Tammy Real-McKeighan has been on vacation this week. This is a previously published column.
Have you had some rough times?
Has life knocked the wind out of you?
Then please take comfort from the story of a Bible hero who literally was knocked down.
His name is Paul and we read about him in the book of Acts.
In chapter 14, we learn that the apostle is preaching in a place called Lystra when religious leaders from other cities come and turn the people against him. He is stoned, dragged out of the city and left for dead.
Yet when the disciples gather around Paul, he gets up and goes back into the city.
In a devotional, pastor and author Bob Gass* gives us a picture of Paul’s fortitude.
“Imagine Satan standing over Paul like a referee standing over a fighter who’s on the mat,” Gass writes. “On the count of nine, Paul gets up and says, ‘I may be down, but I’m not out!’”
Gass describes Paul as a “defiant optimist, a self-encourager who knew how to lift himself and those around him.”
The pastor points out Paul’s words in a letter to the Corinthians to whom he wrote: “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor. 4:8-9)
Gass also writes of the late English leader, Winston Churchill, who during World War II told the French that, if necessary, Britain would fight on alone. The French generals sent him a telegram saying, “In three weeks, England will have her neck rung like a chicken.”
Churchill then took to the airwaves and announced, “We shall never, never surrender!”
“After the war, Churchill addressed the Canadian parliament. Wearing his hallmark bulldog expression and waving the telegram, he announced, ‘Huh! Some chicken, and some neck!’”
Gass adds these words: “Get back up. God is on your side.”
I find great encouragement in such writing and in another Bible story which involves a man named David. We know him as the young shepherd who killed the mighty giant Goliath and later became king of Israel.
But in between the giant and the throne were days of struggle and hardship. Jealous King Saul wanted to kill David and there were other enemies as well.
At one point, David and his men go off to do battle, leaving their wives and children behind in a place called Ziklag.
The Amalekites then attack and burn Ziklag and capture the women and children. David and his men return, find Ziklag destroyed — and cry until they don’t have any strength left.
And centuries before Paul was ever stoned by an angry mob, David’s own men begin talking about stoning him.
So does David give up or hide?
Nope. He does something that I just love. In 1 Samuel 30:6 we read that “David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.”
I don’t know if David did that by singing or praying or thinking about God’s word, but whatever he did — it worked.
Then he asks God what to do next. And the Lord lets David know that he will succeed in a rescue plan. So David and his men set out. They find the Amalekites’ camp, fight them from dusk until evening and recover everyone and everything that was taken.
Herein lies another lesson. When we’re down and out, we should not only get up, but we must continue the fight.
We need to fight against despair, discouragement and fear — asking God to help us.
And we serve a mighty and all-powerful God.
As the prophet Isaiah wrote: “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save….” (Isaiah 59:1)
And it’s with that arm that he can help us get up.
We can get up like David, who went on to serve the Lord and his people. We can get up like Paul, who went on to preach and teach in other cities and who wrote much of what we know as the New Testament.
Did Paul have more hard times?
Are you kidding? He and a fellow believer named, Silas, were beaten and thrown in prison — where they sang and God sent an earthquake that opened the prison doors. Paul later was caught in a storm at sea and shipwrecked on the island of Malta. There he was bitten by a poisonous snake — but didn’t die — and went on to pray for sick islanders who were healed.
Throughout his life, Paul not only encouraged himself, but others. And in the end, he could tell his beloved mentee Timothy: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (1 Timothy 4:7-8).
Please notice that Paul was looking toward a reward and so can we as believers in Christ.
Until then, we must follow Paul’s example: Don’t give up, get up. Keep serving. Keep trusting. Keep fighting.
And keep loving Jesus, our Savior, who really did get up — when he rose from the grave.
* From Bob Gass Ministries. For more information, contact: www.bobgass.com or 1-800-964-9846.