Is there anything that scares you?
The apostle Paul admitted to being afraid of something. Of course everything that I read about him in the Bible would indicate that he was fearless. For example, Paul was preaching the gospel in a city called Lystra and Jews came from the surrounding areas of Antioch and Iconium, and after they stirred up the crowds they stoned him. Supposing Paul to be dead, they dragged his body out of the city and left him. The Bible says, “But while the disciples stood around him, he got up” (Acts 14:20). It might be worth mentioning that when Paul “got up,” it also means to be raised up from the dead. Some scholars believe that Paul was dead and the disciples raised him to life. Rather he was dead or not makes no difference to the point that I want to underscore, what really challenges me about Paul is that when he got up he went back into the city where he was persecuted. Not only that, he actually returned to the two cities where the angry Jews came from: Antioch and Iconium. While most people would have packed their bags and left town, Paul returned to the very place where he was stoned to death. How is that for fearlessness? It’s this guy who wrote, “But I am afraid” (2 Cor. 11:3). Granted, by his own admission he was speaking with a bit of hyperbole and foolishness when he said that, but the truth remains that there was something substantial that weighed heavy on Paul’s heart.
Paul began by stating, “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin” (2 Cor. 11:2). That had profound meaning in that culture because when a woman was betrothed to a man there were enormous consequences if a woman defiled her body with someone else prior to the wedding. Sometimes a couple could be betrothed for months before the wedding, but the couple was legally bound to each other. Paul stated that we have been betrothed to one husband—Jesus Christ. Our loyalty is to Jesus and Him alone; we are to have no other “love affair” above Jesus. One day we will be consummated with Christ. This will be a grand and glorious day when we are presented to Christ, our Bridegroom, and we will spend all eternity together. However, until Jesus comes to receive us unto Himself we are to remain faithful to Him alone. There will be serious consequences if we defile our hearts by putting other lovers before Jesus. Do you still love Him? Is Jesus your first love? My prayer is that we will be the faithful bride who can be presented before Christ “having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing…but holy and blameless” (Eph. 5:27).
Paul’s desire to present a chaste virgin to the Lord continued in the next verse when he stated his fear. He said, “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). If there was one fear that seized Paul it was this: he didn’t want the enemy to get into the minds of believers and lead them astray. I can tell you that this is what weighs heavy on my heart as a senior leader of a church. I’m so blessed when people come to faith and stand to share their testimonies. I can’t begin to describe the joy that I have when people experience breakthrough and they devote their lives to God. There is no greater pleasure than to watch people fall in love with Jesus, worship with passion, and pray with fervor. Yet, I carry a burden, perhaps even a fear like Paul did, that the enemy will cause people to be led astray by getting into their minds. What was the enemy’s tactics with Eve? First, the serpent wanted Eve to question God’s goodness. The implication behind his question about not being able to eat from every tree was that God wasn’t entirely good (see Gen. 3:1). If you question God’s goodness, then you won’t trust Him when difficult times come. The enemy will say things like, “Maybe you’re sick because God is testing you,” or “Why did God let that happen to you?” Here’s a big one, “If you really mattered to God you wouldn’t have to walk through this.” These are things Satan says to make us question God’s goodness. Second, the serpent wanted Eve to doubt God’s Word. The question the serpent posed led Eve to doubt the validity of God’s Word. Only God’s Word is truth (see John 17:17). If we question the Word, then we will put greater faith in our circumstances. We’ll become sabotaged by oppressive fear and anxiety. Like Peter, we will sink because the wind and waves will appear greater than Jesus (see Matt. 14:30).
Paul said one time that he wasn’t ignorant of Satan’s “schemes” (2 Cor. 2:11). This word schemes (noema) can be translated as “mind games.” Satan loves to play mind games with God’s people. There are many Christians who have Jesus in their heart, but the enemy is in their head. If we let our minds become infected with Satan’s tricks, then we’ll be led astray from the simplicity and purity to Christ. Set your minds on things above (see Col. 3:2). Keep your eyes focused on Jesus and Him alone (see Heb. 12:2). Live by faith and not by sight (see 2 Cor. 4:18). Additionally, combat the lies of the enemy with the truth of God’s Word. Saturate your mind with the scriptures; read the Bible until it reads you. If you will immerse yourself in the Word, then you’ll recognize falsehoods quicker.
Let’s remain faithful to Jesus so that we can be presented to Him as pure virgins.