Paul and Suffering
It is a fact that Paul, probably, experienced more suffering for God’s sake than any other fellow worker that has been called upon to suffer. For he wrote, “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move.”
“I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27 also 2 Corinthians 6:4,5).
Before his conversion, Paul, who was then called Saul of Tarsus, persecuted the Christians and caused them great affliction. But when he had a conversion experience on the road to Damascus, the Lord appeared to Ananias in a vision and told him to go baptize Paul. And God will “show him how many things he must suffer” for His sake (Acts 9:16). Paul’s suffering would help him to show the fruits of his repentance.
Glory with Christ
Because of his sufferings, Paul understood better than others what it meant to suffer with Jesus. Of all the New Testament writers, no other apostle wrote so much about the cross and about dying with the Savior (Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:21; 3:8; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:5). To the apostle Paul, even persecution, hardships and life itself became experiences to glory in, because of the intimate fellowship they brought with Christ in His sufferings (Romans 5: 3; Colossians 1:24).
Through all the trials, Paul experienced the fulfillment of Christ’s promise to be with him even to the point of death, and to provide a way of escape. Therefore, he encouraged the believers saying, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13 also 2 Thessalonians 1:4; Hebrews 2:18; 13:5).
Paul taught that even when all earthly support is taken away from the believer, his eternal reward remains secure—beyond the reach of Satan and his workers. He wrote, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). And he added, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Those who persevere under trial because, having stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised (James 1:12). Thus, the sufferings of this life “are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed” at His coming (Romans 8:18). At that time, God Himself will wipe away all the believers’ tears (Revelation 21:4).
Christ’s entire life was lived in dying to self and His death revealed God’s love for the sinners (John 3:16). Likewise, for the believer the hardships, sufferings, and discouragements of the Christian life prepare him for beauty of character, patience, quiet submission to God’s will, and steadfast faith in God (1 Peter 4:1; Romans 5:3).
All pain and persecution that trouble the life of believers serve only to bring them into closer relationships with Christ (Hebrews 2:10). Paul declared, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:10). But here is the good news: “The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all” (Psalms 34:19).
It is a fact that the Christlike life will always be faced with enmity and hatred from the wicked. But it is not God’s plan for the believer to glory in suffering for its own sake, and invite hostility and opposition. He needs to be willing to do God’s will yet maintain peace with all men if possible (Romans 12:18).
In His service,