Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned.…
— 2 Corinthians 11:25
I’ll never forget the day one of our workers came to see me with deep gashes running across his cheekbones and nose. When I saw the condition of his face, I was completely taken aback. The sight simply broke my heart.
It was this young man’s task to carry copies of our television programs to one of the most dangerous regions reached by our television broadcast. We all knew that this man was risking his life to travel every month to that region carrying the actual programs and the cash to pay for the broadcasting of the programs. However, we were all committed to the goal of reaching that region so the Word could be sent via television into the homes of millions who had never heard the Gospel before.
Because this man traveled extensively to a very hostile Muslim region of the world, he knew that each trip placed his life in jeopardy. Yet because he was so committed to getting the Word to the unreached people of that region, he was willing to even lay down his life if necessary as he continued to fulfill his assignment. His passion to see the lost saved had spilled over to his wife. She understood the seriousness of his job but rejoiced with him at the thought of people hearing the Good News of Jesus Christ.
*[If you started reading this from your email, begin reading here.]
As this young man stood before me that day with a battered face, a black-and-blue eye, and that ugly, deep gash that ran across his cheekbones and nose, I knew he had been attacked on one of his trips to that region to deliver our television programs. He was such a young, handsome man; it just broke my heart to see his face so marred.
When he saw that the gashes on his face deeply troubled me, the young man said, “Brother Rick, don’t worry about me. I’ll be all right. I’m so thankful they didn’t get the television programs or the cash I was carrying to pay for the broadcasts. The Lord was with me, and I know that now He will heal me.” Although he had obviously been severely beaten, he was still full of the joy of the Holy Spirit.
As I heard the whole story of what happened to him, I came to understand what a miracle it was that he was still alive. The trap these gospel-haters had set for him could have killed him. But instead of being afraid to go back to that region again, he had come to our office to pick up the next set of television programs and the cash to pay for them. As he walked out of my office, I wanted to salute him! In my mind, he was and continues to be a true hero of the faith!
Don’t think that persecution is something that happened only in New Testament times. It is still happening today all over the world, and the believers who live and work in these dangerous regions need our prayers! Please remember to pray for them when you spend time with the Lord.
But just as the apostle Paul was energized to get up and get moving again, those who lay claim to God’s power today are also energized to get past the times of intense persecution or opposition they endure. These believers know they’re not destined to live in defeat or despair as long as they don’t waste time bemoaning what happened to them. They also know that crying about the attacks of the enemy doesn’t change the fact that they happened; therefore, they just grab hold of God’s power and adamantly refuse to let the devil stop them or slow them down!
In Second Corinthians 11:25, Paul tells us about similar events that happened to him. Although these events could have been devastating to someone else, they had almost no effect on Paul. He was determined to do his job and not to let anything hinder him! In this verse, he says, “Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned.…”
Thrice Was I Beaten With Rods
In the ancient world, a beating with rods was a horrible, ugly form of torture. A strong man would bind the victim’s arms tightly around his body, incapacitating the victim’s ability to move in much the same way as a straightjacket would do. Then while the victim’s upper chest and head still lay on the ground, his legs would be pulled up into the air.
At this point, a man with a huge rod — normally made of metal — would begin whacking the bottom of the victim’s feet. He would whack and whack and whack until the feet of the victim were bleeding, broken, and maimed. At times this beating was so severe that the victim would afterward never be able to walk again.
It’s interesting that the book of Acts never gives us a specific example of Paul being beaten with rods in such a manner. However, as we continue to look at the entire list of what Paul encountered (2 Corinthians 11:23-27), we see that many events occurred during Paul’s ministry that Luke never recorded in the book of Acts. But Paul never forgot any of them, and he tells us here about some of those events into which the book of Acts gives us no insight.
We don’t know when Paul’s feet-beating experiences occurred, but he tells us that he was beaten with rods three different times during the course of his ministry. It’s obvious that the devil didn’t want this Gospel preacher to take the Gospel anywhere else! Satan attempted to maim Paul’s feet to permanently knock him out of the race.
You see, the feet of a Gospel preacher are threatening to the devil. Paul quoted Isaiah 52:7 when he wrote, “…How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:15). This attack on Paul’s feet was an attack against the Gospel.
It is evident that rather than throw in the towel and quit because of this experience, Paul grabbed hold of the power of God, put his shoes back on, got up, and went on his way to keep doing what God called him to do. This was a man the devil couldn’t keep down!
No wonder Paul wrote about the resurrection power of God! He was writing from personal experience when he said, “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:11).
Once Was I Stoned
This event occurred in Acts 14:19. After a successful campaign among the Gentiles in Lystra, Jewish opposers came from Iconium to stir up trouble for Paul’s ministry. They were so effective in distributing bad information about Paul that the entire city turned against him. In a moment of fury, the people of Lystra stoned him and “…drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead” (Acts 14:19).
It may well be that Paul was dead. Stoning was a malicious act. The stoners aimed their sharp rocks at the victim’s head in order to deal a fatal blow. To assure the victim’s death, the people didn’t usually stop the stoning until his head was crushed. When it was apparent that there was no possibility of survival, the remaining rocks were dumped and the victim’s corpse was dragged out of the city and left for the dogs and wild beasts to eat. So when Acts 14:19 says the people of Lystra “supposed” Paul was dead, there is no reason to think he was not dead at that moment.
Acts 14:20 tells us that as the disciples came and stood near Paul’s corpse, “he rose up.” Is it possible that these disciples joined hands and prayed for Paul’s resurrection? This is precisely my view.
Later Paul gave testimony of a visit he made to Heaven (see 2 Corinthians 12:1-4). He explained that he heard and saw things that he had never been given permission to speak. When did Paul make this visit to Heaven? Could it have been at the time he was stoned in Lystra? Yes, I personally think so.
No wonder Paul could write with such conviction: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life…shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38,39). Even death cannot stop a man who is determined to keep on going!
Paul could have resigned himself to his fate as the people were stoning him and thought, Well, I guess this is the end of the road. I guess I’ll give up and die now. If he had done that, I’m sure stoning would have been the end of him. But I’m just certain that as they stoned Paul, he thought, I’m not dying now! My job isn’t done! If they kill me, I’ll just have to be resurrected!
Being stoned was never a part of Paul’s plan. It was an unexpected roadblock that the devil orchestrated to try to stop him from fulfilling his call. But although the experience stole time and delayed Paul’s plans a little, it did not permanently hinder him from going on. God can join Himself to this kind of person! God knows this is the kind of person who is really going to get something done!
Are you this kind of person? Does God emphatically know that you will never surrender to any attack of the devil? Have you demonstrated that you are going to keep forging ahead to finish your assignment and that you will never quit until you can say the job is done?
Don’t get too upset if troubles come against you. It doesn’t mean you have a lack of faith; it just means you live in a world where the devil operates and hassles people. The fact that you do have faith means you never have to be overcome by these attacks of the enemy. If you’ll grab hold of victory — the way Jesus did, Paul did, and so many others before you did — you can overcome the world and everything in it.
So take heart, and be courageous! As you determine to keep on walking in God’s power, no matter WHAT comes against you, the victory really does belong to you!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I want to be the kind of person who never allows the circumstances of life to stop me from accomplishing Your plan for my life. I am sorry for the times I’ve acted weak and complained that the circumstances I faced were too hard to deal with. The truth is, You have given me Your Spirit and Your power. That means there is no problem, no challenge, and no hardship I cannot conquer and overcome. If I take the power You make available to me, I can do anything You tell me to do. So today I am making my choice. I am reaching out by faith to grab hold of Your Spirit’s power so I can be supernaturally quickened to complete every assignment Heaven ever asks me to do.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I am the kind of person God can count on to get something done. God knows I will never surrender to any attack of the devil. I regularly demonstrate that I am going to keep forging ahead to finish my assignment and that I will never quit until I can say the job is done. Jesus overcame the world, and today He gives me the power to overcome it too. Like Jesus and other strong men and women of God before me, I will overcome the world and every form of opposition the devil puts in my way!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. What is your initial reaction when you run into an especially difficult challenge? Do you immediately believe you can overcome it, or do you feel a stab of fear that you’re going to fail or that you’re not going to survive it?
2. What does your reaction to these challenges reveal about you and your level of faith?
3. When troublesome events occur to you, to your family, to your business, to your church, or to your ministry, what is the first action you take to repel Satan’s attacks against you? If someone you knew was being attacked, what steps would you tell that person to take to overcome the enemy’s strategies in his life?