The Apostle Paul suffered as much in his lifetime probably more than any other Apostle. He writes in II Corinthians, 11 th chapter regarding the great hard ships that he suffered for the cause of Christ. Shipwrecks, stoning, in stripes above measure, in perils of robbers, heathens, in the cities, in the wilderness, in the sea and even perils from his own countrymen. He suffered much weariness, great pain, great hunger and thirst and many things that are too great in number to even mention. And even the things he suffered in the last years of his life including imprisonment and denial by his own countrymen are greatly overlooked when we begin to consider his life. I have this picture in my mind of Paul bent and scarred but pressing on until the end preaching the gospel. History tells us that during the last years of his imprisonment in Rome the jailers had to be routinely changed from the duty of watching over the elderly Apostle in fear of them being converted to belief in Christ. But the Apostle pressed on.
At one time in his life an ailment or issue came upon Paul that he referred to as a “thorn in the flesh”. We really don’t know his issue though many have varying opinions. Whatever it was Paul prayed unto Jesus and asked the problem be removed, but it remained. With great faith the Appostle prayed unto his Lord again but the problem remained. He prayed the third time and the answer came to Paul from the Maker of the Universe. “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness”. Obviously the answer that Paul received was sufficient for joy for Paul writes in the next verse, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christs sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong”.
In our lives we go through many times when it would seem our God given faith grows quite small. We love to complain at the smallest of issues and then when really hard times come we nearly faint because we grow so weary. Or maybe we watch someone we love very dearly live in the valley of the shadow of death and we grow angry at God because it seems our prayers for healing for ourselves or our loved ones go unanswered. Probably some of us have stood by the bedside of dearest of loved ones and have seen their breath grow more shallow by the moment and certainly the thought may have gone through our minds that the Lord has not answer our prayers. And then we see those loved ones go home to be with Him and our hearts break and our faith diminishes even greater.
But what if He had answered our prayer and we just didn’t realize it. What if He said to us by action that His grace is sufficient. What if He allows us to see and not necessarily hear the answer. What if the comfort found in Romans 5:3, “but we glory in tribulation” is made manifest in our daily lives.
I know some that may read this are going through some really hard times…loved ones are very sick…your health has diminished greatly…someone you’ve loved dearly have turned there backs on you and you heart breaks for whatever the cause may be. Please understand you have not been left without a comforter. The Lord loves you so much and in our anguish He holds us closer than ever. And the truth is we do glory in tribulation. Because the tribulation worketh patience, and the patience worketh hope and the hope makes us not to be ashamed.
The Lord told Paul that His grace was sufficient and the Lord inspired Paul to write of the glory we gain in tribulation and He said it therefore friends I believe it. When our tears fall for the distress of our loved ones or they fall because of the loss we suffer He draws us close and wipes away our tears and tells us He will, never no never forsake us. He said it and I believe it.