Paul, an example of suffering

Published 8:19 am Friday, November 28, 2008

Scripture: II Corinthians 11:16-12:10

Aim: To encourage those who are suffering abuse and persecution because of their profession of faith in Jesus Christ since they have become members of the Body of Christ, the Church.

Golden Text: “Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me … For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:15-16).“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong”II Corinthians 12:10).

After Saul of Tarsus was converted (he became Paul) Ananias was told to go visit him. Ananias refused until the Lord informed him that Saul was going to suffer greatly as a Christian, in order that others may understand they may have victory through and over all the testings and suffering that may be endured because of faith in Christ. Jesus had promised that those who live godly shall suffer persecution. Paul is selected as an example to show how the Christian may be victorious through it all, even unto death. Here are some of the experiences of the Apostle Paul.

1. Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians that they had listened to others boast of their experiences in order that they may be exalted in pride (II Corinthians 12:16-21). Paul explains that he was going to boast a little concerning his own experiences just as others were doing even though it was foolish to do so (vs. 16-19). Further, he taught that persecution would come, and they should be bold to stand for Christ, as he had done (vs. 20-21).

2. Paul was a highly elevated person according to men’s standards (which mean nothing in the Church of Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 11:22-23). He was an Israelite, Hebrew, of the seed of Abraham, a minister of Christ, but it is foolish to brag about such things (vs. 21, 23). What truly counts is that a person remains faithful to the Christian faith when under fire for being a part of Christ’s body, the Church.

3. Paul gives his personal example of persecutions for the cause of Christ (II Corinthians 11:23-33). Paul “labored” more than any others in the work of Christianity (vs. 23). He was beaten with many stripes with the “scourge.” On five occasions he received 39 lashes, which normally cause the death of most (vs. 24). He was often cast into prison and often faced death from various sources (vs. 23-25). He was shipwrecked three times (vs. 25). Three times he was beaten with “rods” (heavy sticks). One time he was stoned and left for dead. He was constantly in peril for his life because of waters, robbers, the Jews, the heathen, in the city, in the wilderness, in the sea and among false teachers (vs. 25-27).

His suffering continued through hunger, thirst, cold, nakedness (lack of clothing); plus, all the care of the churches and the preaching and witnessing in which he was engaged. He also carried a deep burden for Christians who were in need (vs. 27-29).

All this had started shortly after his conversion. He had to escape over a wall at night to save his life because of preaching Jesus Christ and the Gospel in Damascus (vs. 30-33).

4. Paul was given a great vision of Heaven in order to help him understand that the persecutions endured on this earth are nothing to be compared with the glory that is coming in the future for him and every faithful believer (II Corinthians 12:1-10). Paul ended this passage of Scripture with the words of the Golden Text above. He had learned that facing persecution and opposition in service for Christ was to be rewarded by the Lord, and that while going through the persecution, the Christian is assured that the Lord will be with and strengthen him.

Persecution and opposition to those who are living the Christian life may not be easy at times, but remember that when we see Christ, “It will be worth it all.” Paul learned this truth!