Dealing with pressure
It's a pressure gauge, an instrument for measuring the pressure in a compressed gas or liquid. In the twenty-first century the pressure gauge is an icon of life, an image that expresses the internal and external stresses of living. Many of us live in the red, and that's a danger, even for us minister types.
The other day I was reading the Apostle Paul's recitation of his life pressures. In the second letter to the Corinthians he wrote---
Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three
times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked;
a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers,
danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger
in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in
toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often
without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the
daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
2 Corinthians 11:24-28, ESV
It was a pressure packed life, a lethal admixture of physical suffering, uncertainty, opposition from his own tribe and the gentiles he encountered in the villages and towns, the natural threats of the times, long days and nights, hunger, and then, on top of it all, the stresses of planting and influencing churches, mostly new believers. The record of these tensions are interspersed throughout his writings. Woven into the fabric of these hardships are the personal disciplines that enabled him continuance under such constant demands. They include---
Endurance: the personal strength to withstand multiple layers of suffering. It is
the ability to stay under suffering or hardship, a significant theme in the Pauline
Epistles and in his ministry.
Resiliency: the ability to spring back from intense pain, suffering, and threats.
All of those circumstances certainly weighed on him. But, he soon pursued his
calling and continued his work.
Durability: the character and stamina to take a licking and not be deterred from
his mission and calling from God.
Reliance: the spiritual virtue of depending on God and others to encourage and
lift him through such demanding times. His letters provide tributes to the people,
like the Philippians and Barnabas, who partnered with him, and his praise to the
Christ who gave him strength (see Philippians 4:13).
Before he enumerated the chronicle of pressures in 2 Corinthians 11, he had given a hint of these character traits. He preceded his list with these words---
And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the
claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission
they work on the same terms as we do.
2 Corinthians 11:12, ESV
It was another pressure that he had to defend his apostolic office against false prophets who demeaned his work. But, I love the opening, "And what I am doing I will continue to do....". His endurance, resiliency, durability, and reliance kept him on point even when he was in severe circumstances.
Underneath these traits was a certainty of calling, a confidence in the one who called him. To Timothy he wrote,
I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard
until that Day what has been entrusted to me.
2 Timothy 1:12, ESV
He gave a promise to the Philippians that must have been a promise lived out in his own life every day, even in the trials that are such a dominant element of his letters---
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to
completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:6, ESV
Today, I'm praying for endurance, resiliency, durability, and reliance in the lives of the people in my life circle, including every minister and believer I know.
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