When I look at all that the apostle Paul went through for the sake of Christ … well, it’s hard to imagine rejoicing in such suffering. Are Paul’s testimony and his example really meaningful for me?
2 Corinthians 11:24-27 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 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; 26 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; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness-
Colossians 1:24a I now rejoice in my sufferings for you …
Like most American believers, I never have been, and never expect to be, subjected to the kind of abuse Paul had to endure in fulfilling his ministry. It would be easy to dismiss him as a giant of the faith, a man used by the Holy Spirit to pen more than half the books of the New Testament, and therefore someone who lived on a spiritual level far beyond what I ever expect to attain.
But that’s not who Paul was. He was not some super-Christian! He did not have some special level of spiritual strength that is available only to super-saints. He was an ordinary person, just like me, whose source of strength was exactly the same as my own:
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Paul had no greater ability to handle the challenges of life than I do. And if God’s grace was entirely sufficient to allow him to not only endure but rejoice in his sufferings, that same grace can give me the power to rejoice in mine. I may never be beaten with rods or stoned or shipwrecked. But I face my own issues that sometimes seem (and I knew they only “seem”) just as serious.
And when those things happen, I want to have a testimony like Paul’s. Rather than moaning, groaning and complaining about the things I have to go through, I, too, rejoice in Christ in my sufferings.