“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” 1Cor. 15:19
The Apostle Paul said he would be the world’s most miserable man, if this earthly life was all that mattered. He declared that he was of ALL men most miserable.
I remember my mom, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, saying that she was miserable. She was a great mom but she was in misery much of her life. She was spiritually tormented. I don’t think she would have said she was the most miserable of all. I’m pretty sure there are people reading this that may feel that your life is miserable. Perhaps you have run out of hope and you are taunted with little assurance of things getting any better, nor is there evidence of anything improving. I think the key to Paul’s victory was in knowing this life is temporary and that God loved him in all circumstances. Look at Paul’s trials and how he overcame them.
These are Paul’s words, “From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.” He wore the marks of Jesus Christ on his body! Five times the Jews beat him like they did Jesus. 195 stripes on his back. If in this life only, he proclaimed, I am of all men most miserable…if in this life only!
“Three times I was beaten with rods.” Again, these are Paul’s own words. I have seen men beaten with rods still today in the middle eastern countries – shameful and painful beatings. Paul says, “Three times, they beat me with rods.” He said he was in death often, and in prisons more frequently.
Once he said, “I was stoned.” Just a casual mention? Hardly. The stoning in Lystra took place in 45-46 AD. Fourteen years later Paul wrote, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago – whether in the body, I do not know, or out of the body, I do not know, God knows – such a man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man – whether in the body or apart from the body, I do not know, God knows – was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.” (2Cor. 12:2-4)
After the stoning, Paul was dragged outside the city and left for dead, did he die and briefly get a glimpse of heaven. The more I think about it, the more feasible it seems. For one thing, the Jews knew how to stone somebody, as it was a part of their religious system – Stephen had been killed by such a stoning. (Act. 7). This was not a random mob attack but a supposed penalty for blasphemy. Therefore, it was designed to kill, not wound. The Jews who wanted to kill Paul (Act. 14:4-6) would hardly have tossed a few rocks and then walked away. They not only stoned Paul to the point of death but then dragged his lifeless body out of town as well. How many injuries do you think he must have sustained during all that?
Afterwards, it seems the disciples also believed Paul to be dead. In their love and concern, they gathered around his lifeless body, perhaps praying, perhaps mourning – the way people do today who have witnessed a tragic accident or murder. Yet, Paul makes a casual statement, “I was stoned.”
Paul had many such encounters in Christ to strengthen him in his misery. He saw the resurrected Jesus. He was in jail so much, today he would be called a repeated offender. In his own words he said, “Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep.” He said, based upon his testimony for Christ, that he was the most miserable man on the earth, in this life. In this life only…
“In journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fasting often, in cold and nakedness – besides the other things, what comes upon me daily; my deep concern for all the churches.” These are Paul’s own words!
How did he get thru all of this? How did he keep on loving and caring for the church? He said, besides the other things that comes upon me daily; my deep concern for all the churches. Deep concern for others, he describes as a source of his misery. Being hurt and disappointed by those you care for so much can be more painful than the physical torment. Ask any legitimate minister.
He adds one more event to his misery. “in Damascus the governor, under Aretas the king, was guarding the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desiring to arrest me; but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped from his hands.”
So far, it sounds like a good movie plot, like an invented tale, maybe from Marvel comics about a new hero. Paul was God’s man! “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.” He adds God as his witness, and has not even mentioned his thorn in the flesh.
“And lest I should be exalted about measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” 2Cor. 12:7-10
These are all Paul’s words. God allowed a demon to oppress him to keep him humble, not to punish him, for He supplied abundant grace, but so that he did not exalt himself. Paul’s abundant revelations perhaps stirred some religious pride in him that granted permission for demons to buffet him. Paul in looking over his life said, “if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are among all men most miserable.” Thank God we have hope in Christ, pretty sure Paul would tell you now, Thanks God for Jesus!
Just for Jesus,