Challenges in Town, Out of Town, and in the Sea!October 26, 2016
In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea.… — 2 Corinthians 11:26
Many years ago, I visited a city in the north of Russia where we were scheduled to hold a large evangelistic camapaign to reach the lost. We had been broadcasting our television programs in that region for many years; now we were coming to put the sickle into the harvest field and to reap souls for the Kingdom of God.
When our team arrived, we discovered that there was immense opposition to our arrival in that city. The religious leaders of the city were furious that we were coming to that region to preach. Their opposition was so hostile that they printed pamphlets and brochures filled with derogatory fabrications about us and then distributed them by the thousands throughout the city.
After arriving in the city, I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the large billboard that had been erected to announce our upcoming campaign. The billboard had a picture of my face on it, and the religious leaders of that city had put ladders up to the billboard, crawled up the ladders, and painted horns on the top of my head to portray me as a devil!
The day our meeting was to begin, I looked out my hotel window and saw these religious leaders, dressed in their flowing gowns, standing on the steps of our rented facility. They were using a sound system to blare out the message that anyone who came to our meetings was in danger of eternal damnation. I’m telling you, the opposition to that campaign was intense.
Because those religious leaders had authority in that city, they were able to get negative articles printed about us in the newspaper and make sure the local city magistrates were also opposed to our message. Suddenly the prices for the auditorium changed as those who controlled the city turned against our meetings and decided to demand that we pay higher prices.
But when it was finally time for the meetings to begin, the religious leaders moved off the steps as we walked right past them into the auditorium. That evening we watched the auditorium fill up with the bold, the brave, and the spiritually hungry of the city who came despite all the attempts that had been made to keep them away. We saw many people come forward to give their lives to Jesus Christ.
When Paul was ministering in his day, he faced similar predicaments in his ministry. This is why he wrote that he and his team were “…in perils in the city…” (2 Corinthians 11:26).
In Perils in the City
Think about it for a moment. How many cities was Paul chased out of during his ministry? You would think a city would be a little more civilized, but some of Paul’s worst confrontations occurred right in the heart of the world’s most advanced and cultured cities.
Paul most often labored in larger metropolitan areas. As an apostle, his primary calling was to establish the Church in every place he went. Therefore, the Holy Spirit usually sent Paul into large population centers, where there were many people and the potential of a huge harvest.
As is true in large cities today, such as New York, London, Moscow and Chicago, there were dangers in the ancient cities that didn’t exist in the smaller towns and villages. Paul faced these challenges courageously with the power of the Holy Spirit. I’m certain some of those challenges were in the financial, political, and religious realms, not to mention the normal stress a person faces when he attempts to do business in a big city.
However, none of these roadblocks ever kept Paul from doing what he was supposed to do. He pressed forward and completed his responsibility in every place to the best of his ability. He was a good soldier of Jesus Christ who kept marching forward, regardless of what the enemy tried to throw at him. But in addition to opposition in the city, Paul also said that he and his team experienced “…perils in the wilderness….”
In Perils in the Wilderness
When Paul writes about his experiences in the wilderness, he uses the word “perils” again (the Greek word kindunos, meaning extremely dangerous) to explain the events he faced in the wilderness. We don’t have any information from the New Testament to alert us as to what Paul is talking about. We can only make assumptions. The word “wilderness” is the Greek word eremia. It describes a remote, isolated location in the middle of nowhere.
Paul’s travels no doubt took him through remote areas where thieves and plunderers could have easily victimized him and his companions. It is very possible that wild beasts confronted them as they walked from place to place. The roads had deep ruts where deadly snakes and venomous scorpions hid.
Just as they faced certain dangers that were unique to the city, Paul and his team also faced dangers unique to the wilderness. Yet Paul faced these challenges with the assurance that God’s power would enable them to conquer each peril successfully.
In Perils in the Sea
In addition to dangers in the city and in the wilderness, Paul tells us that he also faced “…perils in the sea…” (2 Corinthians 11:26).
For the seventh time in this chapter, Paul uses the word “perils” (the Greek word kindunos, meaning extremely dangerous), this time to describe his experiences of traveling by sea. As we’ve already seen, Paul survived three different shipwrecks. Only one of these is recorded in the book of Acts. In addition to the shipwreck Luke tells us about in his account in Acts, Paul encountered two other sea catastrophes during the course of his ministry.
Most people who have been in an airplane crash are hesitant to ever get back on another airplane. It leaves such a mark in one’s mind that the traumatic impact of this memory is hard to overcome. Sea catastrophes in the ancient world were just as dramatic and memorable. It was surely a horrible experience for someone to be adrift at sea, not knowing whether or not he’d survive or be rescued. Paul went through this type of ordeal three separate times.
I’m sure these devilish attacks at sea were designed to put such a fear of sailing in Paul that he would never get back on another ship. But if Paul was going to get to the various places where God had called him to minister, he had no choice. Therefore, he didn’t allow these occurrences to steal his joy or to determine whether or not he obeyed God. Even if it meant he had to get back on another ship and sail through dangerous waters again, he’d do it, if that was required of him in order to successfully fulfill his God-given assignment in life.
Do you understand that you have to be spiritually tough in order to do what God has asked you to do? It takes guts to do the will of God. You have to be totally convinced of what God has told you, or the devil will throw enough blockades in your way to make you turn around and permanently go back home.
Jesus showed this kind of spiritual fortitude. The religious leaders of His day were opposed to Him; the Cross and three days in the grave were before Him. Nevertheless, Jesus moved ahead in the power of the eternal Spirit and obtained our redemption for us (see Hebrews 9:14).
What has God called you to do? Are you committed enough to keep going, regardless of what the enemy throws at you? It’s going to take a solid commitment on your part to do anything significant, so I want to encourage you to take a serious look at your commitment level and make sure you have what it takes to make it to the conclusion you desire.
If you don’t establish a firm commitment in your heart to make it through to the end, then you won’t. So I urge you to take time before God today to thoughtfully examine your true level of commitment to God’s call on your life. Make sure you are absolutely committed to do what God has told you to do!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I know I need to deepen the level of my commitment if I am going to accomplish the vision You have placed in my heart. To complete the task You’ve given me is going to require much of me, for I’m sure that Satan will try to resist Your plan for my life. I will have to stand strong and firm in order to obtain my goal; therefore, Holy Spirit, I am asking You today to show me every place in my spiritual foundation that needs to be fixed, strengthened, or repaired. I want to be completely fit and fully equipped to finish my race and win my prize!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I am strong in the Lord. I am strong enough to do anything God will ever tell me to do. The Word of God abides in me, and the power of the Spirit works through me. Therefore, I am well able to overcome the strategies of the enemy. The future is mine because I have the promises of God’s Word and the power of the Spirit on which I can rely.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Would you say that your level of commitment is strong enough to take you all the way to the goal that is in your heart?
2. If your answer to the above question is no, what do you need to do to upgrade your level of commitment? Would a more regular diet of the Word of God in your life make you stronger?
3. If you aren’t spending time in the Word of God on a daily basis, is there a reason you haven’t made this a priority? What does that reason reveal about your level of commitment?