When there is a problem, looking under the hood of your car isn’t enough. You need to inspect the parts that have received excessive wear and tear. Are you worn and torn by stress? Have you analyzed your own condition? By taking a closer look at Paul’s many experiences, you can check out what circumstances are most likely to cause stress. If the pressures in your life are not being used to press you closer to the Lord, you may be on the way to a blowout!
“Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying.” (2 Corinthians 11:22–31)
CONFLICT: Paul was met with extreme opposition from others. 2 Corinthians 11:23–24
- Opposing values of family and friends
- Unresolved anger in relationships
- Unrealistic expectations of another person
- Lack of open communication in relationships
CRISIS: Paul was shipwrecked and often in extreme danger. 2 Corinthians 11:25–26
- Death of a friend or family member
- Separation or divorce
- Severe illness or handicaps
- Unexpected trauma of any kind
CHANGE: Paul was constantly on the move, often going without sleep. 2 Corinthians 11:26–27
- Change of environment
- Change in financial state
- Change in employment
- Change in sleeping and health habits
CONDEMNATION: Paul was rejected and betrayed by the Gentiles and by his own people. 2 Corinthians 11:26
- Rejection by significant people in your life
- Lack of support from your coworkers
- Unfaithfulness of a friend
- False accusations about your character
CONCERNS: Paul carried the daily pressure of concern for the churches. 2 Corinthians 11:28
- Concern for loved ones
- Anxiety about the future
- Fear of failure
- Perfectionism and excessive concern with detail
COMPETITION: Paul chose to boast only in his weaknesses. 2 Corinthians 11:30
- Base your acceptance on who you are in Christ.
- See your weaknesses as God’s opportunities.
- Give up the need to be in control.
- Rejoice in the success of others.
CONSCIENCE: Paul was secure in his integrity before the Lord. 2 Corinthians 11:31
- Put God first in all your activities.
- Allow God to meet your needs.
- Respond to the needs of others.
- Repent of sin in your life.
Paul was able to have peace in the midst of terrible stress and suffering, so we must look to see if there is a root cause of our stress.
What do you need to know and believe that will enable you to have success over stress?
- WRONG BELIEF: “My life is out of control. I feel helpless to cope with all this stress in my life.”
- RIGHT BELIEF: God has allowed this stress in my life to bless my life and reveal my weaknesses. I am grateful for the pressures that have pressed me closer to Him and caused me to allow Christ to be my strength. “ ‘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. 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” (2 Corinthians 12:9–10).
[June Hunt, Hope for the Heart, 2008]