II Corinthians 12:8-10 for this thing I besought the Lord thrice that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christís sake; for when I am weak, then am I strong.
What do we say when we too are being reminded that it is not us that does anything but God? How many times do we take an examination of ourselves? How many times do we find ourselves saying that itís going to be alright? Are we in the faith like we should be? We must prove our own self no one else can do it for us. We go through some suffering just like we go through joyful times in this life. Jesus went through some suffering too and He came through it with God and the whole world in his hands. Paul suffered many things too for the sake of Christ and he came through as an Apostle to the Gentiles. We go through for the sake of Christ, the Gospel and the lost soul of man. We too must come through with a testimony of grace.
Paul being considered a traitor to the Jews faced innumerable injustices for the sake of Christ. Paul suffered in like manner as Christ did and we will too. When we first heard of Paul his name was Saul. He had a violent prejudice against Jesus as the Messiah. But when he met Jesus on the Damascus road he could no longer deny that He was the Christ. Jesus was preached by the disciples who had to run for their lives when confronted by this Saul person. Prayers had to have gone up for God to save this man that the discipleís lives would be spared. We too have had someone praying for us and now that we are saved what are we going to do? This Saul who Jesus now called Paul was important to God; for we can never underestimate his importance to Christianity.
Paul surrendered to Christ on the spot where Jesus challenged his path. In Damascus he received the opening of his eyes, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and baptism. At once he began to testify in Damascus to his new faith in the light of his new experience, with considerable effect. Once Saul now Paul was saved the persecution of the Christian collapsed. The Gospel took on new power at every turn and Paul was soon to be the foremost spokesman for Christ in the Roman Empire after he went through mediation where he was taught the way of Christ. We too must get a clearer grip on all that is involved in our conversations with Christ before we just take off and run so we donít cause mishaps and errors in the lives of people. We need to know the more and more of Christ all of our lives. The more we know the better we should know that itís not about us but Him. What we know of Christ should bring us closer to Him. Christ must dominate our thinking and living. Our walk should anger the sinner, lest we forget who it is that we serve!
We must never forget that this journey may be a dangerous one. Salvation is free but the cost of it was horrific! We too will as Jesus did suffer in the flesh for the sake of the Gospel among family, friends, co-laborers in the Gospel and Satan the other unseen foe of our soul. Lest we forget, Paul was a man that was learned, he was a Jew. He had not forgotten the teachings of the Jews, nor how to persecute the Christians. He used that same knowledge against the Jews after he was saved and taught the Christians how to not be moved by the Jews persecution. Because we suffer some things we must never forget that God can use what we are going through to help someone else along the way. Forget about ourselves and think of God, his goodness, love, and mercy towards us in that while we were yet sinners he died for us. Most of the disciples and Paul too lost their lives for the sake of the Gospel, what are we willing to give?
When we do what God says do it is not always sweet to the ear or life of who the message is delivered to. The message may make someone mad, or it may cause them to conform and give their lives to Christ. We must be careful that no matter what we go through in life it is for the Gospel sake and not to kill us. Sometime suffering brings forth death but if we die in Christ we will be alright. Letís not forget Paul eventually lost his head; Nero chopped off his head killing him for what he called high treason. Paul turned from his wicked ways and took on the way of God.
Paul had been declared a wanted man, they set traps for him. When there was a famine in Jerusalem Paul and Barnabas took food to the poor saints and was not arraigned before the church as Peter had been for the work of Christ in Caesarea. When Paul denounced Elymas Barjesus at Paphos in Cyprus he sprang to the front line. Paul became a leader acquiring the manifest power of God and Barnabas who had done much for Paul was proud that his own judgment of Paul had been vindicated. When Paul preached the sermon was of great power and this stirred the jealousy of the rabbis in Antioch in Pisidia. If we are in Christ and Christ in us we will be hated for Christ sake alone. Preach the Word, everybody wonít like you but save a soul.
Paul was stoned and left for dead at Lystra after he disclaimed being Mercury and Barnabas being Jupiter. After this act against him Paul declared the door of faith wide open for the Gentiles. The Judaizers from Jerusalem came up to Antioch and challenged the right of the Gentiles to be considered Christians without being Jews. Donít take for granted that you wear that name, Christian. This was a serious moment for spiritual Christianity; what if Paul and Barnabas had surrendered, it meant the imposition of the Mosiac ceremonial law upon Christianity would remain a mere form of Judaism. This means that we could never be Christians. Paul defied the Judaizers with the support of Barnabas and the Antioch Church. They took the issue to Jerusalem to defeat the Judaizers there in their home church. He could do this and knew how because he had the wisdom, knowledge and understanding of their customs and beliefs. How can we stand for something if we know nothing about anything?
God will use what we have acquired in learning for his purpose. Peter, John and James the brother of Jesus took the side of Paul and Barnabas. James presided and allowed full discussion and offered a resolution granting to the Gentile Christians freedom from the Jewish ceremonial law, but requiring abstinence from idolatry, fornication and murder, and respect for Jewish feelings about things strangled. It was a clean victory as the rejoicing in Antioch. Now here comes Peter associating with the Greek Christians on terms of equality until some came from Jerusalem and threatened to tell James if Peter did not stop. Even Barnabas was carried off his feet for the moment until Paul rebuked Peter to his face as a hypocrite and won back both Peter and Barnabas. When someone accomplishes an Order from God we donít need to compare ourselves to it, just follow Godís lead. We donít have to be seen, just doing the work. Many have stood in the way of sinners and sat in the seat of the scornful with their own way of doing things as they try to make a name for themselves.
Paul and Barnabas union was breached when the second mission came as they revisited the Churches already established. Barnabas wanted to and insisted that they take along John Mark and Paul chose Silas. Differences sometime cause division but we must all come together and agree to disagree. Certain places they had a desire to go Jesus or the Holy Spirit forbade them to. Paul pressed on when others would have turned back. When Paul joined by Luke went to Troas the Macedonian call came; a great decision fraught with tremendous consequences for the world. In this way we will create many enemies. What hurts is when you are barred by the people of your own house.
Paul had the burden of the church at Corinth much on his heart. There had been bickering and dissensions over Paul and Apollos, over immoral disorder, over marriage, over meats offered to idols, and over the resurrection. Paul had sent many to Corinth but now he wrote II Corinthians, which is full of joy over the success of Titus in winning a majority for Paul and his policies as opposed to the Judaizers, but also full of threats to the Judaizers if they do not cease their opposition. Here Paul met Titus at Macedonia.
Paul had to depart a place sometime early to spare his life. He had people he could depend on that would rebound his spirit. Jesus wept, Paul cried and even felt regret; God did too (it repented Him that he had made man). Sometime we need someone to love us and care enough for us to encourage our will. Sometime we will weep, cry and regret life as we knew it or know it. Sometime we too are sorrowful concerning life situations. Paul laid out his heart to the Christians at Corinth for they were the first to pledge their faith; he encouraged them to get rid of Judaism. Church is no place for playing around. We must take serious the Word of God and our lives lived for Christ. If we die let it be in the army of the Lord.
Paul reaffirms the authenticity of his Apostleship lest he forget who it was that called him. He sets himself up as one that is utterly weak and worthless but through those weaknesses the grace and power of Almighty God are magnified. He denounces any self-glory or self-interest but that all the glory and honor belong to God. Paul didnít have ego problems; up or down. His self-effacement is this: all is of God and to the glory of God. How sweet the sound must have been when he talked to God and God said to him ďMy grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weaknessĒ. God is still saying that in the midst of all we go through He is there. He will carry us if we let him. He will lead us if we surrender our way to his. Itís time we too rediscover who we are in Christ; lest we forget.
Letís be reconciled to Christ before it is too late. We suffer but let it be to the glory of God; keep the vision God has given us before us and renew it over and over in our hearts and minds. Come out of the spiritual darkness in our hearts. Paul had no doubt that God would bring him out of whatever he went into for the sake of the Gospel. We too must learn to glory in infirmities, glory in suffering, and glory in the test and trials we face each day. We must learn to take everything to God in prayer. Things cannot stay the same always! Lest we forget we have a savior that took it all and paid it all for us. If we suffer though let it be the suffering for the Gospel. It is not expedient for us to be known, but allowing Christ to be known in and through us will bring us before God. He wants to reign in our lives, in the heart of man, and live in our soul. Testify of Christ lest we forget that it is God that lives moves and have his being in us and we in Him.
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