“Sometimes I think God has put us apostles at the very end of the line, like prisoners soon to be killed, put on display at the end of a victor’s parade, to be stared at by men and angels alike. Religion has made us foolish, you say, but of course you are all such wise and sensible Christians! We are weak, but not you! You are well thought of, while we are laughed at. To this very hour we have gone hungry and thirsty, without even enough clothes to keep us warm.
“We have been kicked around without homes of our own. We have worked wearily with our hands to earn our living. We have blessed those who cursed us. We have been patient with those who injured us. We have replied quietly when evil things have been said about us. Yet right up to the present moment we are like dirt underfoot, like garbage.” 1 Corinthians 4:9-13 (TLB)
In Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, he makes no beans about the difficulty involved in following the Lord Jesus Christ. Look again at his comments in Chapter 4, verses 9 to 13 that are printed out for you above. He isn’t complaining, simply stating the facts. He refuses to believe or teach ever that following Jesus is going to be easy.
Why the need for such honesty and forthrightness? Paul knows that there will be suffering in store for those who are willing to take up the cross. In fact, in 2 Timothy 3:12 Paul writes: “And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” It’s inevitable that believers will at some point in their lives encounter a degree of persecution. Back then more so than now, but the day may come in our lifetime when persecution is intensified once again.
In verse 16 of Corinthians 4, Paul continues. “ So I beg you to follow my example and do as I do.” What is Paul saying here? He wants his readership to be prepared for what comes down the pike and not to be devastated by the unexpected. These are good words for us today. Sometimes believers are lulled into complacency because everything is relatively easy as far as their Christianity is concerned and they feel protected by God and isolated from the evil in the world. When such is the case, sometimes it means we are not working for God in the way that He has called us to be. That is never a good thing.
The readership of Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth was living in the midst of extreme moral destitution. Being a follower of Christ in those conditions could never be easy, but in the case of these believers: they were not faring all that well and desperately needed Paul’s help and correction. The readership of Paul’s letters today may be headed in much the same direction, making Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth required reading for those who wish to live a godly life.
Our God is a great and merciful God. He understands our weaknesses and always supplied the resources we need to stay on the narrow path. All we have to do is pick up the Scriptures and be willing to read and heed the encouragement written there.