persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;2 Corinthians 4:9(NASB)
There was much persecution of the early church, and a good deal of Paul's teaching was about the persecution of the saints and how we should address issues of ill-treatment, torment, and torture. There continues to be much persecution in the Church today and although the methods of torture may differ, the aim is to shipwreck the faith of the saints and render their testimony impotent.
Paul's ministry objective was to teach the good news of the glorious gospel of grace to the people of God and to instruct them on godly living. But Paul also knew how necessary it was to warn his fellow believers of the danger and difficulty, persecution and pain that is likely to arise in the lives of all God's children. In his final letter to Timothy, he reminded us that he had suffered much mistreatment and warned, "YES, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."
Before his conversion, Paul himself had cruelly persecuted the Body of Christ... scattering them far and wide. However, following his encounter with the glorified Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus, he found that... although he was persecuted, Christ did not forsake him... and despite being struck down and abused in multiple ways, God's grace was always sufficient and he was not destroyed.
Paul had suffered greatly in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra, but the persecution he endured gave Paul first hand experience that Christ's strength is sufficient - for His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Paul readily acknowledged that the Lord had rescued him from all his sufferings.
In an earlier letter to these believers in Corinth, Paul described the fate of the apostles of Christ as, "men condemned to die in the arena, and a spectacle to the whole universe - to angels as well as to men." But despite the bitter persecution and grievous attacks that Paul received from Jews, Gentiles, legalists, and religionists - he discovered God's sufficient grace. Paul found out that despite his own human helplessness in the face of such evil, God's divine enablement meant he could stand firm in the faith.
There were times in Paul's experience that he was hard-pressed on every side, perplexed about many situations, and even in despair for his own life. These questions are often asked... why do the righteous suffer so much? Why do bad things happen to good men? Why did Paul have to go through so many trials and troubles and why do we have to face pressures and persecution in our own lives?
Well, God in His wisdom knows that a path that is free from troubles does not develop in us the faith that matures and pleases God. Although God does not cause the problems and pain we go through, He permits difficulties and dangers, sorrows and sicknesses, anxieties and afflictions, pain and persecution, in order to perfect our faith in Him.
God allows all the troubles and tribulations of life to work together for good... to those that love the Lord and for the eternal glory of His holy name. Our brokenness is permitted, so that we may grow in grace, mature in the faith, and day by day become increasingly conformed into the image and likeness of our heavenly Saviour - so that we may shine as lights in a darkened place as we share the good news of salvation to a lost and dying world.
Heavenly Father, how I thank You for the way that You have worked in my life to draw me closer to Yourself through the things that I have suffered. Thank You that although I may be persecuted, You will never forsake me - and thank You that although I may be struck down, Your grace is sufficient, for Your strength is made perfect by my weakness. Thank You in Jesus' name, AMEN.