S (Scripture) – 1 Corinthians 4:9-13
“For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.” NASB
“It seems to me that God has put us who bear His Message on stage in a theatre in which no one wants to buy a ticket. We’re something everyone stands around and stares at, like an accident in the street. We’re the Messiah’s misfits. You might be sure of yourselves, but we live in the midst of frailties and uncertainties. You might be well-thought-of by others, but we’re mostly kicked around. Much of the time we don’t have enough to eat, we wear patched and threadbare clothes, we get doors slammed in our faces, and we pick up odd jobs anywhere we can to eke out a living. When they call us names, we say, ‘God bless you.’ When they spread rumors about us, we put in a good word for them. We’re treated like garbage, potato peelings from the culture’s kitchen. And it’s not getting any better.” The Message
O (Observation) – Lord, as Paul is talking to this newly established church at Corinth, my heart is heavy for him and the other apostles. So many intense words to describe what their daily existence must have been like. Certainly not a glamorous life. Wherever Paul went, he was protested against, beaten, wrongfully imprisoned, told to stop preaching in the Name of Jesus, or some combination thereof. Why would anyone keep doing this to themself day after day? What could possibly drive someone to intentionally inflict all of this misery upon themself when all that would be needed to make it stop is to go live a “normal” life and back off of the whole missionary-to-the-world gig?
Here’s why: When you know that you know that the King of kings and the Lord of lords is who He says He is, and you have met Him face-to-face, it’s impossible to continue living a lie, pretending He doesn’t exist. I don’t believe it could have been even a remote possibility that Paul would have carried on his life with a good J-O-B, went fishing occasionally, and celebrated shabbat services with friends each week as if nothing had happened with Jesus. Paul knew the truth about Jesus. He knew he had the Holy Spirit with him to carry out his calling of sharing that Good News with the world. He was a man on a mission, and there wasn’t anything in this world that could stop him.
A (Application) – Lord Jesus, this world (overall) does not take kindly to those who trust in You. They never have, and they never will. We are blessed to live in a country that, at least for now, allows us to worship You freely. This is not true in many parts of the world. In so many places, Your followers have to meet underground, and read the Bible with constant fear for their lives if they are caught. Even though we are able to worship You freely, we do encounter plenty of opposition and ridicule along the way. What’s fascinating to me is that the more governments and persecutors attempt to push back against Your truth, the more the church flourishes.
So many “cult” leaders have come and gone over the years who had far more than 12 followers behind them, but when the cult leader dies, so goes the cult. To just fathom that Your followers were perceived as fanatics of some “cult” of the day, but look at what has happened over the last 2,000 years since You died and rose again. All of the apostles lived this life of destitution and persecution, ultimately dying for believing in You. Yet, here we are today. The work they started so long ago on foot to carry Your truth to the world has finally reached even the most remote parts of our human population. Thousands of people each day from Islam, Judaism, and other world religions are turning to the truth of Who You are. May we take great comfort in knowing that any backlash we may receive in this life is nothing compared to what the apostles endured, and even if it was, it would be worth it.
P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, Your word tells us that we will indeed face persecution in this life as Your children. We are to take heart, for You have overcome the world (John 16:33). Help us to see Your story with a different perspective, and to know that we are on to something with the more persecution we face. I pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who are enduring truly horrific treatment for their faith – free them from their captors and give them peace and comfort in the midst of their agony. May we remember that our reward is in Heaven, and that our eternity with You is far greater than any amount of time we have here in this life.