One day my daughter came complaining to me, and she said, “Dad, someone has been using my bathing scrubber, and you know how sensitive my skin is.”
Unfortunately for her, I had just bee reading 2 Corinthians 11, and the anointing from those words was still buzzing all around and about and in me. So I said to her, “Oh, I am sorry. But you know our house is like a half way house, with many people coming and going, and you and I have no way of knowing who might have been using your scrubber. I think the only person you can report that problem to is God. Oh”, I finished her off, “you can also talk to the Apostle Paul about your sensitive skin.”
She smiled ruefully, because she knew exactly what I was about. I had warned my children long ago that we had to expect to live like pilgrims in our own house.
The words of the Apostle Paul.
“From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” (Gal. 6:17)
Notice the words, “my body”. This scripture is talking about Paul’s physical body. Here Paul says that he bore in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus. What were those marks?
I have had the misfortune of hearing American preachers who claim that they cannot fly economy because their bodies cannot cope with the stress of traveling bundled up! They claim they need more leg room and more ‘prayer room’ (and more refined cuisine, of course), and for this reason they can only travel first class. Or in private jets.
It is clear that such a person has never been called by God to preach the gospel. Otherwise how would they have preached in the days of the Early Church when the only thing to ride was a donkey. And if one wanted to fly (which so many modern preachers are dying for) they would have had to attach wings to that same donkey! And if for some miraculous reason that worked and one now needed to fly first class, they probably would have had to sit on the donkey’s head. First class.
Today’s preachers care more about their bodies than the gospel they claim they are called to preach.
I can assure you, right away, that God has never needed such people. God cannot use such people. Why? Because it is clear exactly what kind of person God uses.
“Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him” (Is. 53:10)
Who is that whom the Lord is pleased to bruise? It is the Servant He loves using most. That scripture is talking of our Lord Jesus, the Person it pleased God to use.The Bible makes clear that the person that God uses He bruises. God will definitely allow some form of physical suffering or discomfort upon the person He wants to use. Some more than others, of course. But God will not allow us to serve Him on our (body’s) terms.
And hence it was so with the Apostle Paul also. Paul’s body partook of the sufferings of Christ. If you got unlucky (or lucky, can’t decide which) enough to look at Paul’s body, it was an undesirable mess. How do you think a body that has gone through the ordeals that Paul went through looked like?
“Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.” (2 Cor. 11:24)
I don’t know how I arrived there (for I thought I knew the Bible well), but somehow, for a long time, I always thought this scripture said “one time” instead of “five times”. But here, it says clearly that Paul received forty stripes save one five times. In practical terms it means the Jews got hold of Paul, stripped him down to his waist, made him kneel down in public, and flogged him 39 times with a whip. And they did this not once, but five times!
Unless I am much mistaken, by the end of the “five times”, Paul’s skin must have looked like the hide of a wild animal. Were all the world’s perfumers to come and attend to Paul’s skin, it would not have responded to their massagings and panderings.
And yet, this was not the end of Paul’s physical suffering.
“Thrice was I beaten with rods…” (v.25)
Now it was no longer whips, but rods. You can imagine the nerve and tissue damage that such beatings caused on Paul’s body. And I am pretty sure God was not miraculously ‘renewing’ Paul’s body, as He did Naaman’s (2 Ki. 5:14). God gave Paul only the necessary respite. On the contrary, this body was getting more knobby, twisted, mis-shapen, and bent.
“once was I stoned…”
They stoned Paul so severely that they left him for dead. Not until the disciples came and prayed over him, and the breath of the Holy Spirit passed over him, and he arose.
You might not know it, but this was the deadliest of them all. When stoning, they aim at the head. Apart from dying an agonizing death, the head becomes completely deformed. It was only by the grace of God that Paul would come out of such an ordeal alive. And God allowed this particular form of suffering only once; otherwise He might have lost His precious vessel.
After this ordeal, therefore, Paul’s head never looked the same. It was deformed in many different ways. The stoning robbed him of his peculiar facial features and it was no longer decipherable whether he had once been handsome or not. In his body, Paul was getting further and further from being human! But in the Spirit, God gave him the grace to soldier on. Paul – the suffering Paul – was God’s special vessel. This was the vessel that God was pleased to use!
And still the physical suffering would not end. Paul goes on:
“26 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, in perils among false brethren;
27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.”
God relentlessly and mercilessly smashed and shattered Paul’s body – and will. At the end of it all, Paul’s body was extremely scarred and deformed. His body was not a sight that anyone would desire to see. He himself states:
“… for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.” (1 Cor. 4:9)
Paul’s body was a spectacle. For this reason, false apostles and false brethren made fun of Paul’s body:
“For his letters, they say, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak and his speech contemptible.” (2 Cor. 10:10)
You wonder, What kind of man was the Apostle Paul? Who would accept such a life? The even more incredible fact was that Paul rejoiced in his sufferings (2 Cor. 12:10).
But – what a lesson for us! The Bible here teaches us that we cannot worry about our bodies and expect to please or do the will of God. It is impossible. It is written of our Lord Jesus Christ,
“5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepred me: 6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. 7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.”
Notice the word “pleasure” there. It gives the Lord the greatest pleasure when we give our bodies to suffer for the gospel’s sake. Our bodies suffering on account of Christ is what pleases God most.
What a different outlook on life for us!
Unfortunately, this is a lesson that is alien to the general body of Christ today, thanks to all the teachings that have come to the church lately through your favorite apostles and prophets from down south. The teachers of the modern-era church teach only healing and the general prosperity of the body.
May God give us grace. May He give us grace to stop worrying about our bodies. Indeed, may we move on beyond there and give our bodies to suffer for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
[Our love for our bodies is God’s biggest headache]