of Paul. I have been through a lot of suffering and it has made me stronger, but it is nothing compared to what Paul suffered for the Gospel.
If you are suffering for the Gospel today I hope you can draw strength from God and the example of the Apostle Paul.
A number of times in the Bible we see that Jesus withdrew to a quiet place. It was something that He did regularly.
Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat. (Mark 6:31 NLT)
In the above Jesus gives us some reasons…
1. To find rest
2. To get away from the crowds
3. To eat
Some times Jesus drew aside alone to spend time with His heavenly Father in prayer (Luke 6:12). This was just before He chose the 12 disciples.
I think it is an important reminder to have a quiet place where we can recharge both physically and spiritually. A place where we can find rest.
Have you got a place like that?
I was just listening to a song by Casting Crowns called “Somewhere in the Middle”. The chorus always makes me think about where I am at in my faith….
Fearless warriors in a picket fence,
reckless abandon wrapped in common sense
Deep water faith in the shallow end
and we are caught in the middle
With eyes wide open to the differences,
the God we want and the God who is
But will we trade our dreams for His
or are we caught in the middle
Are we caught in the middle
I don’t want to be caught in the middle. I don’t want to be luke warm like Jesus talks about in Revelation 3:15-16. I want to be on fire for Christ.
I want deep water faith. I want to worship God for who He truly is. I want God’s dreams for me. I don’t want Christianity light. I want the real thing.
How about you?
Last night I shared this short message titled, “We need to be filled by and surrendered to the Holy Spirit”.
It is just that bit long for a blog post, so you can find it on my sermons page here.
I was doing a word study on the words “one another”. I decided to start with the books written by the Apostle Paul. In Paul’s writings the words appear 32 times in 31 verses in the NIV.
Below are a few of the examples…
- Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
- Romans 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not think you are superior.
- Romans 13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.
- Romans 14:13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.
- Romans 15:7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
- Romans 15:14 I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another.
- Romans 16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.
- 1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.
- 1 Corinthians 16:20 All the brothers and sisters here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
- 2 Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
- 2 Corinthians 13:12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.
- Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another humbly in love.
- Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
- Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
- Ephesians 5:19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,
- Ephesians 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
- Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
- Colossians 3:16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
- 1 Thessalonians 4:9 Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.
- 1 Thessalonians 4:18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
- 2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.
- Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
- Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,
- Hebrews 10:25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
- Hebrews 13:1 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.
If we read over these verses and pay special attention to the bolded sections we can see that we are supposed to love, encourage, forgive, admonish, submit to, instruct, spur, be compassionate, serve and accept one another.
Food for thought.
I have added a new MP3 titled, “A Warning against judging others“. It is taken from James 4:11-12. You can find it on our audio page or you can listen below.
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In my Bible readings of John this week I have been looking with fresh eyes. It has been while since I have read John right through. In chapter 4 something grabbed my attention today.
This is where Jesus has just been speaking to the woman at the well in Scychar. He tells her about her life and then explains that He is the Messiah. She then goes off and tells her village about Him (John 4:1-30).
After this happens the disciples come back and encourage Jesus to eat something as it had been a long day and a long journey. Jesus says something that made me stop and pause. In fact I have meditated on it all day.
In verses 32-34 it says, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.” 33 “Did someone bring Him food while we were gone?” the disciples asked each other. 34 Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent Me, and from finishing His work.
The last words of Jesus spoke to me – My nourishment comes from doing the will of God. Jesus was nourished by undertaking the work God planned for Him to do. As Luke 19:10 Jesus came to seek and save the lost. This is what He was doing before the disciples returned.
As I dwelt upon this I realised that when we pray, read the Bible and discuss our faith with others, it enters us and nourishes our souls.We get encouraged and we grow in our faith.
On the flip side, when we allow God to work through us it also brings nourishment too. When we partake in His work that He planned for us long ago (Ephesians 2:10), we get nourished and encouraged when we work with Him.
Many times I have experienced a great sense of the eternal when I have helped someone in physical need, when I have spoken the right words at the right time or when I have prayed for someone and God has intervened. It is like nourishing food for my soul.
For me this was a reminder that we get nourished both ways – as we take things in and when we give out. It is like breathing in and breathing out, both are required to function properly in life. The same goes for our spiritual life too.
I am reading the Book of John for my devotions this week. As it has 21 chapters I am reading three per day (John 1-21).
In chapter 1, one verse made me stop and pause. It was verse 47. This is where Jesus is talking to Philip and Nathanael. It says…
As they approached, Jesus said, “Now here is a genuine son of Israel—a man of complete integrity.”
Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards Him and that is the words He spoke. Nathanael was surprised that Jesus knew about him.
The thing that struck me was the way Jesus described him. A genuine son of Israel and a man of complete integrity. That is a wonderful introduction.
If someone introduced me as a genuine Christian and a man of complete integrity I would be very happy and humbled at the same time.
If Jesus introduced me that way, I would not know what to do or say. I would be floored! How about you?