Paul was no criminal. The man was innocent of wrong . . . yet he was misunderstood, mistreated, hunted like a wounded deer, and hated by those who once respected him. In 2 Corinthians 4:9, Paul states we are "struck down." And then to illustrate just how close he came to death itself, he mentions the following experiences in chapter 11 of this letter:
Shipwrecked three times (11:25)
A day and a night spent in the ocean (11:25)
Surrounded by constant dangers (11:26)
Without sufficient food (11:27)
Being exposed to the elements (11:27)
Escaping death by being let down a wall in a large basket (11:33)
What happened? How could so much unfair, near-fatal treatment happen to a man like Paul? An even deeper question is this: How could and why would God permit it? Without sounding glib . . . it was par for the servanthood course. Still is. Paul even admits that we are:
always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. . . . Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
(2 Corinthians 4:10–11, 16–18)
That sounds beautiful, almost poetic. However, it is one thing to read it as black print on a white page, but it's another thing entirely to embrace that mind-set when all hell breaks loose against us. How does the servant of God cope when the bottom drops out? I'll share that in tomorrow's post. In the meantime, read those last verses again. Isn't Paul's perspective amazing?
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