Galatians 6:17 NKJV
From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body.”
What if I were to tell you that becoming a Christian would make your life harder, not easier? What if I were to explain that being a disciple of the Lord’s would bring pain possibly with no hope of relief until heaven? Would you still embrace the gospel? Would you be as excited about serving the Lord as you might be with promises of needs fulfilled and desires met?
Madam Guyon, a great saint of the Lord, wrote:
“To bear all the marks of Jesus Christ is much greater than merely meditating on them. Paul said, ‘I bear in my body the mark of the Lord Jesus’ (Galatians 6:17). He did not say he merely thought about them; he said he bore them” (Experiencing God through Prayer).
Paul talked about his light afflictions (2 Corinthians 4:17). The Greek word elaphros means easy. Easy afflictions. It would be one thing to embrace this if Paul’s experiences seemed like easy afflictions. But aside from being burdened with “a thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:8) which may have been some kind of chronic illness or disability, Paul also lists the troubles he experienced as a Christian missionary:
In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” 2 Corinthians 11:23b-27
These are Paul’s light afflictions. Because of these (and possibly other) experiences, Paul could truly say that his body bore the mark of the Lord Jesus… scars, possibly even resulting and continuing pain and disabilities.
David Wilkerson, in a letter attached to one of his Pulpit Series sermons, recently wrote:
“As I look back over the years — years of great trials, suffering, temptation, and affliction — I can testify that God’s grace has been enough. I know what it is to question God, as my wife endured cancer over and over, and then both our daughters were also stricken. I also know what it is to be buffeted by a messenger of Satan. I’ve been grievously tempted and enticed, and I’ve had enemies stirred up against me on all sides. I’ve been slandered by rumors, falsely accused and rejected by friends…. We may still ask why — yet it all remains a mystery. I’m prepared to accept this until Jesus comes for me. I see no end to my trials and afflictions. I’ve had them for over fifty years of ministry now and counting” (emphasis mine, August 30, 2010).
I know that I personally would want my trials and afflictions to end. I have often called out to God in the middle of the night, asking Him to end them, often telling Him what I think the solution would be, only to hear Him say, “My grace is sufficient” (2 Corinthians 12:9). I think He would be more pleased if I were more willing to surrender, rather than to complain or fight. And that is perhaps something that He is teaching me through this trial. Not that the trials will end, but that He walks with me through the darkness as well as walking with me in the light.
This life is a hiccup when compared to eternity. In the still of the night when the physical or emotional pain seems too hard to bear, it doesn’t seem like a hiccup, but it is. This life is short compared to what we will experience when we see Him face to face… forever! Many saints have gone on before us and are experiencing even now that eternal presence of the Lord Jesus. It is a hope to which we must cling if we are to persevere through what lies ahead.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23 NKJV