I’m not a gambling man, but there is one wager I’d be sure to win. Walk into any children’s hospital in any part of the world and ask any parent this one question. “Would you trade places with your sick child and suffer in their place if it meant they’d be instantly healed?” I would bet that every parent has ALREADY pleaded with God to let them do just that. Love moves a person to sacrifice.
The Apostle Paul faced terrible conditions as he labored to make the Gospel of Jesus Christ known. He related, “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” (2 Corinthians 11:23–27)
Can you imagine the second time he received the 39 lashes? “This is gonna hurt.” Then what about the third time his shirt is torn off and the lashing starts? Unlike Paul, most of us would have said, “That’s enough. I think I’ll retire to a nice little villa somewhere. Surely the Lord doesn’t expect me to go through all this pain.” His back must have looked a mess with all the scars.
In addition, being beaten with rods? That doesn’t sound pleasant. And what about Paul’s record with ships. Three times the voyage was interrupted by the ship sinking beneath him. It probably would have happened a fourth time, but I bet he didn’t board any more ships.
Was Paul just the unluckiest guy around? I don’t think so. It’s my opinion that these were Satan-inspired attempts to kill the Apostle. But God rescued him every time. When you study the book of Job, you see that the devil loves to inflict pain and he has tremendous power. Though he is like a ferocious dog, God has him on a leash. Our God reigns!
I must say, when you compare my life to that of Paul, my life is more of a CONTRAST to his. I’ve never been beaten or jailed. I haven’t even been yelled at for being a Christ-follower. Sure, I’ve lost some friends, and I’ve received some sneers, but nothing like Paul. I’ve never suffered persecution for my faith in Jesus. I have a friend in India who says that everything other than being killed for your faith is a “mosquito bite,” just a nuisance. He’s a man like Paul.
I don’t think that Paul endured such mistreatment because he LOVED PEOPLE more than you and I do. I think he was willing to endure all of it because he LOVED JESUS so much. As I said earlier, love moves a person to sacrifice.
My intention is not to make you feel bad if you haven’t suffered hardships like Paul. I needed to remind myself that I am called to serve the Lord Jesus out of love and appreciation for what He has done for me. And I should count it a privilege to suffer inconveniences for Him, as well as give my finances and time to extend His Gospel message.
Jesus is the One who LOVES PEOPLE. It was a sacrifice beyond our comprehension for Him to leave the glories of Heaven and limit Himself to a human body. Because of His love for us, He hung on a cross after hours of torture.
Like that loving parent in the hospital, He said to His Heavenly Father, “Let Me suffer Your wrath against sin so they don’t have to. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) But unlike that parent, Jesus was actually able to trade places with us in order to suffer the judgment we deserved.