Pondering Paul

I have so often said that I wish God would have put Paul’s mental and emotional struggles in the Bible for us. Particularly the ones where he really doubted the wisdom of what he was doing.

Paul was human, he was a normal man like you and I. He was indwelt by the Spirit like you and I and he had strengths and weaknesses like you and I. He did not sign up to be a superhero and I seriously doubt he ever realized the depths his posthumous fame would reach!

He led a very hard life after meeting Jesus Christ. He details some of his struggles and sufferings in the book of Acts (Acts 16:22-24), and in his epistles (2 Timothy 4:14).

in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. 2 Corinthians 11:23-24

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 

Paul's life was extremely difficult and would not be one that any of us would choose with eyes wide open. Paul occasionally struggled, but the depths of whatever discouragement he suffered are not recorded for us. I so wish God would have put Paul’s thoughts in the Bible like He did David’s. The Psalms are full of David’s lamenting about his circumstances…but not Paul’s.

I believe this was intentional. All we read about with only a few exceptions is the overcoming that Paul did. He met the challenge, overcame, and adapted to the new “normal”, whatever that was. I desire to be that flexible and loose in the hands of the Master Potter. He had an amazing ability to roll with the punches of ministry life. I wish I could have the same kinds of responses to the trials and problems of life, that in spite of them I would press on seemingly mindless of them.

Paul came to that place only over time, he must have! To begin so prosperous and respected by the Jews and to descend to being hated and abused in the ways he was- it had to be a major adjustment in his thinking. He suffered a terrible human cost, and he considered it all “nothing”

More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:8-11

His whole focus was on knowing Christ in spite of and in the midst of all these circumstances! He viewed suffering as an opportunity to know Christ! Wow...I am not there yet. I wonder if I ever will be there! As much as I desire to know Him as Paul did I am not sure I am built of the same stock as Paul.  Are you?