2 Peter 1:3 …as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue… (NKJV)
“Yeah, but you don’t know what I’m going through.”
That could possibly be the world’s most common response following a hard-to-swallow Biblical truth.
- Rejoice in all things even suffering – “Yeah, but you don’t know what I’m going through.”
- Forgive, no matter how many times – “Yeah, but you don’t know what I’m going through.”
- Bless those who curse you – “Yeah, but you don’t know what I’m going through.”
- Pray for those who mistreat you – “Yeah, but you don’t know what I’m going through.”
- Be patient, kind, loving and joyful – “Yeah, but you don’t know what I’m going through.”
- Be hopeful and contented – “Yeah, but you don’t know what I’m going through.”
Okay, you’re right, I don’t know. Did God command us to rejoice and forgive and be hopeful – and then leave us with no success stories? Did God give us a record of someone who went through worse than we will ever experience, and yet still rejoiced and trusted God without wavering? How about Jesus? You might be thinking “no fair, He was the Son of God. (He was also fully man in all ways, but for the sake of this discussion we won’t choose Jesus.)
Is there a Biblical example of someone who suffered an extreme amount,
and yet was joyful and unwavering in faith?
The Apostle Paul was a normal man and, by his own admission, the worst of sinners (1Timothy 1:15). Before Jesus got a hold of Paul, he was a murderer. He tracked down Christians and had them imprisoned or killed. He stood by and held coats while a crowd stoned Stephen to death (Acts 22.20). Not exactly “loving your enemy” was he? He was against God about as much as a man can be. And yet he is the one who commands us to rejoice in ALL things and be thankful in ALL things.
Was he a hypocrite? Did he walk the walk or just hyprocritically telling the rest of us how to live? It’s a humorous truth among Bible teachers and writers that you have to be careful what you teach or preach because the Lord is always ready to accommodate with a real live object lesson. I have experienced this phenomenon many times myself! God teaches us and prepares our heart through the gift of first hand experience. Paul was certainly no exception. He suffered, suffered and suffered some more his whole life. (all verses NKJV, emphasis mine)
What hardship, injustice and suffering did Paul experience?
2 Corinthians 11:23-28 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.
- 1 Thessalonians 2:2 We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition.
- 1 Thessalonians 3:4 For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know.
- 2 Timothy 2:9 for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained.
- 2 Timothy 3:12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
- Philippians 1:29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake;
What was Paul’s response, solution or lesson learned?
- Romans 12:10-12 Be kindly (NKJV, emphasis mine) to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;
- Philippians 2:17 Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
- 2 Corinthians 7:4 Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort. I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.
- Philippians 4:12-13 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Paul lead by example and commands us to have the same response he had – a response that he learned from Jesus.
Yeah, but Paul doesn’t know what we’re going through. Well, let’s hope he isn’t looking because for most of us, it will be pitiful little compared to him.
Lord God, You know exactly what we are going through. And You are the Answer, the Hope and the Source of our joy. In Jesus name, Amen.
Contemplation: How do you respond to hardship and suffering? What part does depression, anxiety, worry or pessism have in our response? How much is too much? How long is too long?
Application: We’re plainly commanded to have joy and give thanks no matter how hard life gets or how much we suffer. The Word of God produces spiritually and emotionally strong people who thrive and grow through hardship but it takes practice. You have to PLAN to respond with joy when trial come. You have to PLAN to look up to God when depression strikes. You have to PLAN to give your cares to God when worry comes a-knockin’.
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?