Thursday, 17 December 2015
…in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— 2 Corinthians 11:27
Paul provides several more specifics concerning the difficulties he had faced for the sake of sharing the gospel message. This list begins with “…in weariness and toil.” He gives this same general sentiment, using the same two Greek words, when writing to those in Thessalonica –
” …nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you.” 2 Thessalonians 3:8
These words probably refer to his personal skill as a tent maker. In working with his own hands, he labored long hours in order to provide the gospel free to those he preached to.
The “sleeplessness often” was probably as much for fear of being attacked as for anything else. He was constantly under threat by those around him and he probably slept with one eye open in order to make sure he wasn’t pounced upon by one of them.
“In hunger and thirst” certainly came as he traveled around searching for the next person to speak to about Christ. He was less worried about finding a tavern to eat in and more worried about finding a soul to feed the gospel to.
“In fastings often” describes his self-denial in order to come nearer to God in prayer. Fasting is mentioned in Acts 13:2, 3 and is something that he would be used to as a Pharisee. Jesus noted the fastings of the Pharisees on several occasions.
“In cold and nakedness” describes a state which he probably faced almost continuously during the winter months. He would have slept outside often as he traveled, and he may have not had a fire to keep himself warm as he did. His clothes were probably not sufficient to keep him warm. Instead, he would have been more concerned about them being light rather than bulky in order to make traveling easier.
The words Paul uses to describe himself here very closely match the sufferings of his father of the past, Jacob. When Jacob lived in Padan Aram, he tended to his uncle’s flocks. During that time, he suffered just as his descendant Paul would suffer for a different type of Gentile flock. That is recorded in Genesis 31 –
“Then Jacob was angry and rebuked Laban, and Jacob answered and said to Laban: “What is my trespass? What is my sin, that you have so hotly pursued me? 37 Although you have searched all my things, what part of your household things have you found? Set it here before my brethren and your brethren, that they may judge between us both! 38 These twenty years I have been with you; your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried their young, and I have not eaten the rams of your flock. 39 That which was torn by beasts I did not bring to you; I bore the loss of it. You required it from my hand, whether stolen by day or stolen by night. 40 There I was! In the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night, and my sleep departed from my eyes. 41 Thus I have been in your house twenty years; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times.” Genesis 31:36-41
Life application: Inconvenience such as Paul faced is something many of us have never known. However, there are missionaries around the world who have given up on a life of ease in order to share the message of Christ in places where any and all of the hardships that Paul describes are not uncommon. Take time to today to lift those weary souls up in prayer. And be willing to honor them through letters, gifts, and support if at all possible.
Lord God, we know there are missionaries spread out around the world, telling others the saving message of Your gospel. Some of them are in difficult places which are hostile to Christianity. Some of them face deprivation, hardship, and toil. Today, we lift them up to Your throne of grace, asking that You shower them with every heavenly blessing for comfort and for encouragement. Reward them according to Your wisdom and touch them with Your calming hand as they continue to press on, sharing this message of hope and love. Amen.