Left for dead
They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. – Act 14:19
2 Corinthians 11:23-27
23 I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again.
24 Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes.
25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea.
26 I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not.
27 I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm
Harry Ironside was laid aside for dead when he was born on October 14, 1876 in Toronto, Canada. His mother was in a bad state and needed of all the attention she could get if she were to pull through. But God had big plans for the “dead” baby. A nurse detected a feeble pulse in him. She popped him into a bath of hot water and he quickly exercised the vocal cords which would declare Christ to perhaps a million listeners over the course of his life.
By the time he was four, he had memorized his first scripture verse. That did not set his mind at rest with God. He became a great student of the Bible, reading it through fourteen times by the time he was fourteen years old. At fourteen years of age, he asked the Lord for salvation. He became associated with the Plymouth Brethren. Despite only an eighth-grade education, Harry Ironside became one of the world’s best-known and best-beloved Bible teachers, traveling the globe to give messages. Never ordained, he nonetheless pastored Moody Memorial Church in Chicago for eighteen years (christianity.com).
What could be more tragic than being born dead? I would guess to be born alive, but to wish you were dead. Many of us have had thoughts like that because of the traumas, disappointments, rejections, or abuse that we have suffered.
Job was a man like that. He suffered greatly in most all areas of his life. He lost much of his family, his wealth, and eventually his health. Finally, when he thought he could take no more, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth (Job 3:1). Job continued to live on in his gloom, frustration, and anger. He found himself questioning everything. He never expected to find any answers. One of his friends, Elihu, encouraged him to end the pity party. Elihu redirects Job’s thoughts away from his suffering. He exhorted him to focus instead on the majesty and greatness of the Father (Job 36,37).
14 “Hear this, O Job; stop and consider the wondrous works of God.
22 God is clothed with awesome majesty.
23 The Almighty– we cannot find him; he is great in power; justice and abundant righteousness he will not violate.
24 Therefore men fear him; he does not regard any who are wise in their own conceit.”
Elihu’s point is that Job is self-absorbed and clueless. He really has no hint as to what is going on, why it is happening, and what the end result will be. It should be obvious even to the most casual observer, that mere man cannot begin to comprehend the Father’s ways. We are left with only two options; we can continue to be wise in our own eyes or we can become truly wise.
Job was startled and totally surprised when the Father, the King of the universe shows up and turns the tables. He begins to query him, asking him questions that demonstrated how limited Job’s knowledge and understanding were (Job 38,39). There is nothing abnormal about questioning God, people do it all the time. But are you really prepared for the answer?
1 Then the LORD said to Job,
2 “Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?”
3 Then Job replied to the LORD,
4 “I am nothing– how could I ever find the answers? I will cover my mouth with my hand.
5 I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say.”
In the end, prudent people realize that there is not much chance of winning an argument with the almighty, all-powerful, all-knowing, eternal Father. Job eventually figures this out for himself.
1 Then Job replied to the LORD:
2 “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you.
3 You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I– and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me.
5 I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. 6 I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.”
REFLECT & PRAY
The Father has a purpose and a plan for all that He does. He does not always explain the whys of our lives. Often, they are only understood in retrospect
Father, there have been so many times that I have questioned you. I wish I could take it all back.
The apostle Paul endured much suffering as he served the Father. But from the beginning he had something, that Job lacked, an eternal perspective. He understood that being true to the faith and living it out, came with a price. Paul had received a high calling and responsibility from the Father. With the high calling, came a high price.
2 Timothy 3:10-14
10 Timothy, certainly know what I teach, and how I live, and what my purpose in life is. You know my faith, my patience, my love, and my endurance.
11 You know how much persecution and suffering I have endured. You know all about how I was persecuted in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra– but the Lord rescued me from all of it.
12 Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
14 But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you.
There was never question in Paul’s mind about his purpose. He wanted to do the Father’s will at all costs and finish the work that the Father had for him. Paul never asked others to suffer for him, but he was always willing to suffer for others. In his case, he suffered for doing the right thing. Seeking to be faithful and godly is not a ticket to escape from suffering and persecution. Rather, it is a front row seat to it.
This is one of those promises of God that we’d really rather do without. God tells us this, not to discourage us, but to prepare us for the inevitable so that we can shine for Him when the time comes (Stanley).