“But in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left.”
(2 Corinthians 6:4–7)
I recently rediscovered this powerful and well-known passage penned by the Apostle Paul, which describes the insurmountable difficulties he faced in bringing the gospel “to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
Paul’s life was in constant danger. He was imprisoned, beaten, stoned, and shipwrecked three times. His evenings were undoubtedly not spent at a five-star hotel.
Paul challenged the believers in Corinth to follow him as he followed the Lord (1 Cor. 11:1). Most of us would not welcome the kind of opposition and suffering Paul met throughout his ministry. The world teaches us to avoid unnecessary hardship, and yet, the apostle embraced life’s difficulties and sorrows for the Lord. He wrote from a Philippian jail, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Phil. 3:10). Yet, in all things, he found the victory through the Messiah Jesus—and so can we!
Jesus endured life’s hardships and even bore the pain of the cross, burying our sins and crushing the power of the grave! Jesus lived through an eternal moment of separation from His Father—whom He loved for all eternity and who loved Him—so that you and I would not suffer a moment of separation from our Creator.
Think of all the apostle endured for the sake of those he served and sought to bring into fellowship with the Father through the Son. Then consider all that Jesus, our beloved Messiah, gave up and suffered on our behalf. This might help us to gain a new perspective on all we endured, especially over the last year and a half.
Suffering teaches us lessons we could never learn in any other way. Our character is shaped far more in the schoolroom of suffering than when surrounded by those we love, the niceties of life, and even success. We often learn more through failure and pain than we do through success.
We all have our stories, of course, of how we experienced hardship for the Lord.
Many years ago, I was part of a messianic singing group invited to go to Northern Ireland by an Irish Christian who had a tremendous burden for his people. We ministered through messianic music and preaching in and around Belfast. The year was 1976, and bombs were exploding virtually every day in beautiful, lush, green, and very unsafe Northern Ireland.
At the time of this trip, I was a seminary student and a newlywed. Was I frightened? You bet I was! And my fear was justified! We all wrote notes to our unsaved Jewish families, sharing our faith and telling our loved ones why we were doing what we did. We were all ready to die for Jesus. Or so we hoped.
I remember one day we had an engagement at Queens University Belfast. We set up our sound equipment and began our music ministry. Hosts of students came and listened and interacted with us regarding the gospel. We started our final song but were interrupted by a loud boom. Within moments, shreds of charred paper began floating down from the sky like falling snow. A bomb had gone off close by, and we, along with the hundreds of students, were frightened because we had no idea whether the next bomb would explode closer to us.
Another day, we were singing in downtown Londonderry. We had to move from our original location as the establishment owner told us he no longer wanted us in front of his store. We were disappointed but continued our musical ministry two or three blocks away. We were not even halfway through our set of messianic music when we heard a loud explosion. You could feel the glass windows of the store imploding. The bomb went off at the very spot where we were supposed to sing but were asked to leave. To this day, I do not know if someone warned the owner of that retail store that a bomb would go off, and he told us to leave to keep us safe. All I know is that Romans 8:28 took on an entirely new meaning to me and our team!
I could also tell you about incidents where someone angry about my preaching the gospel physically attacked me. To this day, I believe those hostile encounters were small change compared to the price He paid for me on Calvary.
I love our Chosen People Ministries staff.
They suffer without complaint and trust the Lord through the most difficult of circumstances.
You will read about what our staff in Israel recently endured during the eleven-day war with Gaza. Most of our Chosen People Ministries workers in Israel are Jewish and made Aliyah because they love the Lord and want to live for Him in the Holy Land. But, unfortunately, they have endured a lack of acceptance, persecution by some religious Jews, and the everyday threat of terrorism and war.
Before going to Northern Ireland for the first time, the president of Biola University (I was attending graduate school there at the time), Dr. Clyde Cook, offered to pray with our group before the trip. I will never forget his prayer: “Lord, teach Mitch and his team that safety is not the absence of danger but the presence of the Lord.” I will never forget those words.
I pray that prayer today for our staff ministering in hard places. They endure rejection, threats, and difficulties that are all part of the worthy effort to share God’s love with our Jewish people, whom we love dearly.
Many Jewish people react and oppose us strongly because of centuries of persecution by misguided and mostly nominal Christians creating an almost impassable gap between the Jewish community and Jesus. Right now, our staff ministers in Israel, Argentina, New York, Russia, the United Kingdom, and so many other critical and strategic places where large numbers of Jewish people live. These busy urban areas are loud, unsafe, and expensive. Yet, our workers endure all these challenges for the sake of the gospel.
We need your prayers and generous support to share the gospel with Jewish people living in difficult places. We know we could move to someplace nicer, greener, and less expensive, but we choose to be where our Jewish people live, work, and raise their families.
One way I encourage our staff serving in difficult places is to remind them of the vast number of like-minded believers who pray for them and support their ministries.
You are so important to us but especially important to those who serve in hard places.
Why do we do this? Why do we choose to endure such hardship and difficulties? Why do we ask our spouses and children to live in places that are difficult and even dangerous?
Sometimes I ask myself this question, as I have lived in Brooklyn now for more than three decades, serving among one of the largest Jewish populations in the world. I chose to raise my children in this intense and often very hostile environment. But I have never looked back because of all the Lord has done for me. I know that our staff serving the Lord under challenging conditions feel the same way.
It is tough at times, but always—and I mean always— worth it!
What Dr. Cook prayed is so true, as safety and peace (shalom) are always available to us through the Prince of Peace who is with us and dwells within us. Paul gave us a rationale for the joy we can experience day in and day out as we share the gospel with Jews and Gentiles—even while suffering or working in difficult places.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
(2 Corinthians 5:20–6:1)
And I can assure you that our staff feels this way. We know that what we do for Jesus is eternally worthwhile because what He did for each of us will endure forever.
On behalf of our staff serving in difficult places, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your love, partnership, prayers, and sacrificial support!
Thanks for helping me love our staff!