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The Worst

Click here to read 2 Corinthians 11 on BibleGateway.com

“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.  Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,  I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.  I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.  Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” – 2 Cor 11:23-28

images (2)If you’ve been a teenager or been around one in the last few years, you may have been a part of a torturous little pastime called “Would You Rather?” The basic idea is to present two opposing ideas to your friend (i.e. “victim,” or “enemy”), and make one so bad that they are so disgusted or embarrassed or be forced to admit they’re a selfish jerk, they give up the game.  For purposes of decency and decorum, we can’t discuss all of them here, but here’s a quick sampling:

*Would you rather save the life a starving orphan you’ll never meet, or have a working lightsaber?
*Would you rather live in a world with no crime or disease, or a world that you rule?
*Would you rather be a thief, or a beggar?


The apostle Paul plays a little game of his own in 2 Corinthians 11.  Apparently, after his time with the church in Corinth, some other wandering teachers had shown up and basically said Paul was a big doofus and everyone should listen to them instead.  So Paul sends off a letter to the church there, and he spends part of the letter defending himself (which we’re lucky enough to get to read without all the felony-ness of tampering with modern mail.)

And what does Paul argue? That he has the most converts? That his television ministry is reaching the most people? That he has converted Presidents or media personalities? Nope.  Instead, he talks about what he’s suffered.  Beatings, accidents, poverty, prison, working without rest; all in the name of the gospel.  Is this how we would judge success in our modern churches? By which pastor has the poorest members? By who works the most side jobs and doesn’t take a salary?


More than that, look at what Paul says his greatest burden is.  You might think floggings sound bad, or nearly drowning, or being so poor that you have to sleep outside in the wilderness naked.  Nope.  It’s the spiritual burden of pastoring.  Imagine that: the worst physical problems that most of us can fathom, and the worst thing is ministering to the churches.

Anyone who has pastored or spent any close time with one will tell you that they have a spiritual/emotional/psychological burden that weighs on them almost constantly.  And the worst thing is, most of their congregants will never understand, and will instead compare them to the latest sermon they found online or the most recent Preacher-of-the-Month at their last convention.  Our local pastors have to carry that weight alone, and many spend long hours in depression and pain.  Maybe we should give a little less thought to how our pastors make us feel on Sunday morning, and a little more time this week praying about the spiritual burdens they carry.

It may be the most important thing you can do for them.

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