If it were not for Jesus and the promise He gave NO ONE would endure what the cross requires. Paul lists what he has personally faced on account of Jesus. He could not do it alone and would have no desire if it were not the truth.
Paul is crying out to those still in rebellion against his teachings and earlier letters. He has put his whole life on the line for the gospel. Everything he does he does it so others will recognize the salvation Jesus is offering.
I can almost see him looking dumbfounded at those who still refuse to listen. “What else do I have to do to convince you?” Then he lists the highlights of what he has gone through on behalf of the gospel. “Great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger” (verses 4-5). Then he lists how they faced all this. “By purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left” (verses 7-8).
I think the crowning phrase here is “the power of God.” They would not have been able to endure the first without the second. There would be no patience during imprisonments without God. There would no patience during hunger and sleepless nights without the power of the Holy Spirit. Genuine love for those beating them would NEVER have existed apart from God. “Don’t you get it? If this gospel wasn’t true NO ONE would endure what we have! Why do you still refuse to listen?!”
“Yes, we have suffered much but we have received much more.” Even while going through such hardships Paul and those with him on this journey were still blessed. One of my favorite examples of receiving much even when enduring extreme hardship is when Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned. The fact that they had joy that night while in the deepest part of the prison is a testimony to the power of God. The fact of the miracle release is icing on the cake.
Paul is calling out to those still holding back, “Open your hearts to Jesus in truth and see how He will change your life.”
The world can’t and won’t understand it. They refuse to listen. They will fight against it at every turn. But only when you truly give your life over to Jesus can you be free. It is amazing how surrendering equals freedom.
Father God, enlarge my heart for others. I am NOT asking to join Paul’s list of trials. The ones I have walked through are plenty for me thank You! The blessings You have given me during my struggles are amazing too. Not as earth shaking as Paul’s but awe inspiring in their own. But Lord there I always room for more of You and more love for those around me. Help me share my testimony and let it make a difference for someone else who is searching. Help my testimony grow each day too by my following You and watching what You do with my life.