On Saul’s quest to murder anyone who spoke in favor of Christ, he happened upon Christ himself (the resurrected Christ that is). Saul then wandered blindly–literally–to Damascus where he regained his sight and became Paul, one of the greatest defenders of the gospel ever known.
For years, Paul traveled preaching the Truth. During that time, he was sought out by multiple friends (yes, friends) to be killed; he was stoned (to death) but revived; he was arrested, tortured, and thrown into jail; he was mocked by incredibly large crowds while preaching (yet here we are getting our feelings hurt when someone ‘unfollows’ us); he had groups of people following him from city to city attempting to annihilate him (people were actually vowing not to eat until he was dead); plus more…
“Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea.” 2 Cor. 11:24-25
“But whatever anyone else dares to boast of–I am speaking as a fool–I also dare to boast of that. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one–I am talking like a madman–with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.” 2 Cor. 11:21-23
Countless… He doesn’t even know how many times he was physically beaten in the name of Jesus. He actually lost count.
I feel like that’s something I would remember. Someone kicked me in the stomach in preschool, and I still remember her name. Someone told me in fifth grade that she didn’t want to sit by me at lunch anymore, and I still remember the feelings that were hurt. Someone in college made fun of me for continuing to do theater, and I still think of him every time I book a job. Yet here is Paul, often near death (vs 23) and actually fighting FOR something, but he’s lost count of how many times he was persecuted.
I’ve never heard of a Christian man stronger than Paul. It’s because of him that we have most of the New Testament. His firsthand accounts with Christ have been written down and passed on to us. However, there are many Bible verses that we tend to misuse–no, abuse.
“I press on towards the goal to win the prize…” Phil. 3:14
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord…” Jer. 29:11
“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened for you…” Luke 11:9
But perhaps the worst of all, the most dangerous verse to misinterpret, is this:
“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength…” Phil. 4:13
We walk around with our printed coffee mugs and our wooden placards on the walls and our sports teams’ T-shirts, and we think we can bend the meanings of these verses to fit our needs.
We’ve missed it entirely.
“Hold in your mind his [Paul] being scourged, having the flesh torn from his back. Hold in your mind his struggling to keep his head above water as the ship he’s on sinks violently into the watery abyss. Hold in your mind his relentless sleep at night while thugs scour the streets to find him and kill him. Hold in your mind the vision of his body crumpled on the ground, his face in the bloody dirt, covering his head and body in a desperate bid not to die from the seemingly unending onslaught of stones.” -Matt Chandler
Do you see now how we’ve done Paul’s precious words an injustice? It’s not about scoring a goal or following your dreams or accomplishing whatever it is you selfishly want with God’s help.
Paul figured it out. He’s the one with the right perspective. “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10)
There is something profoundly beautiful about Paul’s life. He was fine with living because that meant he could continue his mission. He was fine with dying because that meant he got to be with Jesus. His life was filled with Christ. His suffering was all for Christ. His torture and imprisonment was in the name of Christ.
Philippians 4:13 is so much more. It’s telling us whether we’re in the big leagues or striking out every swing, praise His name. Whether we’re CEO of the company or scrubbing the office toilets after hours, praise His name. Healthy or sick, rich or poor, big or small–praise His name.
Paul detached himself from the material so he could focus on the eternal. Can we really do everything? The answer is no. Can we do everything for Christ, win or lose? Absolutely.