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.