Left for dead ∙∙
They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, thinking he was 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 born on October 14, 1876, in Toronto, Canada, under difficult circumstances. His mother’s health was in critical condition, and all attention was focused on her to ensure her survival. Despite being believed to be stillborn, the newborn was not ready to give up on his life’s purpose, as a nurse detected a faint pulse in him. The nurse quickly put him in a hot water bath, and he responded by exercising his vocal cords, which would later be used to preach Christ’s gospel to millions worldwide.
From a tender age, Harry Ironside was interested in Scripture, memorizing his first verse at four. However, he did not find peace with God until he was fourteen when he asked Jesus Christ to be his Savior. He was a dedicated student of the Bible, reading it fourteen times before turning fourteen years old. He later became associated with the Plymouth Brethren. Despite having only an eighth-grade education, he became one of the world’s most renowned Bible teachers, traveling around the world to preach the gospel. 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 wish you had been “born dead.” Many of us have had thoughts like that because of the traumas, disappointments, rejections, or abuse that we have suffered.
Jonah 4:3 Just kill me now, LORD! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.
Similarly, Job was a man who experienced immense suffering in almost every aspect of his life. He endured the loss of his family, his wealth, and even his health. Overwhelmed by the magnitude of his trials, Job eventually reached his breaking point and expressed his despair by cursing 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.
Job is startled and totally surprised when the Father, the King of the universe, shows up and turns the tables. The Father begins to interrogate Job, asking him questions that reveal how limited Job’s knowledge and understanding are (Job 38, 39). While it is not unusual for people to question God, people do it all the time. Are we 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 there is little 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 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 a 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. Instead, it is a front-row seat to it.
This is one of God’s promises that we’d rather do without. The Father tells us not to discourage us but to prepare us for the inevitable so we can shine for Him when the time comes (Stanley).
© Dr. H 2023