Embracing Challenging Times: Insights from Paul’s Life

My mum had a tough time in 2023-24. Her kidney ailment was getting bad to worse and was on a whole lot of medications. I recently asked my mum about something that happened last year. I didn’t expect her response to be like this. She expressed in her statement,

Every time I’ve had to go to the hospital, I’ve felt a strong sense of support and solace from the Lord. I felt incredibly calm and peaceful afterwards. I thought that if He was there with me. I was not surprised by it as she has always been a woman of prayer. This encouraged me more.

After hearing her response, I found myself pondering some challenging questions. I’m wondering if my perspective would be different if I were in her situation. I’m ashamed to say this, but I highly doubt I would.

Many I know who face challenges, their initial response is to feel sorry for themselves and ask, “Why, God?” Is it my fault?

As I strive to become more like Christ, I have realised that her perspective is more in line with the teachings of the Bible and has yielded better results.

Paul’s Dealing With Adversity

Given the challenges my mother has faced in the past year, I feel a strong urge to examine how the apostle Paul dealt with adversity. Paul was an ideal candidate to initiate this research because he had personally experienced poverty, pain, loss, and hurt. His idea of success immediately grabbed my attention. The person was held, denied a fair trial, imprisoned, and put under house arrest, even though we believe they did nothing wrong.

In addition to the numerous challenges he faced, including physical assaults, spreading of rumours, baseless accusations, an actual shipwreck and numerous beatings with rods. Amid everything going on, he communicates to the Philippians that his circumstances have contributed to the advancement of the gospel.

Philippians 1:21 — For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.

Despite experiencing discomfort, Paul refuses to let it overpower him. He wants to make it clear to the Philippians that his suffering allowed the gospel to reach people who wouldn’t have heard it otherwise. The response demonstrates his belief in the all-powerful and all-sufficient nature of God.

He believed that God could use his difficult experiences to bring glory to his message, resulting in something extraordinary and timeless. It suggests that Paul prioritised something other than himself, his cause, or his convenience. He viewed his struggles not in terms of his material wealth, but rather about God’s eternal plan.

Paul’s Devotion And Choice

Paul saw connections in every aspect of life. He prioritised his devotion to Christ over his comfort. In my own experience, I’ve noticed that during difficult periods, we tend to either become more focused on our suffering and feeling sorry for ourselves, or we become more dedicated to Christ and His love.

Paul’s life serves as a prime example of the choice. Paul came to understand the power of Jesus Christ to support us during difficult times. This is the experience that we, as followers of Jesus, are called to embrace—the strength of Christ that sustains us in our times of suffering.

I just want to make it clear that I’m not trying to minimise the seriousness of our situation or pretend that everything is always flawless. My point is that we should remain neutral and not let ourselves be affected by difficult situations.

Additionally, I want to emphasise that I am not attempting to criticise anyone who is feeling down due to the current circumstances. There is a valuable lesson that Christians can learn from Paul’s life – that even in difficult circumstances, God has the power to bring about positive outcomes. Things will turn out in his favour.

Jesus – Our Source of Life and Joy

Even in times of sorrow, we can find joy and serenity when Jesus is our ultimate source of joy. If we rely on our physical well-being, financial status, or personal connections or influence, then losing any of these can lead to feelings of disappointment and despair. It’s as if we’re being torn away from the things that bring us joy and fulfilment.

This has led me to a deep and demanding realisation: if I allow my joy and peace to fade when things don’t go well, then what I’m essentially admitting is that I’m just like everyone else; I’ve been depending on Jesus as mere superstition. My relationship with Jesus has always been pretty straightforward, to be honest. My focus was solely on the benefits I could receive from Him.

However, if we consider Jesus as our foundation and acknowledge that we can find all our needs fulfilled in Him, we can experience joy and peace in Him, regardless of the severity of our circumstances. This is because God has made a promise to never leave us or abandon us.

Hebrews 13:5 — “For He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”

Having a relationship with Jesus is truly the most significant aspect of our lives, and it becomes evident to those around us. It’s important to remember that we can still experience deep sadness and sorrow when others are going through difficult times. If Christ is our anchor, we can find comfort and strength in Him, even in times of sorrow and loss. Understanding that sadness is temporary and love is everlasting fills us with optimism in Jesus, who offers us hope for eternity.

A.W. Tozer said,

“Everything in One belongs to the person who treasures God above all else.”

To Live Is Christ

Paul firmly believes that his understanding and eternal outlook lead him to the conclusion that “to live is Christ.” His main objective is to strengthen his bond with Jesus Christ for the entirety of his time on Earth. Paul’s peace remained unshaken, regardless of the challenges he faced in life or death, thanks to his deep connection with Christ.

Hudson Taylor, a missionary with a distinct perspective, made a lasting impact. Taylor faced several obstacles that needed to be overcome. He faced numerous challenges during his time in the mission field, including the heartbreaking loss of his first wife and four children, along with his health issues.

I find comfort in knowing that I have been given a task by the Lord, guiding my path and shaping my experiences. I hadn’t actively pursued this assignment, but I’m hesitant to quit. He comprehends the purpose behind placing me in this situation, whether it is for learning, accomplishing tasks, or enduring challenges.

Discovering that He can make decisions that benefit me has alleviated all of my worries. It doesn’t matter where or how He places me. I don’t need to be concerned about that; God’s grace extends to even the most basic situations, and His kindness is sufficient even in the most challenging times.

Paul often explored the universal experiences of grief, anguish, and hardship in his writing. It is important to acknowledge that his and the other disciples’ lives were challenging and frequently unfair, without downplaying this fact.

I want to make it clear that I am not underestimating the challenges that anyone might be facing. However, Paul’s perspective on life and his situation is different from the mainstream. He came to understand that God can use any situation, even one that is difficult or unfair, to bring about His glory and ultimately benefit.

Paul’s declaration of living for and gauging success by a higher purpose demonstrates his conviction and determination. Jesus is something truly extraordinary. I hope that in the future when faced with challenges, I can continue to maintain this positive outlook and keep looking unto Jesus.

Hebrews 12:2 — keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Blessings,

Godwin.


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Godwin Shon Sequeira
Godwin Shon Sequeira
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