I have always admired the apostle Paul, not just because of his wonderful epistles, but because of the hardships and struggles that he underwent. Whenever I hear a fellow pastor or someone else disparaging Paul because of something he wrote that they don't agree with, I tend to ask whether or not that person has ever endured anything similar to what Paul experienced. It's easy to be armchair theologians and cozy, cloistered critics; it's an entirely different thing to be constantly harangued, unfairly attacked, and frequently abused, as for what Paul ardently believed.
Take this partial verse, for instance:
2 Corinthians 6:2b – I tell you, now is the time of God's favour, now is the day of salvation. (NIV)
On the surface, this appears to be a wonderful scriptural promise, connected to God's love, favour, and blessing. It reads like an amazing gift of God's goodness and a surplus of God's generous grace, but Paul follows up on this verse with a staggering list of hardships, drawbacks, attacks, beatings, imprisonments, riots, hard work, sleepless nights, and hunger that he personally experienced. Paul was conveying to his readers this one, hard-to-accept fact: having faith in Christ is a beautiful gift, but it can also cause us a lot of pain, difficulty, and suffering. Truthfully, for faith to be really effective, it needs to be tried and tested in serious situations and unhappy circumstances. Fair-weather faith has no lasting value; however, faith under fire has the ability to grow, deepen, and mature.
For the apostle Paul, God's favour was found in a fearless faith, and the day of salvation could even be experienced in times of turmoil and trouble. Perhaps the questions we should be asking ourselves are these: Is my faith actually real? Has it been put through a crucible?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for allowing us to believe in You. Deepen our faith, so that we may remain loyal to You, especially in times of hardship, suffering, and trial. In Your holy name, we humbly pray. Amen.
Listen to this devotional
Listen while you read: "One Day" (Lyrics)