We all have troubles in our lives, but take a look at the life of the Apostle Paul:
- Given thirty-nine lashes five different times
- Beaten with rods on three occasions
- Stoned once
- Shipwrecked three times
- Adrift on the open sea for a whole night and a day
- Exposed to danger from flooded rivers, robbers and those who hated him
- Denied needed sleep
- Plagued by hunger and thirst
- Cold because he lacked proper clothing
Pretty horrible, right? Yet here was Paul’s response:
“I have strength for all things in Christ who empowers me. (I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses inner strength into me. I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency)” (Philippians 4:13 AMP).
If Paul had quit, had lost his faith in God’s power because of his difficulties, we would be missing ten books of the New Testament. But Paul knew a secret about his strength. He had a “thorn in the flesh.” No one knows for sure what it was. He begged God to take it away, but God’s response was, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” Then Paul said, “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NLT).
We all have problems, and plenty of weaknesses, but we can be strong in the Lord. God never tells us to do something without giving us the power to do it. And he uses our hard times.
- Four of Paul’s letters were written when Paul was a prisoner in Rome.
- Martin Luther translated the Bible while forced to hide in a German castle.
- John Bunyan wrote Pilgrim’s Progress while in prison in Belford, England.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote monumental Christian literature from a concentration camp.
What might God do with us if we use our misfortunes to draw close to him?
Dr. E. Stanley Jones wrote this about the Apostle Paul: “If Satan was to kick him, then Paul would determine the direction in which the blows would take him—forward!”
It’s during the difficult times of life that we get kicked forward. Those are the times we draw closer to God.
When Paul wrote that he had the strength for all things through Christ, he was in prison. Still he knew that God was using him and empowering him. Nothing can happen to us that won’t “kick us forward,” if we are determined to depend on and trust in our loving, heavenly Father. I can just see us as making the devil cringe when we say, “Go ahead! Make my day! Kick me forward!”
Photo by Jason Briscoe @Unsplash