Gal. 4:13-14 - "You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus."
If you grew up in the 1980's, when someone asked you this question and left it open ended you would most likely sing the jingle, "What would you do for a Klondike bar?" The TV commercials and print ads asked to what hilarious extreme you were willing to go in order to enjoy the chocolate covered ice cream sandwich in the silver wrapper. The unspoken assumption of the marketing campaign was that the treat was worth enduring absolutely anything! As much as I enjoy good ice cream (and am celebrating the return of Blue Bell to local supermarkets!), I'm not willing to endure just anything to have a bite of a frozen, creamy treat.
However, according to God there is something worth whatever inconveniences you may face. For instance, in a couple of parables, Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven was worth giving up everything someone has if needed (Matt. 13:44-46). He even told a young wealthy man to do just that when Jesus realized that the young man valued his wealth more than following Him (Mk. 10:17-22). In Paul's letter to the Galatians, he made the point that seekers of God will endure whatever trials they face during their search for Him. He actually reminded them about the specific trial they endured in order to hear the gospel.
SEEKERS ARE WILLING TO ENDURE TRIALS FOR THE GOSPEL
"You know it was because of a bodily ailment...and though my condition was a trial to you..."
Much has been written over the centuries speculating what Paul's illness may have been. Early commentators theorized that Paul's ailment was a moral temptation, while modern authors have brought attention back to what Paul actually said in the text. The immediate context refers to the Galatians' willingness to offer their own eyes on Paul's behalf if it would have helped, leading some to wonder if his ailment had to do with an ocular issue (Gal. 4:15). Another consideration incorporates Paul's lengthy list of physical persecution he experienced during his ministry as an apostle (2 Cor. 11:21-29). The probability is high that those injuries would have resulted in a number of life-long physical complications. On top of that, Paul's mysterious "thorn in the flesh" that God would not remove could be related to the ailment mentioned here (2 Cor. 12:7-10).
Whatever Paul's ailment was, we can relate to the challenge that the Galatians faced. The physical reality of living, serving, caring for and worshipping with Paul was a trial for those who heard him preach. Paul's point in these verses is that despite the trial his situation caused them, they were willing to endure it for the sake of knowing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
SEEKERS ARE WILLING TO SUBMIT TO A SOVEREIGN GOD
"You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first"
Instead of dictating the time, place and conditions that God had to reveal His will, the Galatians were willing to let God choose the time, location and person; and He did just that. He used the battered, hurting, itinerant apostle to the Gentiles. Thankfully the Galatians let God work the way He deemed best, instead of holding out for some arbitrarily predetermined scenario.
For those who desire to share the gospel, this passage should challenge us to rethink our preconceived ideas about how and when God may use us to reach someone with the gospel. It will often be in unplanned, inconvenient moments (Acts 16:25-40 & Phil. 1:12-18). It should also make us aware that others are watching and listening to how Christians respond to difficult situations! We should never limit God and how He plans to use our life circumstances.
For those seeking God, this passage challenges us to to rethink our ideas about how, when and who God will use to present the truths of the gospel to us. For example, the Ethiopian Eunuch was willing to let a stranger from the side of the road explain a passage from Isaiah to him, and he humbly and gratefully received the help (Acts 8:26-40).
SEEKERS ARE WILLING TO GRACIOUSLY RECEIVE GOD'S INSPIRED MESSAGE
"...you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus."
Others in this situation would have decided that the personal cost of hearing Paul was too great. It might have been the amount of time it required of them, or possibly the financial expense. Whatever the case, they would have scorned or despised Paul. They would have looked down on him and rejected him, even though he brought the message of salvation through Jesus.
The Galatians on the other hand, originally received Paul as an authorized spokesman of God on par with an angel or even Jesus himself!
If the first century seekers of God were willing to endure trials, recognize the sovereignty of God at work and demonstrate grace under pressure, then we are called to the same! Despite what we may go through as we accept the authorized message of Christ's apostles, may we also accept their message as given by Jesus himself!
JOIN THE DISCUSSION & ENCOURAGE OTHERS:
As you look back on your search for God, what trials has He empowered you to endure and what have you learned about Him along the way? Share your experiences in the comment section below.
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