May each of you have the heart to conceive, the understanding to direct, and the hand to execute works that will leave the world a little better for your having been here. -- Ronald Reagan

Monday, January 28, 2013

Apostle Paul's Suffering and Our Christian Lives Now

Paul's Jail Cell in Philippi

Tonight we're reading in 2nd Corinthians, where the Apostle Paul is taking some pretenders to task. Some preachers and self described apostles have moved in on the church he had founded, and were teaching lies for personal  profit and gain. Paul is reduced to exposing them by defending himself, the founder of the church. During the nearly three thousand miles of travel, mostly walking, and a lot of time on dangerous boats in dangerous waters, he suffered much.

While he was pushing back against these 'false apostles' he sums up his suffering. All what he went through to bring God's truth into pagan society, into Jewish culture and belief, is spread through much of the New Testament, so it's a bit diluted.  It's shocking to imagine the sacrifice, agony and pain of this magnitude when condensed like he does here.  

Take a listen:

Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I.  Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.  From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep;  in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;  in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—  besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?

 Beaten with rods, stoned and left for dead. The forty minus one lashings was was to avoid breaking the law's limitation of forty lashes. Five times he received this. What scaring his body had to have been covered with. I think of Christ's suffering, to absolve us of our sins, followed by Paul's sacrifice and suffering to lay the foundation of our Church.

We in turn live in luxury, and scarcely speak of what we believe, and know to be true. We personally are diminished by our lack, our church is diminished, those we could reach out and touch are diminished, our neighborhoods are diminished, our loved ones diminished, and it keeps going until our nation is diminished, and our world is diminished.

To have just a portion of Paul's passion for the Good News, for love of God, to so dedicate all my heart and all my soul, all my mind to Him. I'm so stressed and tired from work at the end of the day I just want to withdraw and be done; but so was Paul making tents and running his business. Yet he made the time, had the passion to speak, teach and pray. If we all could do a just a little more, just 2% a day more, loving God 2% more, loving others 2% more, praying just 2% more than the day before.

I pray for myself the discipline to do this, and pray for other Christians to speak their faith in public a little more, reach out a little more, love God a little more, be Christlike a little more, pray a little more. When we do it we don't get 39 lashes, stoned, beaten with rods, shipwrecked or imprisoned. It's got to be a heck of a lot easier than what Paul went through.

No comments: