Monday, June 6, 2016, 5:32 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “All Through the Night.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 2 Corinthians 11-12 (Select vv. ESV). Hardships and Persecutions (11:24-29) Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? False apostles, who were “deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ,” were trying to discredit Paul and his ministry. They were influencing the people, and they were bringing into question Paul’s apostolic authority, as well as they were teaching “another Jesus.” So, Paul felt the need to defend his ministry, his teaching, and his apostolic authority so that the gospel itself would not be brought into disrepute and the people led astray from their pure devotion to Christ to follow after what is false. So, included in Paul’s defense, he spoke of all the difficulties and persecutions he faced for the sake of the gospel and because of his love and concern for the people’s spiritual condition (See: 2 Co. 10-11). When we follow Jesus Christ with our lives in pure devotion to him, and we forsake other gods of this world, we also will be hated and persecuted. When we trust in God’s word, and we stand strong on the truths of scripture, and we do not compromise with the world of sin, we, too, may face much rejection and false accusations. When we care about people enough to tell them the truth of what God’s word teaches us regarding holy living, repentance and obedience to Christ and his word, we, as well, may face much in the way of people trying to discredit our message and ministry in the hope that they can lead people to what is false. And, much of this persecution may come from within the church and its leadership, too. Not many Christians in America (the USA) have faced a great deal of physical persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ in comparison to what Christians in other countries have had to face, but I believe it is coming to America. It is just a matter of how soon. Yet, we are already beginning to see the groundwork being laid for the persecution of those who stand on God’s word and who do not compromise with the world. We are being tagged as intolerant, bigoted, hateful, fear-mongers, crazy, and as extremists who must be silenced or reprogrammed, and this coming from leaders within our nation and the church at large. For many years this has been building within the church as many leaders are being trained to disregard those who have strong spiritual convictions, in favor of the naïve and moldable. The closer we get to our Lord in our walks of faith and obedience, the greater our concern for the churches must be, as well as the more sensitive we will be to the Spirit’s voice in seeing all the junk that is going on within the church being done in the name of Christ. We will begin to see with spiritual eyes in much discernment, and we will start to see through our Lord’s eyes, and will feel what he feels. And we, as well, will have ardent concern for the churches of today and for the people of God who are being led astray from their pure devotion to Christ to follow after “another Jesus” other than the one of scripture. His Power made Perfect in Weakness (12:7-10) So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. Not only did Paul face much persecution for his faith and testimony for Jesus Christ, and for the sake of the gospel of Christ and his love and concern for the church, but God gave him a thorn in his flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass him, in order to keep him from becoming conceited because of all the great revelations God was giving to him. Now, there are many speculations concerning what Paul’s thorn may have been, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we understand that God may give or allow afflictions in our lives, in addition to persecution, in order to keep us humble, and to keep us calling on him for help, so that we don’t get big heads or begin to think we are “hot stuff” because of all that God is doing through our lives. We have all sinned. We have all come up short of attaining God’s divine approval in our own merit. Not one of us is deserving of God’s grace. We are who we are, and we are able to do what we do for the glory of God only because of God’s grace, and not because of our own greatness. Yet, we must understand that God is completely sovereign over every aspect of our lives. He is in complete control of all that he allows or causes to come into our lives. If we go through persecution and/or affliction of any kind, it has a purpose in our lives and in the lives of others who are touched by our lives for Jesus and for his gospel. God disciplines us for our good, “so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (See: Heb. 12:3-11). Paul realized that this thorn was for his good, because through this weakness God’s power was manifested. When we are weak, and God does something powerful through us, it becomes obvious that only through his power could this be done, and thus he gets the glory instead of us, which is how it should be. As well, it keeps us humble because we know that only God could do this. Paul resigned himself to accept not only this weakness (this thorn) into his life, knowing it was for his good, and for the glory of God, but he also accepted persecutions, insults, hardships and difficulties, knowing that through his weaknesses God’s power is made manifest. Yet, not only did he resign himself to these, but he delighted in them. How many of us can say that and mean it? I admit I don’t always delight in them, but God is working on me in that area still, and I am growing. Yet, I have learned to accept much in the way of persecution and difficulties, knowing that they are for my good and for the glory of God. And, I pray that God will mature me through them, and that he will teach me whatever it is that he wants me to learn through them, so that I may grow in him and be transformed into his image, and that he may use me for his glory in the lives of others. All Through the Night / An Original Work / December 7, 2013 Based off Various Scriptures Blessed are you when you’re persecuted Because of your faith in Jesus Christ. Blessed are you when people insult you, And falsely say what leads folks to doubt. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is Great in the heavens. You’re not alone. When you are persecuted in one place, Flee to another. God will be there. You will be hated by all the nations Because you testify of God’s grace. Many will seize you and persecute you, And put to death the foll’wers of Christ. Yet, do not fear what humans may do to you, For I’m with you all through the night. I tell you, love your enemies with my love, And forgive as I forgave you. Pray for those who do evil against you. Rest in my love and grace from above.