Articles from the Blog
In journeyings often, in perils of waters.… — 2 Corinthians 11:26
When my family first moved to the territory of the former Soviet Union, it was at the worst economic time that part of the world had known since the events of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. It seemed there was a deficit of everything. Store shelves were empty. Pharmacies had no drugs to offer medical patients. There was little fuel available for automobiles or planes.
In those early days, I was traveling continuously across the eleven time zones of the USSR to obtain contracts for the television programs we broadcast on our television network. Often the pilot of the airplane would announce that the plane was landing because there wasn’t enough fuel to reach our destination. Once we deboarded, we had to get very creative in order to figure out how we were going to get from where we were to the place where we were headed. It usually meant we had to travel by train or by car — and we often had very, very long distances still to go to reach our destination.
But even with all these inconveniences, our situation didn’t begin to compare to what the first-century preachers had to do in order to get to hard-to-reach places and preach the Gospel. Cars and trains were slower than airplanes, but at least we weren’t walking to get where we needed to go! In Second Corinthians 11:26, however, Paul tells us that he had no choice but to walk in order to reach many of his destinations. He said, “In journeyings often.…”
In Journeyings Often
The word “journey” in Greek is odoiporia. This word describes a walking journey. The word “often” is the word pollakis, and it refers to many times, often, or frequently. Paul used this phrase to tell us that he had walked to most of the destinations where he had been called upon to preach.
For instance, he walked from Antioch Pisidia to Iconium (Acts 13:51); he walked from Iconium to Lystra (Acts 14:6); and he walked from Lystra to Derbe (Acts 14:20). From Derbe, he walked back to Lystra (Acts 14:21); and from Lystra he walked back to Iconium (Acts 14:21). From Iconium, he walked back to Antioch Pisidia (Acts 14:21); from Antioch Pisidia, he walked throughout the whole region of Pamphylia (Acts 14:24); and then he walked all the way to Perga (Acts 14:25).
For a brief period, Paul and his team traveled by ship to Antioch (Paul’s home base). But then they walked to Phenice and Samaria (Acts 15:3). From there, they walked to Jerusalem (Acts 15:4); and from Jerusalem, they walked back to Antioch (Acts 15:22).
From Antioch, Paul walked throughout the regions of Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:41). He walked back through the cities of Derbe (Acts 16:1) and Lystra (Acts 16:1). Then he walked to Phrygia (Acts 16:6) and walked throughout the regions of Galatia (Acts 16:6). After that, he walked to Mysia (Acts 16:8) and then walked all the way down to Troas (Acts 16:8).
After seeing a vision of a man in Macedonia calling to him for help (Acts 16:9), Paul took a ship from Troas (Acts 16:11). His ship ported in the city of Samothracia (Acts 16:11) but departed the next day to Neapolis (Acts 16:11). From there, Paul and his associates sailed to Philippi (Acts 16:12), a chief city in that part of Macedonia.
From Philippi, Paul walked through Amphipolis and Apollonia (Acts 17:1); then he walked to the city of Thessalonica (Acts 17:1). From Thessalonica, Paul walked to Berea (Acts 17:10).
Paul took a ship from Berea to Athens (Acts 17:14,15). From Athens, he walked to Corinth (Acts 18:1). He sailed from Corinth to Syria (Acts 18:18). Then from Syria, he walked to Ephesus (Acts 18:19). From Ephesus, he sailed to Caesarea (Acts 18:22); but from there, he walked to Antioch (Acts 18:22). From Antioch, he walked all over the regions of Galatia and Phrygia (Acts 18:23), and then he walked along the upper coastlines to Ephesus (Acts 19:1). The list of places where Paul traveled to fulfill his calling is amazing. Paul did a lot of walking during the course of his ministry!
If you add up all the miles/kilometers Paul walked, he probably spent more time walking than he did preaching. No wonder he could say, “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than you all” (1 Corinthians 14:18). Paul had a lot of time to pray in tongues as he walked across the east and northeast side of the Mediterranean countries to preach the Gospel and to establish the Church.
This also gives us insight into the kind of relationships Paul had with his fellow travelers. It would have been impossible for him to travel so far, so regularly, and through such difficult circumstances without really getting to know his traveling companions. No wonder he could tell Timothy, “But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions…” (2 Timothy 3:10,11).
Keep in mind that the man who did all this walking was the same one whose feet had been beaten with rods three times (see October 21)! Paul could only have walked this extensively if he enjoyed a healthy body. A sick man could never have attempted this kind of physical exertion. Therefore, we know that although Paul’s feet had been beaten with rods, he suffered no remaining effects from those hideous beatings. Here again, we see that Paul knew how to draw upon the resurrection power of God to quicken his mortal flesh.
In today’s society, many people circle parking lots for twenty minutes just to look for a closer parking space. But the truth is, if they parked farther away, it still wouldn’t take but five minutes to walk to their destination! People are often simply too lazy to walk unless they are forced to do it.
Paul had no car, train, or airplane to ride in order to get where he needed to go. Yes, traveling that far by foot meant he had to face incredible hardship and difficult circumstances. But nothing was so difficult to bear that it was going to stop Paul from fulfilling the call on his life. He had made up his mind. Even if it meant walking around the world by foot in order to fulfill his call, that is precisely what he would do.
If modern transportation had been available, Paul would have used it. Today cars, trains, and airplanes permit us to travel farther and faster and to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. But the lack of these conveniences didn’t stop Paul.
Yet how frequently does lack of convenience stop us today? If we allow lack of convenience to hinder us from doing the will of God, there is a serious flaw in our level of commitment.
I’m sure that as Paul traveled on these roads, he encountered literal impasses on roads that forced him to take unexpected, unplanned detours, costing him more time, effort, and money. Still he pressed onward to take the message of God’s Kingdom to the Gentile world.
In Perils of Waters
After referring to these long walking journeys, Paul also says, “…In perils of waters…” (2 Corin-thians 11:26). The word “perils” is the word kindunos. It is the Greek word for an extremely dangerous or highly volatile situation. Paul uses this word eight times in Second Corinthians 11 to tell us that much of his ministry required him to live in extremely dangerous situations. He basically lived in danger all the time. Danger wasn’t something he sought. It simply went with the territory God gave him.
The word “waters” is the Greek word potamos, which is the Greek word for a river. By using these two words kindunos and potamos, Paul tells us that as he traveled, he was occasionally forced to cross extremely dangerous rivers to get to the places where the Holy Spirit sent him.
Crossing rivers was a very serious act in the ancient world. It’s a vivid example of the hazards a traveler encountered in Paul’s time. Bridges were few and far between, especially in remote areas. This presented awkward problems, especially during times of flash-flooding, which was a frequent occurrence. Although Paul does not mention the exact rivers he had to cross, we know that they would have included the Jordan River (Judea), the Orontes River (Syria), the Cydnus River (Cilicia), the Meander River and Cayster River (Asia), and the Strimon River and Axios River (Macedonia).
During Paul’s journeys, he crossed “badlands,” climbed cliffs, scaled bluffs, and passed through some of the most dangerous rivers of his time. We don’t usually think of these kinds of hazards when remembering Paul’s ministry. But these were daily risks Paul faced to do God’s will.
How many people do you know who would put their lives at such risk to do God’s will?
I am always amazed at the number of people who write to my family with concern when they hear of political unrest in our nation. They often tell me, “You and your family need to get out of there before it gets too tough! God doesn’t want you to get caught in a difficult situation!” But if the Early Church and other God-called people through the last two millenia had taken that approach, none of us would know of the Gospel today!
Regardless of what you face or what you cross through to fulfill God’s plan, nothing takes God by surprise. Certainly He didn’t plan those problems. But when He called you, He equipped you with all the power, wisdom, and insight you would ever need to get across the hurdles Satan tries to put in your way. There is no impasse you cannot get through on your way to achieve God’s will for your life!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, help me to stay absolutely committed to the assignment You’ve given me, ready to do whatever is necessary to finish the job. Forgive me for giving up so easily in the past when I ran into barriers. Help me to get more creative the next time I hit an impasse so I can find a way to do what You’ve called me to do. I know that by the power of Your Spirit, I can show much more fortitude in the face of obstacles than I’ve done in the past. Forgive me for being so easy on myself. I ask You now to teach me how to operate in Your strength and wisdom when I encounter impasses so that I can forge ahead to finish the job You’ve given me to do!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that regardless of what I face or what I cross through to fulfill God’s plan, nothing takes God by surprise! When He called me, He equipped me with all the power, wisdom, and insight I will ever need to get across the hurdles Satan tries to put in my path. There is no impasse I cannot get through on my way to achieve God’s will for my life!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Has there been a time in your life when it looked like there was no way to do what God wanted you to do, but you got creative and found another way to do it? What was that instance in your life?
2. Looking back on that situation now, what would your life be like today if you had taken no for an answer and walked away from that opportunity? What if you hadn’t gotten creative but had instead given up, concluding that your situation was impossible?
3. If you are facing a roadblock in any area of your life now, have you taken the time to pray about it and to ask the Holy Spirit to show you a way around this hindrance? If not, don’t you think it would be a good idea to take it to the Lord today and let Him speak to your heart about it?
Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep. — 2 Corinthians 11:25
Sometimes people get the impression that they have to be absolutely perfect before they can step out in faith to do something new and adventuresome. But there is rarely a perfect or easy environment in which a step of faith needs to be taken! The reason we call it a “step of faith” is that it requires us to move out of our comfort zone or to do something that is challenging!
So rather than wait for a perfect situation before you step out in faith, listen to the Holy Spirit for His timing. If the Holy Spirit says to do something now, you need to do it now, even if the surrounding environment seems difficult or unfavorable at the moment. And when you step out in faith, don’t be surprised if you are met with obstacles and difficulties, at least at first.
Some people say, “I tried to step out in faith once, and I was met with all kinds of horrible circumstances! What happened to me is such a terrible memory that I don’t know if I have the courage to ever step out in faith again!”
That’s why I’m writing several Sparkling Gems to tell you about Paul’s experiences. I want you to know that everyone runs into obstacles and difficulties — even the apostle Paul with all his God-given revelation and anointing!
You see, the devil will do his best to hinder what God puts in your heart because he doesn’t want God’s will to be accomplished through your life. The enemy is terrified at the thought of you actually doing what God has told you to do. But like the apostle Paul, you have to determine that one way or another, you’re going to get the job done. Paul didn’t throw in the towel and quit just because he ran into obstacles along the road to his goal. He just found ways to get around the obstacles and keep going until his divine assignment was fulfilled!
I guarantee you that if you freeze every time the devil throws a roadblock in your path, you’ll spend most of your life frozen. Perfect circumstances are terrific if it’s possible to line them up, but don’t depend on it. Whether or not the circumstances are the way you’d like them to be, you have to decide to take hold of God’s power and move ahead. God will show you how to get around that impasse so you can finish the job He’s given you to do.
Thrice I Suffered Shipwreck
In Second Corinthians 11:25, Paul tells us about one roadblock the devil devised to hinder him. He writes, “…Thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep.”
This verse is a bit of a mystery. The book of Acts only records one shipwreck. Yet as we have already seen from this list, too many significant events occurred during Paul’s ministry for Luke to have included all of them in his written account in the book of Acts.
Traveling by sea was a perilous and risky undertaking. Ships were not always reliable. The routes often took them through waters cluttered with sharp rocks, reefs, and debris. Even if the vessel was guided by strong and skilled leadership, currents were so strong that even the best ships could be carried directly into rocks and other dangerous obstacles.
In Acts 27:14-44, we read that Paul was traveling aboard a ship that ran into rocks and broke into pieces in the midst of a great storm. In that moment of crisis, Paul became God’s man on board ship! He spoke the word of faith to the crew and passengers, and soon he was in charge of the entire situation.
In addition to this shipwreck, Paul testifies that he has been shipwrecked on two other occasions as well. What are the odds that one person would be on three different ships that shipwrecked? This would be the equivalent of one person surviving three different plane crashes!
I think you can see that the attacks that assailed Paul’s life were simply remarkable in their scope and nature. Satan tried to create all kinds of “impasses” to stop him and his work. These events were definitely inconvenient, but they were unable to permanently hinder him from getting to his destination.
A Night and a Day I Have Been in the Deep
The phrase “a night and a day” refers to a 24-hour time period. The word “deep” is the Greek word bathus, and it refers to the deepest parts of the sea. Because Paul mentions this event immediately following his recollection of shipwrecks, we may assume that this night and a day in the deep was the result of one of the other shipwrecks of which we have no knowledge.
It is impossible to make much comment on this, as we know only what Paul says in this verse. Whenever and however it occurred, it was a horrific event in Paul’s life. The Greek tense shows that the experience is still fresh and vivid in Paul’s mind as he writes about it. The language even suggests that this is a recent occurrence.
Paul spent a 24-hour period treading water in the deepest parts of the sea. Yet it didn’t scare him away from getting on the very next ship to continue his trip and go where God ordered him to go. It was just another impasse on the journey, but it didn’t stop his trip!
Likewise, you can’t let past bad experiences determine your future actions. Consider what would have happened if Paul had said, “That’s it! I’m never getting on another ship!” If he had taken this approach, the devil would have stopped Paul from traveling by sea to get to areas where he needed to go. But instead of letting fear grip his mind, Paul put away all thoughts of fear and boarded the next ship when that form of transportation was required in order to reach the destination where God was leading him to go.
Instead of thinking how horrific it was to go through that past experience, why don’t you turn that memory around and reflect on how faithful God was to you in the midst of it? You didn’t die! You survived! God’s mercy intervened, and you came out all right! Even though the devil would love to paint a horrible memory for you about that event, the truth is, God was faithful to bring you through that ordeal, or you wouldn’t be reading this Sparkling Gem today!
You’re not defeated! Other people dropped out of sight or didn’t survive after the devil assaulted them — but you are still here! So hold your head high, throw back your shoulders, and be proud of the fact that God’s power enabled you to overcome in the past. And He will continue enabling you to overcome in the future if you’ll make the decision to keep moving forward by faith!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I admit that I’ve allowed some bad memories to paralyze me and keep me from taking the step of faith I need to be taking right now. I forgot to consider how You saved me, delivered me, and rescued me from the events that caused those painful memories. I only reflected on the bad part, failing to recognize how faithful You were to help me in that situation. Today I am making the choice to turn my memories around. Holy Spirit, help me see my past bad experiences in the light of God’s goodness and faithfulness. Fill my mind with the good things God has done for me and the knowledge that He will continue to be faithful to deliver me, no matter what opposition comes my way!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that God is good! He has been faithful to me. He has never failed me. He will never fail me in the future. Even when bad things tried to come against me, God saved me, delivered me, and brought me out with no permanent harm. It is a miracle I survived everything that happened to me in the past. But from this moment on, I choose to turn my memories around and to reflect only on how good God has been to me through all of life’s events. I will trust in Him to show me how to get around every impasse so I can finish the job He’s given me to do!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. When you reflect on the bad things that have happened to you in the past, can you see God’s faithfulness to bring you through each difficult situation? Have you ever pondered those past events in your life from the perspective of how good God was to deliver you, or have you only meditated on how terrible those situations were to go through?
2. I want to encourage you to take a sheet of paper and to write down the times God has delivered and rescued you in the past. As you do, stop to meditate on each instance and to thank God for His goodness before proceeding to write down the next instance when He preserved your life or rescued you from a bad situation.
3. Do you know someone who has been paralyzed by some past event? Don’t you think you could encourage that person and help him turn his memories around by sharing how God has intervened and rescued you so magnificently on many occasions?
Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned.… — 2 Corinthians 11:25
I’ll never forget the day one of our workers came to see me with deep gashes running across his cheekbones and nose. When I saw the condition of his face, I was completely taken aback. The sight simply broke my heart.
It was this young man’s task to carry copies of our television programs to one of the most dangerous regions reached by our television broadcast. We all knew that this man was risking his life to travel every month to that region carrying the actual programs and the cash to pay for the broadcasting of the programs. However, we were all committed to the goal of reaching that region so the Word could be sent via television into the homes of millions who had never heard the Gospel before.
Because this man traveled extensively to a very hostile Muslim region of the world, he knew that each trip placed his life in jeopardy. Yet because he was so committed to getting the Word to the unreached people of that region, he was willing to even lay down his life if necessary as he continued to fulfill his assignment. His passion to see the lost saved had spilled over to his wife. She understood the seriousness of his job but rejoiced with him at the thought of people hearing the Good News of Jesus Christ.
As this young man stood before me that day with a battered face, a black-and-blue eye, and that ugly, deep gash that ran across his cheekbones and nose, I knew he had been attacked on one of his trips to that region to deliver our television programs. He was such a young, handsome man; it just broke my heart to see his face so marred.
When he saw that the gashes on his face deeply troubled me, the young man said, “Brother Rick, don’t worry about me. I’ll be all right. I’m so thankful they didn’t get the television programs or the cash I was carrying to pay for the broadcasts. The Lord was with me, and I know that now He will heal me.” Although he had obviously been severely beaten, he was still full of the joy of the Holy Spirit.
As I heard the whole story of what happened to him, I came to understand what a miracle it was that he was still alive. The trap these gospel-haters had set for him could have killed him. But instead of being afraid to go back to that region again, he had come to our office to pick up the next set of television programs and the cash to pay for them. As he walked out of my office, I wanted to salute him! In my mind, he was and continues to be a true hero of the faith!
Don’t think that persecution is something that happened only in New Testament times. It is still happening today all over the world, and the believers who live and work in these dangerous regions need our prayers! Please remember to pray for them when you spend time with the Lord.
But just as the apostle Paul was energized to get up and get moving again, those who lay claim to God’s power today are also energized to get past the times of intense persecution or opposition they endure. These believers know they’re not destined to live in defeat or despair as long as they don’t waste time bemoaning what happened to them. They also know that crying about the attacks of the enemy doesn’t change the fact that they happened; therefore, they just grab hold of God’s power and adamantly refuse to let the devil stop them or slow them down!
In Second Corinthians 11:25, Paul tells us about similar events that happened to him. Although these events could have been devastating to someone else, they had almost no effect on Paul. He was determined to do his job and not to let anything hinder him! In this verse, he says, “Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned.…”
Thrice Was I Beaten With Rods
In the ancient world, a beating with rods was a horrible, ugly form of torture. A strong man would bind the victim’s arms tightly around his body, incapacitating the victim’s ability to move in much the same way as a straightjacket would do. Then while the victim’s upper chest and head still lay on the ground, his legs would be pulled up into the air.
At this point, a man with a huge rod — normally made of metal — would begin whacking the bottom of the victim’s feet. He would whack and whack and whack until the feet of the victim were bleeding, broken, and maimed. At times this beating was so severe that the victim would afterward never be able to walk again.
It’s interesting that the book of Acts never gives us a specific example of Paul being beaten with rods in such a manner. However, as we continue to look at the entire list of what Paul encountered (2 Corinthians 11:23-27), we see that many events occurred during Paul’s ministry that Luke never recorded in the book of Acts. But Paul never forgot any of them, and he tells us here about some of those events into which the book of Acts gives us no insight.
We don’t know when Paul’s feet-beating experiences occurred, but he tells us that he was beaten with rods three different times during the course of his ministry. It’s obvious that the devil didn’t want this Gospel preacher to take the Gospel anywhere else! Satan attempted to maim Paul’s feet to permanently knock him out of the race.
You see, the feet of a Gospel preacher are threatening to the devil. Paul quoted Isaiah 52:7 when he wrote, “…How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:15). This attack on Paul’s feet was an attack against the Gospel.
It is evident that rather than throw in the towel and quit because of this experience, Paul grabbed hold of the power of God, put his shoes back on, got up, and went on his way to keep doing what God called him to do. This was a man the devil couldn’t keep down!
No wonder Paul wrote about the resurrection power of God! He was writing from personal experience when he said, “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:11).
Once Was I Stoned
This event occurred in Acts 14:19. After a successful campaign among the Gentiles in Lystra, Jewish opposers came from Iconium to stir up trouble for Paul’s ministry. They were so effective in distributing bad information about Paul that the entire city turned against him. In a moment of fury, the people of Lystra stoned him and “…drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead” (Acts 14:19).
It may well be that Paul was dead. Stoning was a malicious act. The stoners aimed their sharp rocks at the victim’s head in order to deal a fatal blow. To assure the victim’s death, the people didn’t usually stop the stoning until his head was crushed. When it was apparent that there was no possibility of survival, the remaining rocks were dumped and the victim’s corpse was dragged out of the city and left for the dogs and wild beasts to eat. So when Acts 14:19 says the people of Lystra “supposed” Paul was dead, there is no reason to think he was not dead at that moment.
Acts 14:20 tells us that as the disciples came and stood near Paul’s corpse, “he rose up.” Is it possible that these disciples joined hands and prayed for Paul’s resurrection? This is precisely my view.
Later Paul gave testimony of a visit he made to Heaven (see 2 Corinthians 12:1-4). He explained that he heard and saw things that he had never been given permission to speak. When did Paul make this visit to Heaven? Could it have been at the time he was stoned in Lystra? Yes, I personally think so.
No wonder Paul could write with such conviction: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life…shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38,39). Even death cannot stop a man who is determined to keep on going!
Paul could have resigned himself to his fate as the people were stoning him and thought, Well, I guess this is the end of the road. I guess I’ll give up and die now. If he had done that, I’m sure stoning would have been the end of him. But I’m just certain that as they stoned Paul, he thought, I’m not dying now! My job isn’t done! If they kill me, I’ll just have to be resurrected!
Being stoned was never a part of Paul’s plan. It was an unexpected roadblock that the devil orchestrated to try to stop him from fulfilling his call. But although the experience stole time and delayed Paul’s plans a little, it did not permanently hinder him from going on. God can join Himself to this kind of person! God knows this is the kind of person who is really going to get something done!
Are you this kind of person? Does God emphatically know that you will never surrender to any attack of the devil? Have you demonstrated that you are going to keep forging ahead to finish your assignment and that you will never quit until you can say the job is done?
Don’t get too upset if troubles come against you. It doesn’t mean you have a lack of faith; it just means you live in a world where the devil operates and hassles people. The fact that you do have faith means you never have to be overcome by these attacks of the enemy. If you’ll grab hold of victory — the way Jesus did, Paul did, and so many others before you did — you can overcome the world and everything in it.
So take heart, and be courageous! As you determine to keep on walking in God’s power, no matter WHAT comes against you, the victory really does belong to you!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I want to be the kind of person who never allows the circumstances of life to stop me from accomplishing Your plan for my life. I am sorry for the times I’ve acted weak and complained that the circumstances I faced were too hard to deal with. The truth is, You have given me Your Spirit and Your power. That means there is no problem, no challenge, and no hardship I cannot conquer and overcome. If I take the power You make available to me, I can do anything You tell me to do. So today I am making my choice. I am reaching out by faith to grab hold of Your Spirit’s power so I can be supernaturally quickened to complete every assignment Heaven ever asks me to do.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I am the kind of person God can count on to get something done. God knows I will never surrender to any attack of the devil. I regularly demonstrate that I am going to keep forging ahead to finish my assignment and that I will never quit until I can say the job is done. Jesus overcame the world, and today He gives me the power to overcome it too. Like Jesus and other strong men and women of God before me, I will overcome the world and every form of opposition the devil puts in my way!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer1. What is your initial reaction when you run into an especially difficult challenge? Do you immediately believe you can overcome it, or do you feel a stab of fear that you’re going to fail or that you’re not going to survive it? 2. What does your reaction to these challenges reveal about you and your level of faith? 3. When troublesome events occur to you, to your family, to your business, to your church, or to your ministry, what is the first action you take to repel Satan’s attacks against you? If someone you knew was being attacked, what steps would you tell that person to take to overcome the enemy’s strategies in his life?
Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. — 2 Corinthians 11:23,24
Once when I was teaching from Paul’s words in Second Corinthians 11:23-25, I especially emphasized the afflictions Paul overcame by the power of the Spirit. Later a young man came up to me and said, “It’s obvious to me that the apostle Paul had no faith!”
Shocked by his words, I asked him, “What do you mean when you say the apostle Paul had no faith?”
He answered, “If Paul had walked in faith, he wouldn’t have gone through any of those ordeals.”
The young man’s words made me think about the great number of people who have the wrong impression about faith. They think that if a person walks in faith, that somehow means he will escape all adversities in life.
But when you read the New Testament, you find that the early believers and the apostles faced many adversities. Certainly it wasn’t God who planned those hardships. The devil was the one who shrewdly planned those attacks in order to stop the preaching of the Gospel. And Satan is still working nonstop to prevent people from stepping into the glorious plan God has designed for their lives.
There is something very encouraging about studying the strategies the devil arrayed against the early believers. You see, regardless of what the enemy tried to do, he was unsuccessful in stopping them! Because they did have faith, they were unconquerable.
So I told the young man who talked to me that night, “Young man, the fact that Paul survived all those ordeals and continued his ministry to the end of his life is proof that he did possess faith. A man with no faith wouldn’t have survived those attacks.”
Don’t get the impression that walking in faith removes you from all challenges. Faith just gives you the ability to overcome the challenges that will attempt to assail you. Even Jesus said, “…In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
The word “tribulation” is the Greek word thlipsis, which describes a situation so difficult that it causes one to feel stressed, squeezed, pressured, or crushed. It can be translated as distress, affliction, or trouble, always indicating a level of intensity that is almost unbearable in the natural.
But Jesus tells us to be of “good cheer.” These two words are from the single Greek word tharseo, which literally means to be courageous. It is consistently translated, “Fear not,” but a better rendering would be “Take heart!” It is a word that would be spoken to strengthen someone who is facing some kind of hardship or difficult ordeal. Jesus was literally saying, “In this world you will go through some distressing times, but take heart and be courageous.…”
Then Jesus tells us, “I have overcome the world.” The word “overcome” is the Greek word nikos, which is also the word for victory. But the grammar used in this statement does not imply a single victory in the past, but a continuous and abiding victory. Therefore, the idea that this Greek word presents is this: “I have overcome the world; I am still overcoming the world; and I will always be in an overcoming position over the world!”
The word “world” in Greek is kosmos, the Greek word that is always used to depict the arena where Satan attempts to wield his influence and describes all the human systems of the world. It is the very word Paul uses in Second Corinthians 4:4 when he refers to Satan as the “god of the world.” Satan is not god of the earth, but he operates through the human systems in the world — and these systems are what the enemy usually uses to attack the Church and God’s people.
When we consider all the things that assailed the apostle Paul, we realize that most of the attacks came through the world systems of government or religion. These were the primary instruments Satan used in his efforts to curb Paul’s activities. But Paul learned to take heart in such situations. He never gave up! Paul had obviously grabbed hold of Jesus’ words in John 16:33, because he overcame everything Satan ever tried to use against him. The devil simply was unable to stop this man who was determined to finish the assignment Heaven had given him!
Five Times Received I Forty Stripes Save One
In Second Corinthians 11:24, Paul goes on to say, “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.” This was a Jewish method of punishment, applied to Paul on five different occasions. Deuteronomy 25:2,3 refers to this method when it specifies how the wicked man should be punished: “And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number. Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed….”
This was one of the most vicious treatments of the ancient world. The tortured person’s clothing was completely removed so he appeared before his persecutors naked. His arms were tied so he could not defend himself. Then the torturer would begin to lash the prisoner’s bare body with a whip made of three long cords, one from calf hide and the other two from donkey hide.
Pieces of glass, bone, and metal were often attached to the end of the cords to make the lashing more memorable. The torturer would hit so hard that the pieces of glass, bone, and metal would lodge into the victim’s skin. Then as the cords were jerked backward for the next lash of the whip, those pieces of glass, bone, and metal would rip out significant amounts of flesh. This left horrid scars on the victim’s body — permanently.
The first third of these lashes were given across the prisoner’s upper chest and face, while the remaining two-thirds of lashes were applied to his back, buttocks, and legs; meanwhile, the victim was forced to bend over to make it easier for the torturer to hit his body. Blood flew everywhere as the cords whipped wildly through the air, making snapping noises as they struck the victim again and again.
But let’s think a little deeper. If the whip was made of three cords and Paul received thirty-nine lashes each time, this means he received 117 lashes at each beating! And he went through this grueling exercise on five different occasions, which means 585 lashes were laid across Paul’s upper chest, face, back, buttocks, and legs. There wasn’t a place on his body that hadn’t been beaten or had pieces of flesh ripped out of it!
Paul was so committed to fulfilling his God-given call that he wouldn’t let anything stop him! After being repeatedly beaten in this terrible manner, he’d get up, put his clothes back on, and go right back to what he was doing before he was beaten. He had already made up his mind. He would not stop until his mission was complete!
Being beaten was an unpleasant experience. It was definitely a part of the journey that no one would relish. But Paul refused to let this experience become a permanent roadblock to his ministry. He pushed the opposition out of the way, got up, and went on. He overcame in the power of Jesus’ name and in the power of the Holy Spirit!
What are you facing today? I’m sure it isn’t a beating of thirty-nine lashes, yet it may still seem overpowering and overwhelming to you. How are you going to respond to these things? If you’ve been knocked down, are you going to stay there? Or are you going to get up, brush off the dirt, grab hold of the power of God, and start moving forward again?
Never forget that Jesus said, “In this world you will go through some distressing times. But take heart and be courageous, for I have overcome the world; I am still overcoming the world; and I will always be in an overcoming position over the world!”
If you’ll make the choice today to get up, brush off the dirt, tell your mind and emotions to be silent, and submit yourself to these words of Jesus, the Holy Spirit will begin to fill you with new strength so you can come through the difficult situations you are facing victoriously. And as you rely on God’s power to bring you to the place of victory you desire, you will learn how to overcome every challenge you will ever face in life!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I am so thankful that You have overcome the world and given me the power to overcome it! I am so sorry for the times I’ve allowed my flesh to whine and complain when I should have been digging in my heels and latching on to the power of the Holy Spirit. I know that even though victory is mine, I must take it and make it my own. Please help me take charge of my whining, complaining flesh so I can reach out by faith to seize the power of the Holy Spirit — the very thing I need to make me a winner in my situation today. I thank You in advance for this inflow of power!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that Jesus Christ has given me the power to be an overcomer in every situation in life! I am not a victim who has fallen to defeat. I don’t have to take what the devil tries to send my way. In the power of the Spirit and in Jesus’ name, I am well able to stand against each attack, to resist every devilish scheme that comes against me, and to maintain the victory of Jesus Christ in every part of my life. Jesus purchased victory for me, and I will not budge from my decision to have, to hold, to possess, and to enjoy His victory in my life!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Are you doing your best to walk in the victory of Jesus Christ? Or have you allowed your flesh to moan and groan and drag you down into the language of defeat?
2. What scriptures can you meditate on and confess daily that will take you to a higher place of victory? Why don’t you write those verses down and put them in a visible place where you’ll see them every day and be reminded to declare them over your life?
3. Can you think of any people in your life who are currently struggling with the temptation to give up in the midst of difficult circumstances? What are some things you could do to encourage these individuals to keep believing and to stand fast in faith for the victory they desire?
Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. — 2 Corinthians 11:23
I am often amazed by people who say they want to be mightily used by God but yet are so “soft”! It doesn’t take much at all to ruffle these people’s feathers. A little inconvenience or discomfort is enough to upset them and start them complaining. And if they are asked to do a little extra work for free, they act like martyrs who are doing something extremely sacrificial!
If you’re going to do something mighty for God, you have to throw yourself into the call of God and do what is needed, regardless of whether or not it is convenient to you. The fact is, doing what God has called us to do must be paramount in our lives — more important than any comfort or pleasure. Like the examples we see in the lives of Jesus and the apostle Paul, we must be willing to do anything required or go to any length to do exactly what God has assigned to us.
Of course God wants His people to be blessed! But a believer shouldn’t start whining and complaining just because he runs into an attack of the devil that affects the level of comfort he is accustomed to. And if he’s asked to do a little more than what is usually asked of him, he shouldn’t start griping that the extra task is not a part of his job description. When a person does that, we can know that this is someone who will not do something mighty for God — at least not until he makes an adjustment in his attitude!
To push the forces of hell out of the way, you have to be more determined than hell itself. You have to be willing to do anything necessary to get the job done. The vision before you must be more important than your own personal pleasure. When you adopt this mentality for your life, you will always push through hard times and take significant territory for the Kingdom of God.
Paul then goes on to tell us more about his determined attitude to finish God’s call, regardless of what he has to do to finish it and the challenges he has to face on his way to victory.
Stripes Above Measure
In addition to working hard, Paul tells us what he has physically endured in order to fulfill his heavenly assignment. He tells us that he has been physically beaten as he pursued the fulfillment of his God-given task, experiencing “…stripes above measure….”
The word “stripes” is the Greek word plege. It means to smite, to hit, to wound, or to violently strike. There are many examples of this word in the New Testament. In Luke 10:30, Jesus tells us, “And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.” The word “wounded” is this Greek word plege.
Notice that the man’s wounds were so devastating that when the thieves departed, they assumed he was dead. These were mortal wounds. Now Paul uses this same word to describe the kinds of beatings he received as he sought to fulfill his God-given assignment in life.
This word is also used in Acts 16:33 to describe the kind of beating Paul and Silas received in Philippi. After God’s power shook the prison walls and set Paul and Silas free, the keeper of the prison came to them to ask how to be saved. Acts 16:33 tells us that once the prison guard was saved, he “…took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes…” This word “stripes” is the same Greek word plege. Here we see an example of the physical beatings Paul endured.
But this incident in Philippi was just one example of Paul being physically knocked around by opponents to the Gospel. In Second Corinthians 11:23, he goes on to say that he experienced these stripes “above measure.”
The words “above measure” are from the Greek word huperballo. It is a compound of the words huper and ballo. The word huper means above and beyond what is normal. The word ballo means to throw. And when these two words are joined together, they depict a very powerful picture!
Imagine an archer who takes his bow and arrows to the field for target practice. He aims his arrow at the bull’s-eye, pulls back on his bow, and shoots the arrow. But he misses his target and shoots way over the top or exceedingly out of range. The arrow flies way beyond the range of anything considered normal. This pictures the meaning of the Greek word huperballo.
Paul’s use of this word tells us that he was beaten way beyond the range of what we could even begin to imagine. The word huperballo describes both the frequency and the intensity of his beatings. The beatings Paul received occurred frequently. They were cruel, severe, merciless acts of brutality. What Paul’s enemies did to his body was way over the top! But Paul never allowed even these acts of physical brutality to affect his commitment to the task God had given him.
You must be more determined than the forces that will try to come against you. Otherwise, it won’t take much pressure to make you say, “This is too hard” or “I didn’t understand how difficult this was going to be.” You’ll mentally start packing your bags so you can transfer back to more comfortable territory where less is expected of you.
By no means am I wishing hardships or hard times on you. But I do pray that you make up your mind to be tougher than anything the devil ever tries to throw in your direction. In your flesh alone, you are not strong enough to withstand the devil’s assaults. But with the power of the Holy Spirit, you can resist, stand against, and drive back everything the devil will attempt to do to you, to your family, to your business, or to your church or ministry. Isn’t it time for you to make up your mind to stick with God’s call on your life and press ahead in the power of the Holy Spirit?
Prisons More Frequent
Paul goes on to tell us that he has been “…in prisons more frequent….” The word “prison” is the Greek word plulake. It describes a place of custody, a prison ward, or a place heavily guarded by keepers and watchmen. Such a prison was usually a small, dark chamber in which the most hardened, dangerous, and menacing prisoners were confined. The prisoners who were put into this particular kind of chamber were considered so risky that they were usually accompanied by a host of prison guards who guarded them twenty-four hours a day.
This word plulake (“prison”) is used in Acts 12:4 for Peter’s imprisonment in Jerusalem. Acts 12:4 tells us, “And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.” Peter must have been viewed as especially risky to have four quaternions of soldiers assigned to keep watch over him!
Paul was also kept in this kind of extreme confinement many times during his ministry; this is what he means when he says here that he has been in “prisons more frequent.” In fact, Paul became so familiar with this type of confinement that he even spent his final days under similar circumstances: “And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him” (Acts 28:16).
No one wants to go to jail! But if going to jail meant that Paul would accomplish his apostolic calling along the way, that was what he was willing to do. Paul was ready to undergo any inconvenience, pay any price, and go to all lengths to do what God had commissioned him to do. Even jail would not stop him.
In addition to the beatings and imprisonments he endured, Paul also says he was “…in deaths oft.” The word “deaths” is from the Greek word thanatos. Here, however, Paul uses the plural form, thanatoi, which is literally translated “deaths.”
We know that Paul wrote in First Corinthians 15:31, “…I die daily.” We tend to spiritualize this statement, but in reality, Paul faced actual physical death on a regular basis. When he wrote, “…I die daily,” he actually meant, “I am constantly confronted with the prospect of death.”
Paul faced death so often that he learned how to face it bravely. In Romans 14:8, he wrote, “…whether we die, we die unto the Lord….” In First Corinthians 15:55, we see that he learned to meditate on victory rather than on mortality and fatality: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” These are not allegorical verses about death. They are the thoughts of a man who faced the prospect of death almost on a daily basis.
Paul never sought to live under this constant threat of murder or execution. It was just a part of the journey to get where he needed to go. But rather than run and hide from imminent danger, he faced it bravely and kept moving forward to do what he was called to do.
Had Paul been less committed, it would have taken only a few of these difficult experiences to knock him out of the race. But because he was totally focused on finishing the assignment Heaven had given him, he pushed beyond each of these attacks, and at the end of his life, he was able to say, “…I have finished my course…” (2 Timothy 4:7).
The Holy Spirit who empowered the apostle Paul to overcome each of these instances is the same Holy Spirit who is available to help you. You never have to be a defeated victim. If you choose to take advantage of the power that is available to you, the Spirit of God will energize and lift you to a place of victory over any obstacle the devil tries to throw in your way. Never forget that you have resurrection power residing inside you (see Romans 8:11). If you’ll yield to that power, it will supernaturally quicken you to overcome every time!
So throw open your arms of faith and embrace the Spirit’s power to overcome each attack the devil has tried to orchestrate against you. If you’ll embrace that power, it will begin to flood you with everything you need to survive and to gloriously succeed in your task! Make the decision to let it start flowing today!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I thank You that because Your Spirit lives in me, I have everything I need to overcome any attack the devil would try to orchestrate against me. Because Your resurrection power resides in me, I am stronger than the devil; I am tougher than any problem; and I can outlast any time of difficulty. It is not a question of IF I will win, but of WHEN I will win the victory! I thank You for giving me the power of the Holy Spirit to outlast every attack and to persist until I have accomplished what You have asked me to do!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I am totally focused on finishing the assignment Heaven has given to me. I will successfully push beyond each attack of the enemy because the Holy Spirit is empowering me. I don’t have to be a defeated victim. I choose to take advantage of the power that is available to me. Therefore, the Spirit of God will energize and lift me to a place of victory over any obstacle the devil tries to throw in my way. I have resurrection power residing inside me, and it supernaturally quickens me to overcome every demonic attack that tries to assault me and my purpose in life!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Was there a time in your past when you felt extremely weak, but then the Spirit of God suddenly quickened you with such divine energy that you became supernaturally strong to overcome a difficult challenge in your life? If yes, what was that occasion when divine power flooded you so strongly?
2. Can you verbalize the changes that occurred in you when God’s power infused you with new strength? Were there immediate changes in your attitudes? Did it have an impact on your ability to endure?
3. How was that difficult situation resolved as a result of the supernatural empowerment you experienced?