Paul spent the first part of his life in comfort, ease, and luxury. He enjoyed dual citizenship which allowed him incredible freedom to travel, had a world class education, was a member of the prestigious religious group known as the Pharisees, and was widely respected as a powerful leader who literally killed people in the name of God.
Living like a wealthy and well-armed religious terrorist, Paul traded it all on to serve Jesus Christ. Paul lost everything from his social status, to friends and family, along with safety and security. He may have even lost his wife to divorce as membership as a leader in the Pharisee party required marriage and after his conversion there is no mention of Paul being married; in fact he is emphatic that he is single which may indicate that he was either a widower, or that his devout Jewish wife divorced him upon his conversion. As a result, he lived most of his adult life like Jesus – a chaste unmarried and fatherless man fully devoted to ministry and its accompanying misery. Paul’s own account of his life shows a supernatural resilience:
2 Corinthians 6:4-10
…as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by
great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.
2 Corinthians 11:23-39
Are they ministers of Christ? – I speak as a fool – I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?
Behind much of Paul’s suffering was demonic attack. Paul speaks a great deal about the demonic realm and spiritual warfare. Because of his God-given mission to bring the gospel to the nations and set captives free from Satan and sin, Paul was at the top of the Enemy’s hit list. Acts 19:15 reports, “the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize…’” Random demons knew who Jesus was, and were also well aware that Paul was now His most devoted foot soldier marching from nation to nation advancing the Kingdom of God. Paul accepted this as simply part of his mission to endure hardship as a “good soldier of Christ Jesus”. (2 Timothy 2:3). In the next chapter Paul continues by speaking of “my persecutions and sufferings…which I endured”. Paul says, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” (2 Timothy 3:10-12)
For most people, they want the message of Christianity to be more like ordering a meal at a restaurant where teachers change the ingredients to suit the tastes of those who consume it. The strength of Paul’s writing is that he presents the gospel of Jesus Christ like math – it is unchanging, fixed, and true whether we believe it or not. This is because God does not change, the human problem of sin does not change, and the divine solution of Jesus Christ also does not change. This explains why the messenger takes a beating as some people want them to change the message and are empowered by demonic forces in an effort to change the gospel message.
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