Every time I read about the suffering that the Apostle Paul had to endure during his life, I am continually humbled to the point of shame. For I feel like I have suffered so much in the last year, having my faith put to the test by intense personal affliction and heartache. I often think that the difficulties I have had to go through could not be any worse, that there could not be a darker abyss of despair than the valley I found myself in. But the Scriptures tell us that the Apostle suffered even worse, and yet he did not despair.
Paul was a man who had truly experienced hardship in ministry: beaten and whipped; stoned and shipwrecked; lost and adrift at sea; attacked by Christians and unbelievers alike; and facing death threats from Gentiles and even his own Jewish people (cf. 2 Cor 11:16ff). In all these respects, he was no ordinary disciple of Jesus Christ. And yet, he was just a regular minister of the gospel in many respects. The only thing different between Paul and me was that he understood the necessity of suffering in gospel service and in his personal spiritual pilgrimage.