It's hard for me to read Paul's words without wincing: "Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep."
It's hard for me to read Paul's words without wincing:
Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. (2 Corinthians 11:24–25)
Can you imagine being beaten "times without number"? I cannot. Here is the awful reality of physical abuse. Few people will ever know such extreme pain. But if you think the man was pretty much alone in it all, get hold of a copy of Fox's Book of Martyrs or read it online. There is no way to get around it; God's servants often become scapegoats.
This is true emotionally more frequently than physically. Humanity’s twisted depravity, for some reason, likes to express itself in this way. Take the prophet Daniel, for example. Faithful, efficient, honest, dedicated to the maximum, the man served others with a pure heart. But it backfired on him. According to the sixth chapter of the book that bears his name, the very people he worked with turned on him. They set out to prove he lacked integrity. They left no stone unturned.
Can you imagine how that hurt? You are the object of investigation. You hear whisperings about your character. Stories swirl around, calling into question your words, your actions. Every move you make is viewed with suspicion. And yet there is not a shred of truth to it. You have been a model of authenticity, you have devoted yourself to the dual role of helping others and honoring the Lord . . . and this is the thanks you get.
I'll tell you, it takes the grace of almighty God for us to press on under those circumstances and to accept His plan over our own.