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. 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; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
2 Corinthians 11:23-28
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
I love Paul's honesty. He admitted that he believed he was a better servant, not because of what he had done for God in ministry but because of what he had endured as a result of His ministry. He endured many physical, mental, emotional, and financial hardships, and he faithfully served God through it all. There's a lot we should learn from Paul in these few verses. Let's be real. If we were to ask the average Christian what makes him or her a good servant or "better servant" than most, many would likely make a list of ministry platforms and mission trips they have had, how many gospel songs they have recorded or sold, how many people they have led to Christ, how many churches they have planted, how many years they have pastored a church, how many times they have recorded Facebook live evangelism videos, how much tithe they give every month, etc. I would suspect that no one would name any challenges, failures, rejections, scandals, or suffering related to fulfilling God's purpose. As Christians, we often go as far as to hide our challenges and sufferings from others so we do not look weak or unfavored by God. That's not a Biblical or Christian response at all!
Romans 8:35-39 says:
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Furthermore, what was it about Paul that demonstrated "betterness" in servanthood?
1. He praised God during the pain.
2. He trusted God during the test.
3. He worshipped God instead of worrying about his situation.
3. He shared in Christ's sufferings.
4. He testified of God's truth.
5. He rejoiced in his own, unique journey.
We can be better servants too! We must know that God is with us and gives us the strength, courage, and wisdom to overcome anything and everything He has called us to face. It is our divine destiny to overcome and be victorious. There is no testimony without tests; no message without a mess; no comebacks without setbacks; no healing without sickness; no provision without lack; no miracles without impossibilities. So if you feel that you have endured a life a suffering in your walk with Christ, do not be discouraged. Hang in there! You're simply becoming a better servant. The power of God is resting upon you. God's grace is enough to help you endure.
It is our divine destiny to overcome and be victorious.
Truth moment: When I read Paul's dialogue of his many trials and tribulations, I immediately felt ashamed. Sure, I've had my own challenges in life, but how dare I say that I have suffered! Paul went through so much and still loved God, proclaimed the gospel, cared about the very people who tried to kill him, and still proclaimed, "I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses." Wow! I have thrown tantrums (yes, as an adult) simply because I believed God was making me wait too long for an answered prayer, His timing didn't align with mine, or because a simple process became a chaotic nightmare. Waiting...inconvenience...chaos? Wanita, grow up! Better yet, faith up. In the midst of all my challenges, I have never lacked anything, I have always been safe, and my body has always remained in tact. Too often I have made mountains of ant hills because I failed to be grateful for what I did have and to see my situation through the lens of faith. Can you relate?
Let's be honest, being thankful in the midst of your hurt and pain is easier said than done, right? I get it. The good news is that the Bible gives us clear guidance regarding the path from tribulation to thankfulness. Colossians 2:7 says, "Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness." Let suggests that we have a choice to make. We must first choose to mature in Jesus and ensure He is our foundation. We do this by allowing Jesus to be our source for answers, strength, and guidance, and our anchor in the midst of life's storms. Growing down means going deeper and that means going to a place in Jesus you have not been before. Pray prayers you have never prayed before. Study scriptures you have never studied before. Give more time to worship than you ever have before. Trust God like you have never trusted Him before. Help someone else like you have never helped before. Give like you have never given before. Yes, go deeper.
Growing down means going deeper and that means going to a place in Jesus you have not been before.
Next, Paul goes on to say, "Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught... Then. This means that there is a condition that must be met. In order for our faith to grow strong, we must first choose to grow deeper in Jesus and that choice must be followed up with action. Once our faith has been strengthened in the Word of God - our truth - then we will overflow with thankfulness and appreciation for everything God has done and is doing in our life. Our faith says that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Faith says that our suffering is good for us, because it teaches us to follow God's laws (Psalm 119:71). Faith says that despite everything we are going through, victory is ours through Christ, who loves us (Romans 8:37). When we make these declarations over our life, praise and thankfulness will be the fruit of our lips. So, what is the path from tribulation to thankfulness?
(1) Choose to grow deeper in Jesus and then do it.
(2) Strengthen your faith with the Word of God.
(3) Overflow with thankfulness.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says "Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." Not some, but all. Therefore, we can be assured that in every situation - despite how bad it looks - there is something to be grateful for.
I pray that the trials and tribulations that God guaranteed us would come will not be in vain. May God use them to strengthen us, make us wiser and stronger, encourage us to widen our hearts to others who are suffering, and transform us into better servants. In Jesus' name, Amen.