as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.2 Corinthians 6:10(NASB)
Afflictions, grief, poverty, and lack is generally considered as lamentable, calamitous, pitiable, and often unfair. Times of unhappiness, melancholy, hardship, and need can weigh heavily on a wearied soul, exercising the sympathy, condolences, pity, or indifference of others. But how different from God's design for His children, for it was through suffering that the Lord Jesus Himself learned willing obedience to the Father and it is through the same pathway that we too grow in grace and come into deeper knowledge of Him.
Paul was no stranger to suffering, and he catalogued his sufferings in 2 Corinthians in this way: "I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches."
Yes, Paul indeed suffered, more than most of us will ever endure. And so when he writes, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to rejoice in suffering, and to count it all joy when you meet trials, we can be assured that he is speaking from a place of deep personal understanding.
In this verse, after reminding the Corinthians of his and his co-workers "great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonour, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed;" Paul is able to conclude that he and his co-workers were "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything."
This apparent contradictory principle was a major part of Paul's experiences and attitude, and one that was reflected throughout his many epistles. Paul discovered that in spite of his sorrow he had a deep and lasting joy, despite his poverty he had riches without measure, and irrespective of his paucity and lack Paul overflowed with immeasurable abundance from the riches of God’s bountiful supply.
Like Paul, we are all ministers of the good news of the gospel of Christ to the people that God has placed within the sphere of our lives and each of us are living epistles that God can use to speak into the lives of others.
Like Paul, we can also commend ourselves as servants of God as we face our own afflictions, hardships, distresses, and poverty in the power and sufficiency of the Spirit, with patient endurance and rejoicing in the hope set before us.
Like Paul, we can enrich the lives of others as we point them into the pathway of peace.
May we choose, from this day forward, to rejoice in our suffering, and count it all joy when we meet trials of any kind, knowing that when we are weak, He is strong, to the glory of the Father forevermore.
Thank You, my Father God, that in Christ I have an eternal perspective, whatever happens in my life. In Him, I have a lasting joy and inner peace, no matter what difficulties arise. May I be a living epistle to all the people I meet today and may I, like the Lord Jesus, learn obedience through the trials that You have allowed in my life, to Your praise and glory. In Jesus' name I pray, AMEN.
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