There is so much in this passage, probably enough for many days of reflection. However, looking at the whole picture of Paul’s hardships will help us in our own walk of faith. In fact, you probably found yourself wondering (like I did) if this was Paul’s story or your own story. As Christ followers, we are very likely to encounter these same trials, yet we should also be ready to call on God’s strength, like Paul, to make it through.
Are you or have you been a church leader? You know firsthand how people are looking to you for not only leadership but for an example to follow. Paul’s statement in verse 3 speaks VOLUMES, “We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry.” That’s a lot of pressure to know that your life is on display. I, for one, never want anything that I say or do to move people away from God. And, as a church leader, I have often taken heat from others about the way God is using me to do ministry. It’s painful. I always seek to please God first, and hope and pray the people will accept me and be blessed.
Thankfully, most of us have probably not been imprisoned because of our faith or our ministry like Paul was. I can’t even imagine that degree of persecution. He also describes the angry mobs, sleepless nights, being beaten, working long hours, etc. I can relate to the long hours and sleepless nights for sure. How do we endure such things?
God’s power is working inside us so that we can get up each day. We can face our foes. We continue to be faithful. We will probably never win a popularity contest, but when we remember it’s not about us, it’s about advancing the kingdom and introducing others to the life-saving grace of Jesus Christ. Our hearts may ache, but our joy is full. We know our risen Lord is sustaining us. We are confident in our eternity with the Creator.
Take heart and know you are not alone. It’s not a pretty picture. A life of ministry or serving God isn’t a holiday. It helps when we realize there is no way we can please everybody. We need to stop trying to please man but only to please God. When we can turn to God and ask him to navigate for us, keep us strong, show us the path, go before us, all of those things are helpful to us. We simply need to be faithful and preach the truth. We need to serve God no matter what!
Let’s pray… Father God, you know how I am struggling with being accepted and loved. Thank you for this reminder that it is not about me. My mission is from you and for you. Guide me each step of the way. Open the doors you want opened. Use me and the words you give me to make a difference to those I come into contact with. I know you are with me. Together we can face anything. In Jesus’ name. Amen.