by Kevin Rutherford


The apostle Paul was one who went through both difficult and wonderful times.  In that respect he is no different from anyone else.  Whatever circumstance he found himself in he had learned to trust God.  Paul said, “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.  Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:12, 13).”

Second Corinthians chapter twelve is a passage that illustrates well the highs and lows of Paul’s life.  In the first six verses of the chapter, Paul tells of a man who was able to see the third heaven.  While there, this man heard inexpressible words which he was not allowed to repeat.  Based on what Paul says in the context about boasting it is very likely this man who saw heaven was Paul himself.  Certainly that would be a high point in one’s life.  To be able to catch a glimpse of the eternal home of the faithful would be an encouraging and an exhilarating experience beyond compare.

However, verses seven through ten of the same chapter show Paul experiencing frustration and difficulty.  Here he speaks of a problem he had which he describes as “thorn in the flesh.”  Those who work around rose bushes may understand what it feels like to have a thorn in the flesh.  Picture a thorn sticking in your flesh that you cannot remove.  Paul prayed three times to God asking Him to remove this problem.  God refused because of some important lessons He wanted Paul to learn from this suffering.  Paul understood that he was to learn humility from this problem and he recognized that he could become stronger spiritually when he was weak physically.

If your life is typical it is probably much like Paul’s in the sense of experiencing good and bad times.  Some people refer to the good times as mountain tops, and the bad times as valleys.  Whether we are in a valley, on a mountain top, or somewhere in between we must always trust God.  We must always put God first in our lives (Matthew 6:33).  We must learn the lesson Paul learned, which was to be content in good times and in bad times (Philippians 4:12, 13).