Paul’s Suffering for the Gospel
One thing that particularly strikes me about the Apostle Paul was the suffering he endured. When we examine his prison letters (Galatians through Colossians) Paul conveys three thing that relate his suffering to the message of the gospel. These three things are:
- Paul’s awareness of suffering
- Paul’s understanding of his suffering as a means to promote the gospel
- Paul’s awareness of his blessing through suffering.
This threefold perspective not only helps us to grasp Paul’s understanding of his own apostolic ministry, but it also helps to deal with hardships in our own ministry.
Nothing that we do for the Lord is in vain. Paul knew well his ministry meant suffering. Living out God’s radical new-creation message, with its correlated message of sin, guilt, and restoration, is totally out of step with the “life-perspective” of non-Christians. Yet, like Paul, we must not turn a blind eye to the function that suffering serve. As Paul teaches in Rom. 8:28, God is actively working in the midst of all things for our good, whether those things are blessing, famine, persecution, or the sword.
Lastly, like Paul, we should be acutely aware God’s blessings in the midst of our sufferings, even now. Paul knew that his sufferings- from his beatings to his false imprisonments-placed him in unique situations with unique opportunities to proclaim the gospel. The same is true for us today. Also, not to be forgotten, is the fact that often we can testify to the truth of our message by our response to hardship, trials and persecution, for then too is the gospel proclaimed (in deeds, if not in words).
For more on the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul see,