The Apostle Paul's Secret to Surviving Bad Times
You’ve probably suffered some setbacks in ministry, not to mention a few “slings and arrows” of criticism, complaints and conflicts.
If you’re still active in ministry that means you’ve always bounced back! However, it also may be that some of my readers find themselves struggling right now under a load of stress and difficulty.
The Apostle Paul knew a thing or two about opposition, aggravation and outright suffering. I won’t list his somewhat lengthy recitation of all the bad times he endured but you can refer 2 Corinthians 11 - 12 if you want a refresher.
On the other hand, near the end of his life, Paul said this:
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8 NIV)
Wow, through it all, in his own estimation – and I am sure also in the Lord’s estimation – he fought a good fight, kept the faith and finished his course.
You and I can do the same!
How did he do that? “By the grace of God,” of course. That’s the point of 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV):
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
However, isn’t it also fair to say that Paul proved mentally resilient in all sorts of circumstances? That’s why in the next verse, 2 Corinthians 12:10 (NIV), he shows us how he adjusted his mindset:
That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
He focused his mind on the things he could control and left the things he could not control – the outcomes of his ministry – in God’s hands.
That’s something each of us can do. I’ve noticed that when we focus and fixate on things we cannot control we subject ourselves to anxiety and stress. When we focus on things we can control, we find ourselves encouraged, empowered and confident.
Psychologists use the term “psychological resilience”. A simpler term for this ability to cope with a crisis, calm one’s self and protect one’s self from the negative effect of stressors might be “bounce back.”
Enemies, false friends and a host of big, bad troubles knocked Paul down repeatedly but he bounced back each time. His commitment to personal piety and the ultimate reward fueled his remarkable mental strength.
So I encourage us all to focus on fighting the good fight, keeping the faith and finishing our course. Let’s place the outcomes of our efforts into God’s hands. I believe that if we do that, we will find ourselves more deeply peaceful, richly joyful, and incredibly inspirational to those around us.
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