Paul was no stranger to suffering. He gave a catalogue [2 Corinthians 11:25] of the afflictions he endured as he preached the Gospel of Christ – a total of 190 lashes laid upon his bareback in five separate scourgings; three times beat with rods; stoned once; shipwrecked three times; imprisoned several times; and in continual peril from many quarters. He speaks of weariness and pain, hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness, yet does not complain. Instead, he calls it, “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment” [II Corinthians 4:17].
For the average Christian today, any one of Paul’s troubles would have been a major setback to his faith. He would wonder if God had forgotten him and left him to suffer in his misery. He would wallow in self-pity, grumbling and complaining about how hard life is. But that is not how Paul reacted. He saw a lifetime of hardship and suffering as his “light affliction.”
What made the difference between Paul and Mr. Average Christian? The answer is that Paul had his eyes firmly fixed on eternal realities more than on transient human values. Things seen are temporal, but the unseen is eternal. Like Moses, he chose rather to “suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” [Hebrews11:25]. Moses made his choice because he saw by faith “Him who is invisible.” Paul was motivated by the same vision.
Dear suffering believer, lift up your weary eyes towards heaven. Here on earth, you groan, as does the whole creation, but soon with Christ the pain and the tears will be forever gone. What now seems heavy on earth is light with Christ in view.
“The face of Jesus must be very near our own when the thorns from His crown of suffering are pressing our brow and hurting us.” [Anonymous].
Twenty-eight-year-old Samuel Crawford, a member of the Sandown Road F.P.C in Belfast,
was killed last week in a fall on Ben Nevis in Scotland. His party had crested the 4000-foot mountain on a walking tour and had begun the descent when Samuel slipped and fell to his death. His pastor, the Rev. Garth Wilson, spoke highly of Sam’s Christian testimony describing him as “one of the brightest lights in the congregation.”
His young wife Sophie is expecting their first child in about two weeks. Those who knew the family were devastated at the tragic news. Our heartfelt prayer and sympathy go out to Sophie, his three sisters, and to his parents, Shirley and David. A choice young Christian man has been taken from us.
MEANING OF BIBLE WORDS
When reading the Bible sometimes we meet words with meanings unfamiliar to us. We should always check a dictionary to correctly understand them. When I was a young lad I thought the word “divers” [Proverbs 20:10] had something to do with people going underwater: The word simply means “diverse.”
The word “bowels” appears frequently in the Bible but has different meanings. Sometimes it refers to the children that we bear [Genesis 15:4]. It also refers to the physical organs as in the case of Judas Iscariot [Acts 1:18]. But mostly it speaks of the soul [Philemon 1:7].
It is helpful when you get a proper definition of an unusual word to jot it down in the margin of your Bible. That way you will be reminded of it the next time you read in that area. We have given two simple examples today. In succeeding weeks we plan to include others that are more obscure.
CALL TO PRAYER
For the last two years, God’s people have been praying fervently about the Covid pandemic. Many prayers have been answered, and we gratefully give thanks to the Lord for those. Just when the pandemic seems to be easing somewhat, Europe is plunged into a war situation by Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
Already there have been many deaths and much property damage, and hanging over the whole situation is the possibility that proud men could very well plunge us all into a third world war.
God’s people need to redouble their prayer efforts. Effective prayer should be based on the promises of God’s word. In this situation perhaps we should concentrate on Psalm 46. “He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth” [Psalm 46:9].
Thankfully, the day is coming when the Lord will cause wicked men to “Beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” [Isaiah 2:4]. To your knees, O Israel of God