16I don't want any of you to think I am a fool. But if you do, then let me be a fool and brag a little. 17When I do all this bragging, I do it as a fool and not for the Lord. 18Yet if others want to brag about what they have done, so will I. 19And since you are so smart, you will gladly put up with a fool. 20In fact, you let people make slaves of you and cheat you and steal from you. Why, you even let them strut around and slap you in the face. 21I am ashamed to say we are too weak to behave in such a way.
If they can brag, so can I, but it is a foolish thing to do. 22Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Jews? So am I. Are they from the family of Abraham? Well, so am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a fool to talk this way, but I serve him better than they do. I have worked harder and have been put in jail more times. I have been beaten with whips more and have been in danger of death more often.
24 Five times my own people gave me 39 lashes with a whip. 25 Three times the Romans beat me with a big stick, and once my enemies stoned me. I have been shipwrecked three times, and I even had to spend a night and a day in the sea. 26 During my many travels, I have been in danger from rivers, robbers, my own people, and foreigners. My life has been in danger in cities, in deserts, at sea, and with people who only pretended to be the Lord's followers.
27I have worked and struggled and spent many sleepless nights. I have gone hungry and thirsty and often had nothing to eat. I have been cold from not having enough clothes to keep me warm. 28Besides everything else, each day I am burdened down, worrying about all the churches. 29When others are weak, I am weak too. When others are tricked into sin, I get angry.
30If I have to brag, I will brag about how weak I am. 31God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, knows I am not lying. And God is to be praised forever! 32 The governor of Damascus at the time of King Aretas had the city gates guarded, so he could capture me. 33But I escaped by being let down in a basket through a window in the city wall.
We all go through hard times. What we choose to focus on will make a difference as to how we come through it. I have heard too many stories about people who have gone through terrible ordeals, and they choose to not forgive and stay bitter. Similarly, I have heard stories about people who have gone through something bad, and have forgiven where needed, and have
not allowed the circumstance to dictate their attitude. What we choose to focus on will determine how we live beyond that trial.
Paul directs his mind to the Lord (vv 30, 31). Even though God allowed Paul to suffer many things (Acts 9:16), he was also his strength, enabling him to endure his sufferings. He had a foundational knowledge that there was something else to attain: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14 NIV). Jesus is our hope when all seems hopeless. “Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:17, 18).
All suffering is hard regardless of the severity. We also need to pray for those who are suffering, whether it is someone we know or the persecuted church in general.
Whatever it is we have gone through or are going through we need to be reminded that God is in control and we are his. We have an eternal home that cannot be taken from us.
Written by Rob Longley and Annabel Robinson.
Lord Jesus, I need you to help me through the hard times. Your word says that you will be with me through those dark valleys. I thank you that you are my light and my fortress. I praise you that you will never leave me or forsake me. It is in your name I pray, Amen.
Although Robert studied at the Alberta College of Art in the early 1980’s, in about 1987 he stopped painting. In the summer of 2010, God told him that he needed to get serious with his art. God is his source of life, inspiration and motivation. His heart’s desire is to worship God through art. Robert believes the purpose for his art is to paint images that will always point back to God.