But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV
I hate being sick. It’s nothing unusual for my head to hurt. And my aging body tells on itself by being stiff and sore if I sit still for too long without moving. Those things I can handle without complaining (too much). But when it comes to a stomach bug or a sinus infection complete with gallons of mucus, I hate it!
Then I think about others who have suffered sicknesses much more severe than anything I have experienced, and I readily admit, I’m a wimp.
I’m also impatient. I feel persecuted if I’m in a hurry and I end up getting in the wrong line at the grocery store. You know, the one where there’s only one person in front of you but the line next to you with 4 people gets checked out before you get your turn?
Then I think about the fact that people in other countries are actually being imprisoned or beaten to death because of their faith in Christ. Yes, I’m surely an impatient wimp. And definitely not persecuted.
I love reading the writings of the Apostle Paul. From the moment of his conversion, he experienced suffering. Struck blind by the Glory of the Lord, he was without sight for three days. You might could say that it was all downhill from there.
He experienced imprisonment, beatings, shipwrecks, hunger and numerous other perils. If anyone had reason to complain, it would have been him. Yet he said he would be glad to boast in all those things because it was bringing glory to God.
How can our suffering bring glory to God? How can our being weak be a good thing?
I think the difference between just suffering and suffering for Christ is our focus. Paul endured all he went through because he was wholly focused on serving the Lord. He travelled widely, preaching and teaching the message of Christ.
And when he couldn’t get back to previously visited places where there were new believers, he would write to them to encourage them and to further instruct them in living Godly lives. He didn’t feel sorry for himself. He just kept trying to spread the Word regardless of his situation.
In 2 Thessalonians, Paul told the church he was proud of their love for each other and that he was telling everyone how people were staying faithful in spite of the persecution they were enduring.
By writing about his own and the persecutions of others, and then sharing the word through letters to so many churches of his day, we have wonderful examples of how to endure our problems. The hope he gave to the Thessalonians was to tell them that God’s judgment was right. People one day would get what they deserved and the righteous would be rewarded with an eternity spent with Christ.
We may never know why we have to endure certain problems, be it a little sickness or real persecution for our faith. But we need to remember, everywhere we go, someone may be watching.
Are we handling our problems in a way that brings glory to God? Are we being faithful to praise Him for the strength to endure?
Heavenly Father, thank You for the strength you give me each day. I know that I don’t have the strength to endure anything on my own. It’s all You! Instead of feeling sorry for myself when I do have problems or being impatient when things are not on my time table, may I use those moments to focus on You, Lord, and to pray for those around me who really are enduring hard things. If I’m going to be a wimp, may I be a wimp that openly praises Christ! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 2 Thessalonians 1:3-7 NIV