In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. — 2 Corinthians 11:27
I remember an employee we once had in our ministry who got distressed because she was transferred to an area of the ministry that didn’t have air control to suit her taste. Those in charge tried to adjust the thermostat to her liking, but they could never seem to please this individual. First it was too cold, and then it was too hot. And that was just the beginning. Next, this person complained because her office didn’t have a window. Nothing we could do seemed to please this worker.
Because I believed this employee had great potential, I personally went to her to discuss her impossible-to-please attitude. If that employee was going to reach the level God desired for her, it would require a serious attitude change on her part. I wanted this unreasonable complaining to stop. When we hired this person, we had never agreed that she would be provided with a window or that we would meet the ideal atmospheric conditions she demanded.
I talked through these complaints one at a time with this employee. We had bent over backwards to make this person happy; now it was time for this employee to quit complaining and make an attitude adjustment in order to make me happy. Her constant complaining was bringing a spirit of discord into our organization that I didn’t like. I decided I would not tolerate it any longer.
When I first spoke to this person, she showed thankfulness for the correction. But by the next week, she was back at it again — mumbling, murmuring, complaining, and sowing seeds of discord. The temperature wasn’t right; the chair at the desk wasn’t comfortable; the lunch hour wasn’t the exact time she desired; there was no window in her office, and on and on and on. When I saw that this employee wasn’t going to make the attitude adjustment I required, I decided to make an adjustment myself by removing her from our staff. That was that person’s last week in our office.
It is unacceptable for us as Spirit-filled believers to be complaining people. After all, we are the ones who claim to possess the power of Almighty God!
To constantly complain about small annoyances such as those mentioned above is unacceptable. If it’s possible to fix those little inconveniences, then fix them. But if the air can’t be adjusted to your liking or if you can’t have an office with a window, it’s time for you to put a smile on your face and do a good job for your employer with a happy attitude. He didn’t hire you to grumble and complain. He hired you to be a blessing!
The fact is, sometimes we don’t get to have everything just the way we’d like to have it. Yet even in those moments, you and I should serve with all our might. If we are being paid to do a good job and to be cooperative with our employer and fellow employees, then we need to do what we are being paid to do! The day we give up that servant’s attitude to become a source of constant complaining is the day we cease to be a blessing and become instead a hindrance that is no longer needed on the team.
If you’re filled with the Holy Spirit and the power of God, it’s time for you to get tough! You can do your job with joy, no matter what circumstances surround you! You can be victorious in any environment, even in working conditions that aren’t exactly what you wish they could be. Besides, if you can’t handle tiny inconveniences such as the ones we talked about earlier, how in the world do you ever think you’ll be able to stand against the devil and the strategies he will try to use to assault you when you step out in faith?
As the apostle Paul continues telling us about his experiences in Second Corinthians 11, he lets us know that he has faced all kinds of inconveniences in order to obey the will of God. I’m sure he didn’t enjoy those inconveniences, but he didn’t allow them to affect his attitude or to keep him from fulfilling the task God had given him to do.
Let’s look at a few of the inconveniences Paul endured as he marched forward to obey God.
In Hunger and Thirst
In Second Corinthians 11:27, he tells us that he endured “hunger” and “thirst.” The word “hunger” is the Greek word limos. The word “thirst” is the Greek word dipsos. These words refer to being hungry from a lack of food or thirsty from a lack of drink.
This means there were times when Paul didn’t have sufficient food to eat. This doesn’t mean he was poor and therefore couldn’t buy food. But in this verse, Paul is recalling times of inconvenience when food simply may not have been available to him and his fellow travelers.
Paul no doubt traveled through inhospitable, barren terrain where food was not abundant. Also, because of the great distances between some of the cities to which Paul and his team walked, it wasn’t always possible for them to carry enough for their journey. In such times, they would simply run out of food and drink.
Yet this lack of food and drink didn’t affect Paul’s desire to go onward to the next town. Hunger and thirst was only an inconvenience — certainly not enough to hinder him from pressing on ahead.
To make sure we understand how serious this deficit of food was from time to time, Paul went on to say that he was “…in fastings often….”
In Fastings Often
The word “fastings” is the Greek word nesteia. It refers to skipping or foregoing meals voluntarily. In this case, Paul and his team probably skipped meals because there was no time to eat. The word “often” is pollakis, and it means many times, often, or frequently.
The apostle Paul and his team kept a rigid routine and a busy schedule. Eating food was obviously not a high priority on his list of things to do. First and foremost, he wanted to accomplish his God-given objectives for each day and for each city where he labored. This doesn’t mean Paul was against eating. It simply means his thoughts and focus were not on the comfort of food.
I know that when I travel to hold leadership meetings and crusades in the territory of the former Soviet Union, I am so focused on what I am called to do that personal comforts are always a last consideration. I frequently forget to eat because I am so consumed with the work before me. This is the kind of “fastings often” Paul makes reference to in this verse. Eating was not the highest priority on his mind.
I have personally known many people who took a missions trip and then swore they would never take another one because they didn’t like the food they were given to eat on the trip. I am astonished when believers are so finicky about what they eat that they allow the issue to steal their joy and affect their obedience to God.
It perplexes me when people bewail that the food doesn’t taste like food “back home.” Of course it doesn’t! They’re not home! Then after grumbling about the food, they go to an evangelistic crusade where they expect to exercise spiritual authority to cast out demons. But how in the world do they ever think they’ll have power over demons if they don’t even have enough power to be thankful for a meal that is placed in front of them?
The phrase “in fastings often” tells us about Paul’s priorities. He didn’t take his trips to taste and experience the local menu. He went to get a job done. Good food or bad food, he went where the Lord told him to go. Time to eat or no time to eat, he was determined to succeed at the job he was given to do. Nothing as insignificant as food had the power to knock this man out of the race.
But how about the next inconvenience he lists? He went on to tell us that there were times when he and his team were also “…in cold and nakedness.”
In Cold and Nakedness
This phrase could refer to many instances in Paul’s life. For instance, he may be remembering the “cold” he felt as he treaded seawater after one of his three shipwrecks (see October 22 and October 26).
Paul may also be remembering the “cold” he felt during one of his many imprisonments. Ancient prisons were notorious for being damp and cold. Prisoners often contracted terrible cases of lung disease and died prematurely on account of these damp conditions. To make a captive’s stay in prison even more miserable, the captor would often strip him almost naked before throwing him into the cave-like cell. It isn’t possible to state definitely what Paul is referring to in his statement about “cold and nakedness,” but whatever event he is remembering, it’s obvious that it was not a pleasant experience.
In the former Soviet Union where we live, all public buildings and apartment complexes are centrally connected to a city-wide heating system. The heat is turned on for the entire city on a set day every fall, and the heat is turned off for the entire city on a set day every spring. Regardless of the temperature, the heat is not turned on or off until that date on the calendar. And once it is turned on, there is no thermostat in buildings, so the best way to control the temperature is either by opening the windows to let the cold air in or by closing the windows to retain the heat.
If it turns cold before that date in the fall when the heat is turned on, it means the entire city experiences the cold that permeates every apartment and office. Sometimes when the weather turns cold earlier than expected, the citizens may live in the cold for quite a lengthy period of time. When that happens, there is nothing people can do about it except dress in warmer clothes and try to keep themselves warm. Complaining won’t change the situation, so people learn to work and function in the cold.
I admit that this isn’t a pleasurable experience, but grumbling about the cold doesn’t make the days pass any faster. Therefore, people mentally adjust to the inconvenience; then they live and work in the cold until the day finally comes when the city turns on the heat. Everyone survives the temperature because they have no choice. They make the mental adjustment to deal with the cold and are therefore able to live through the inconvenience.
Sometimes that is the way it is with life. We don’t always get what we want or live in the style we prefer. But if we’re not getting exactly what we want and we can’t do anything to change the situation, we have a choice: 1) We can constantly complain and make it worse on ourselves and everyone else; or 2) we can make a mental adjustment and decide that we’re tough enough to handle the situation until things change. The second choice is the one God wants us to make, for this is the one that demonstrates the attitude of Jesus Christ in our lives!
So if you’ve been grumbling or complaining about a situation that just can’t be fixed to your liking, it’s time for you to quit grumbling and to start rejoicing. Put praise in your mouth, and choose to be positive. As you do, you will find the strength to endure any hardship you are facing with joy.
As you make the choice to endure this hardship in the joy of the Lord, the Holy Spirit will fill you with a spirit of victory. And in the end, you will find that you came through the difficult situation you were facing much more quickly than you ever imagined you could!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, please forgive me for the times I’ve been a whiner and a complainer! I am so sorry that I’ve made life miserable for the people who work with me at my job or at church. I recognize that I complain more than I should, and I admit that I have been wrong. I repent for my wrong behavior, and I’m asking You today to help me make a mental adjustment. Help me learn to be thankful for the blessings I have and for the salary my employer pays me. Help me to serve with a happy heart and to be a continual source of blessing instead of a continual source of complaint.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I am a blessing to my employer, my boss, my director, my supervisor, and to my pastor. They see me as a team player and a fine example of a Christian worker. My attitude is positive. I am willing to do what I am asked to do. I am never a source of contention; instead, I am a constant source of blessing to those who are over me. They are glad I work under them because I exhibit such a cooperative spirit of joy and thankfulness.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. What are some of the inconveniences you face at your place of employment or where God has called you to serve? Are these annoyances really so terrible that you have a right to be upset about them? Or does God want you to deal with these inconveniences in the joy and the power of the Holy Spirit so you can gain the victory over them?
2. If your employer, supervisor, or pastor has tried to adjust things to your liking, have you expressed your thankfulness to that person for his or her attempts to please you? Remember — the person in authority over you didn’t have to do anything at all to please you. So have you ever thanked that person for trying?
3. Is God telling you to make a mental adjustment so you can function victoriously where He has called you to live, to serve, and to work? What is that adjustment you need to make in your attitude?