I have just begun the second week of a six-week Bible study on Galatians. The first week ended up with the challenge to write your “history” in Christ. (So, some of you already know which Bible study I am referring to… intense, time consuming, spirit consuming, reviving and refreshing.) I have actually spent a couple of hours and have only watched the week’s beginning video and have copied a few scriptures into the notes section in the introduction. This week’s lesson was not supposed to be so much about faith as about freedom; but me, I have gotten “faith” out of it so far. This could be a long week!
I got sidetracked by one verse, 2 Corinthians.11:26. My Bible study workbooks are generally messy anyhow; but this is ridiculous. I wrote out verse 26 in the notes section of the workbook. After just re-reading over what I had written the day before in the “my history in Christ,” it struck me as, “The start of this verse makes me think I am missing something.” So I read the previous verse 25. Oh yea, that needed to be added. So, I scratched out 11:26 and wrote 11:25-26 and squeezed in that verse on the page. My thought was that verses 25-26 stopped too soon. “There has to be more…” Um… I read verse 27. This verse meant too much to what I was getting. I scratched out 11:25-26, put 11:25-27 and wrote in that verse. Still…. It seemed like that thought was not finished yet and it did not seem like a good stopping point. I read verse 28. <SIGH> Yes, I scratch out 11:25-27 and wrote in 11:25-28 and added in verse 28. Surely, I was finished marking out and adding to this already messy page, but no. Just to make sure I was capturing the entire thought, I read verse 24. I couldn’t not write this passage without verse 24. Yep, scratched out 11:25-28 and wrote 11:24-28. There was no more room at the top to squeeze in anything else, so I wrote it at the bottom and drew a line from the last verse to point to the beginning of the passage.
Perplexed yet? Welcome to my world! No one else may understand this confusing matrix, but I get it. God gets it.
Within 2 Corinthians 11:24-28, Paul was telling his readers where he had been and the troubles he had experienced throughout his history with Christ. The trials that Paul faced after his conversion in about 34 AD through around 64 to 66 AD1,2 when he was martyred, are trials that Christians still face in this day and time. They may look different, but they are still there. The evil one has not changed his tactics in nearly 2,000 years, he just cloaks his attacks differently.
* How many times have you received, in minimum, the “forty minus one” lashes in different forms from foe and friend? (vs 24)
* Have you suffered being beaten with the “rods” of other people’s tongues? (vs 25)
* We have all felt the stones that others throw at us. (vs 25)
* Some of us have had more shipwrecks in life that we would like to admit, and nights spent adrift in seas of agony, shame, disappointment, regret, and sorrow. (vs 25)
* Within our spiritual journeys we still face the dangers of circumstances that flood us with grief, those that rob us of our joy, hits from our own “people” and jabs of those that do not even know us. (vs 26)
* The dangers do not care where we are. We struggle in the city, where we think we are safe from the reach of the evil one. We struggle in the wilderness, where we have run to hide. We struggle on the seas, both the rough seas where the danger is visible, and calm seas, where the danger may be hidden, lurking and ready to capsize us. (vs 26)
* What about the hurt from those that pretended to be our friends? (vs 26)
* Working through hardships and many sleepless nights, we face hunger for the Word and thirst for righteousness, while circumstances cause us to go without that spiritual Food that would make us strong. (vs 27)
* How many times have we spent seasons in the cold, openly exposed to hits from the enemy? (vs 27)
* Wrap all this up in the anxiety that we feel for loved ones that are lost, our churches and ministries close to our hearts and the state of our society and world. (vs 28)
Wow! Putting being perplexed aside, are you discouraged yet?
Don’t be! Do you know how a broken bone, once it is healed, is normally stronger than it was before it was broken? I do not have personal experience with this, but it is what I have been told. The broken bone is the struggle. The healing is the process of strengthening so the bone will be better able to withstand future trials. It is the same with our spiritual lives. As followers of Christ, we are not exempt from struggles and trials. We are not in a club that provides protection from peril. The amazing outcome from all of this, if we will allow it, is that God will use our struggles to minister to others that are suffering and going through trials. God tells us in Romans 8:28 that He will use any trial to bring about a good result for His glory. I know this from experience, from ministering my trials to others that have been suffering through the same.
Does this give you any comfort while you are experiencing these struggles? Ah…No. Honestly. No. Just, no. We are human. We want what we want. What we do not want, is to struggle. Even the strongest Christians face times of doubt. They utter that one-word question, “Why?”
Let Paul’s words further on in Romans 12 encourage you. Verse 10 tells us that Paul’s faith was so strengthened by these trials that his spiritual strength allowed him to take pleasure in the bumps, bruises and hits that he took for Christ. He had his eyes on the end goal, on what he was working toward, on Who was working within him. He could see that through his weakness he was strong, and it helped him continue on. It gave him ammunition to use against the hits of the evil one.
If you have gone through trials in your Christian life, if you have faced struggles to live out your faith, struggles to just get through each day, or even struggles to continue in your faith, I am sorry. I am sorry that the evil one thought you were such a danger to his plans that he took aim at you and used you for target practice. I pray for you now. I pray for your strength, for your endurance, for your faith and for your future. I pray that God will surround you with fellow sojourners that will see that you need to be bolstered up for a bit, lifted to our Father for healing and renewed strength. I pray that you will have discernment to know when you need to get off those big, wide roads and hit the narrow back road. I pray for community to encircle you and draw you in so that God’s family surrounds you and supports you to allow you to experience freedom. I pray this in the name that we were told to pray, JESUS!
Even after the introduction of this week’s Bible study, when I have been focused on faith, I can see that freedom really does come through faith!
2 Corinthians 11:24-28 (King James Version)
24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. 28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
2 Corinthians 12:10 (King James Version)
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
1 Apostle Paul’s Timeline – Study Resources. Retrieved from https://www.blueletterbible.org/study/paul/timeline.cfm. Accessed 24 March 2023.
2 Sanders, E.P.. “St. Paul the Apostle”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 5 Jan. 2023, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Paul-the-Apostle. Accessed 24 March 2023.
3 thoughts on “A Vision of Faith that Leads to Freedom”
awesome! thank you!
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Your post really hits home! I never would have seen that passage as having such deep and practical applications. Thank you for your rich insights. It makes me want to meditate on it, allowing it to change my attitude about suffering. Oh to be like Paul, and view suffering as a gift!
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