by Wayne Barber
We saw in our last article that suffering is a part of how God brings us to the point of weakness. In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul has begun to show us what he had to go through because he had allowed Christ to live His life through him. God had Paul very busy with a burden to take the message of God's grace to as many places as God would direct. He says in verse 26: "I have been on frequent journeys." Then he catalogs for us what dangers these journeys held for him, both from the elements of nature and also from human meanness.
"In dangers from rivers." The word "dangers" in the Greek is kíndunos, which refers not just to the danger but to the fear or peril that accompanies it. The rivers of Asia Minor were known to swell and rise without warning. This suggests that in Paul's journeys many times he feared for his life trying to cross them.
"Dangers from robbers." Travel in Paul's day, especially through the mountains and wilderness areas, was dangerous because of the robbers who tended to lurk in these places.
"Dangers from my countrymen." Paul's own people, the Jews, were his biggest enemy because of the message that he preached of Christ and the grace that He alone offers. He was like a man with no country because not only did the Jews hunt him down but the Gentiles also were on his case!
"Dangers from the Gentiles" because of the crowd's hostile response. Both Gentile officials and Gentile crowds were quick to react to Paul and his preaching, as in Philippi (Acts 16:20) and Ephesus (Acts 19:23).
"Dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea." Paul faced peril everywhere he went.
"Dangers among false brethren." False teachers that constantly criticized and planned against him were always around!
On these journeys he suffered greatly physically: "I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure" (v. 27). You know, we should all be ashamed when we complain with what God has allowed to happen in our life, shouldn't we?
Paul's greatest suffering was the anguish he had for the spiritual condition of the churches. While much of his pain was brought on by enemies, that was not the whole picture: "Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches" (v. 28). "Concern" is the translation of mérimna, which expresses deep emotional concern. He was concerned as a pastor shepherd for the welfare and the spiritual health of all the churches!
He asks in verse 29: "Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?" We must understand that Paul is not complaining about his difficult life and circumstances he has had to face! That's why he started all of this in vs. 16 by saying "Don't think I've lost touch with reality in any way! He has shared all this that has happened to him in order to combat the foolish garbage that the false teachers were telling them.
Paul was a man who had suffered much for the sake of Christ. What are you going through because of your love for Christ and your willingness to share with others? We will see, as we continue to look at our subject of weakness in chapter 12, that Paul knew the rest that only Christ can bring in the midst of suffering for the sake of Christ! In Matthew 11:28-30 there is a rest that is given; and there is a rest that is found when we are willing to submit ourselves to His yoke, accepting whatever circumstances comes our way! "Come unto me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28). The rest that is given. But, He goes on to say: "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (v. 29). The rest that is found.
When we allow the sufferings of life to drive us to Christ and we are willing to take the yoke of His will upon us then we will find rest such as we have never known. When we are at the end of ourselves and we yield to Him, we find His strength to carry on!