Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Albania Mission Trip: All the Earth Will Shout His Praise

By many accounts, the time leading up to the Albania mission trip and the time immediately following were/are disastrous. Logistics fell apart, finances didn’t add up, and illness plagued several. In the midst of my own illness and financial problems, and the general business of life that seemed to not allow for significant preparation, I was told there would be a verse or short passage that would sustain me in the final days before we left.
The group and missionaries with children at a village

The next day, I found this:

I am convinced that any suffering we endure is less than nothing compared to the magnitude of glory that is about to be unveiled within us. –Romans 8:18

All the suffering and groaning of creation is real, and painful, and confusing, but God was going to show up, and the problems we faced along the way would pale in comparison.

The night of our last meeting, I had what seemed to be the flu and a depleted bank account from rent and flight payments. But a week later, I spoke to Dustin & Gabi about what had occurred since that night. After people prayed over me, the second day of the flu was better than the first. By the third day, it was gone. This would usually take me at least a week to overcome. I continually found sources of money I didn’t realize I had to sustain me: extra cash I’d brought from Columbus, extra money in my PayPal account, Kroger gift cards, even being randomly handed cash. And I recognized God’s faithfulness to me in light of my last semester. This spring was the biggest class load I’d ever taken. I felt strongly, though, that the most important thing was to walk in what God had for me. That meant taking weekends away, going on a mission trip over spring break, and staying involved in ministries throughout the week. In the end, I did far and away the best I’d ever done in law school despite taking so much time away from studying. It doesn’t add up apart from Him.
Soviet bunker on the Adriatic Sea

For those of us coming back to the U.S. afterwards, we continued to face problems. In the Tirana airport, with all of us on a 50-hour run with three hours of sleep, Nathan became sick and he and Ben almost missed the flight. We had to go through security and customs in both Italian airports even though they were only layovers. I became sick in Florence, Italy, and have only hazy memories of our layover there. We almost missed both those flights. In Philadelphia, we had hours of delays that culminated in a flight cancellation. This caused me to miss work on Monday. When we returned to Northern Kentucky on Monday night after midnight, Seanna’s car was missing. She and I were up until three a.m. trying to track it down. I awoke Tuesday morning with a horrible illness that prevented me from leaving the house, something illness rarely does, and missed another day of work. This illness continues even as I write.

Service with a Roma group
But in the midst of the madness, we can choose to view our problems through the lens of God, or God through the lens of our problems. We choose to alter our perception of our problems because of God rather than alter our perception of God because of our problems. He is faithful, and good, and we know His heart for us. Our prayer for favor in the line for Nathan and Ben in Tirana and delays on the plane were granted, and we all left Tirana together. We were given favor in the Italian airports with workers there to specifically make sure we got through on time. Our flight cancellation gave seven of us another day together to explore Philadelphia, and Seanna a chance to see her sister who lives nearby. Even today God continues to provide for us.

What Hell meant to break us has failed and will continue to fail. We declare God’s faithfulness over our situations, even when they aren’t what we want and even when we don’t understand them. Even now not all of these problems have solutions, but God’s track record tells us He won’t fail us now. No suffering takes away from what He has done.

Art outreach on the city square
The trip to Albania was actually my thirteenth mission trip. I’ve had the opportunity to go to Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, D.C., Virginia, and California. But Albania was my first international mission trip. I didn’t want to pass up that opportunity, especially with this group and with evangelism as the goal. So many fun memories with the people there, from exploring the coast of the Adriatic Sea to visiting Sophie’s coffee shop to games we made up and played throughout the week. The makeup of the group was no accident, and the ten of us worked with some awesome missionaries and Albanians along the way. Across the world felt like home because my family was there.

Service at a village
Our work in Albania took on one of two forms. The first was evangelism and relationship building, which were planned mostly by us, and the second was helping existing ministries and missionaries. Our concern over the language barrier was alleviated, as it rarely interfered with what we did. We were brought to English-speaker after English-speaker in Tirana, mostly students close to our age. Our first outreach in the city square led my group to three high school students with the opportunity to explain the gospel and pray over them. Our last one led me to someone close to my age, explaining that there is a personal God who loves us and wants to have a relationship with us, a truth that is sometimes lost on a majority-Muslim country. Even outside of official evangelism time, we had appointments to do the same.

Perhaps my favorite evangelistic outreach was our art outreach. I have no traditional artistic ability in the slightest, but many in our group did, and we saw that as no coincidence. Set up in the city square, people flocked to us. Everyone there had stories of people they were able to talk to. One of my favorite attributes of this group is the ability to attract people wherever we go. We are known by our love for each other and for others.

Kids service for the Roma
So many awesome relationships were formed that night. We genuinely cared for the people we met, and they wanted to get to know us. Our goal in being out was to share the gospel, but it flowed naturally in the course of our conversation with people—conversation about school, dreams, experiences, fears, hobbies, and friends. I talked to Ani for a solid two hours that night. She shared her desires for university, her wading through finals, her hopes of moving abroad, and her ways of coping with the stress of school. I sympathized with her on many of those things. We talked about our experiences in our respective countries. And I shared with her that a personal God who loves her so deeply came to Earth to face the punishment for our wrongdoing so that we could have life.

The work with existing ministries was particularly humbling. Throughout the week we were continually introduced to missionaries who have sacrificed to follow the call of God wherever He had them go. It showed us the value of community. It demonstrated the purpose for faith. And above all, it continued to remind us that God does not show partiality. A group of Americans standing in the villages and outcast Roma communities of one of the poorest countries in Europe never had the slightest thought that we were better than. The love of God extends to all of us. We all begin under condemnation and are all offered grace. We need the cross as much as anyone. The same Spirit living in us lives in the Albanian believers. Sin makes us all equally hopeless and the cross and resurrection makes us all equally children.

That might be the biggest takeaway from the trip. The beautiful symphony of voices in multiple languages lifting up the name of Jesus is the embodiment of Heaven. All the Earth will shout His praise. All share the same Father, every tribe and nation adopted into the same family. Every tongue confessing that Jesus is Lord. The love of God spans all borders and social classes, and we’re all in desperate need of Him. This trip constantly reminded us of that.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Beach Reach 2019: "More to Come"

I really formed a love for the ministry at Beach Reach when I was in college. It is so humbling to see God’s grace in my life in light of all that goes on in Panama City Beach during spring break. I know it could be me if life had taken a different trajectory, and it’s that attitude and a desire to see others’ lives changed the way mine has been that drives me and everyone on my team.

It was exciting to be back on Beach Reach this year after missing last year due to schedule differences. This time my spring break lined up with Northern Kentucky’s, and I was blessed to join the team as a leader. I was also blessed by my parents, grandparents, the Flannagans and Moores from back home, Merle from my church in Columbus, and the Leighters who I know through Christian Legal Society, from their generosity in providing funding for the trip.
As Dustin said, we didn't have an official group picture, but this probably summed it up best.

And finally, I was so happy to be on Beach Reach with a number of close friends I never thought I’d have the chance to share it with. Dustin hadn’t been in ten years and doesn’t have a spring break. I’d tried to pull in Monica for several years, and it worked out this time. I didn’t even know Bailey or Ashleigh the last time I was on Beach Reach, and Bailey was a last-minute addition. But God worked it out for them to be there along with many I’d worked with before.

This was the most impactful Beach Reach I’d been a part of, both on the group and the spring breakers. It is exciting to see the work and change that is happening within the BCM and Northern Kentucky community. This team was ahead of anything I’d seen and really jumped into the ministry.

As a quick overview for those that don’t know, Beach Reach takes the spring break of Christian college students and uses it to go to popular spring break destinations for our peers. We hit the streets late at night and offer free rides to get people to places safely, and provide a free pancake brunch in the mornings and afternoons. We also added in disaster relief for the damage from Hurricane Michael. But all our ministry to the spring breakers is to create opportunities to share the gospel with people. That is the point of the trip. The night ministry goes 9 pm to 2 am and is divided in half, and every team will either be on the streets, in the vans, or in a prayer room.

In the months of prayer and fasting leading up to Beach Reach, God had continually told me that He was going to heal the brokenness of the group, not just of the spring breakers. That really broke through on Tuesday night.

It had been a good trip up to that point. Sunday night we started in prayer that was so needed, then I hit the streets and my team spent the entire two-and-a-half hours talking with one person. Monday night most of us were off, and we used that time to share testimonies and then hear from the one team of our group that went out.

That was good momentum, but for me it slowed on Tuesday. It started out with the pancake brunch, and nothing seemed to work out for me. I went to talk to one table of spring breakers and someone beat me to them. I talked to two different tables of people as they were about to leave. Then a friend of mine at the drink table got into a conversation, so I jumped in to do that. I gave the people in that conversation my sunscreen and game card but didn’t get a chance to talk. Later, I decided to jump in line behind a couple guys and talk to them. But there was a delay of when they got their food and when I did, and when I got it they’d been stopped by a couple others, and that turned into a great conversation.

The support role is an important one in those situations, but I wanted to have an opportunity to talk. I took that frustration into the time afterwards, and I spent some time in prayer asking God to show up that night. I had the opportunity to be on a street team again with Ashleigh and our friends Isaac and Kelsey.

Some of the hurricane damage in Panama
City Beach. It was worse in Panama City
and even worse a little farther west.
It didn’t go as planned. We felt God pushing us down a dark street, and we walked by a wooded area. Isaac saw a scarf and something else that looked like a jacket. We also heard clanging that sounded like it was from the woods. Isaac and Ashleigh got a dark feeling like something was really off, fearing a sexual assault was taking place. We stood outside that area for a while, trying to figure out what to do and whether a spiritual feeling and circumstantial evidence was enough to call the police.

After a while, a man on a bike came out of the woods. I went into the woods, called out, and walked around. I found evidence of a homeless person living there, but no evidence of anything more. It seemed explainable that the scarf had just been lost and the man on the bike was just cutting through. That didn’t really ease Ashleigh’s and Isaac’s feeling, and we stopped to pray for a while. Ashleigh expressed that she was mad that we had to even worry about sexual assault and was questioning why God would ever allow it to happen.

The rest of the night was pretty uneventful. I was questioning myself. Were we supposed to go down the dark street and hang around the woods for half an hour? Did God have a purpose I didn’t see, or was it actually my own thoughts and not His leading?

I took these thoughts into what was supposed to be our shift in the prayer room. This is when I saw God’s intricate Providence unfold. I happened to shuffle out of the house next to Ashleigh. She was still upset by what had happened. Dustin came up along side us and we figured it was something we needed to talk through before going into the prayer room. We looked for a place to stop, and after looking at a couple places, we finally said, “Let’s just stand by the Gaga Ball pit.”

Soon our friend Zach joined us, and the four of us talked for a while. Dustin, Zach, and I answered questions and tried to explain why God allows bad things to happen to His children and others. We continually had to preface with, “This isn’t very encouraging, but…” The group leader, Matt, also joined us and we all continued to talk. Ashleigh was grateful that we didn’t compromise truth and were able to empathize with her as much as we were able. She also noted that she was having that conversation with four men, which is a testament to the dynamics of our group.

Then we began to pray. Let me tell you, I don’t think I’ve ever prayed like I prayed this week. I’d never seen such expectant, passionate prayer from a group. Dustin, Zach, Matt, and I began to pray over Ashleigh. She expressed some of her fears, and we took turns speaking over her and praying over her. Matt said that God wants her to recognize how much God loves her and how good He is. He said he felt this funnel of God’s love over us. Soon we’re smiling and laughing and jumping around and basking in God’s love, like we could physically feel it surrounding us. While that was going on, Dustin also spoke to another girl in our group and prayed over her.

People began to file out of the prayer room, which meant it was 2 am and we’d been there two hours already. We pulled Seanna over and she jumped under the funnel. Soon we had 12 or 15 people from our group standing around us, and we started pulling people into the circle and praying for them, and praying generally that we’d recognize who we are in Christ and that God would really move through the rest of the week. Then a group from East Tennessee State showed up and it turned out we were on their front lawn. They all jumped into the circle, and now we probably had 25 people bunched up, speaking over each other and praying for each other. People are confessing their fears and the struggles in their life and weeping as waves of love and healing washed over us.

When we finished, we realized that it was 4 am, and people shuffled back to their places. I grabbed Bailey and we walked over to a picnic area across the street from our group’s house to tell her about the entire day that had led up to that night. Meanwhile, across the street, a geyser had sprung up a couple doors down from our house. Matt and Dustin in their curiosity decided to check it out. As they were standing there, they noticed a couple spring breakers walking by. Dustin asked where they were going, and it ended up being over two miles away. We told them we’d drive them there in a van. On the way, Dustin said we were up so late because God showed up, and we were able to share the gospel with them and pray over them when we got to their place.

When we got back, it was 5 am, but it wasn’t easy to sleep. I thought about everything that had happened that day. Most of it had been spent in confusion and frustration. But I realized we had walked down that street to get Ashleigh thinking about things that were weighing on her so she could get some clarity. (And Isaac’s team the next night actually did prevent a rape of two girls that had been drugged.) That led to our conversation with Ashleigh, where we happened to stand on the front lawn of another group’s house. That entire night helped heal people in both groups that needed it. Then, Bailey and I happened to choose a spot to talk that was in view of the road, and a Providential geyser sprung up to keep Matt and Dustin outside, where we then saw the couple we were able to share with. And when we got back, the geyser was gone. Every specific detail of that night was ordered by God.

That night took us deeper in our relationships with God and with each other. If there were any reservations before, they were gone Wednesday and Thursday. I was over a van both nights, and we boldly vowed that not one person who entered would leave without hearing about Jesus, and they didn’t. One group we only had two minutes with, so we prayed with them and prayed that they would get more time with someone else. Monica’s group talked with them for 45 minutes at the end of the night, and we figured it out only after talking a few minutes and realizing they were the same people. I can’t even recall everyone we shared the gospel with those nights, but I recall clear examples of Providence.

Monica met a woman at Pier Park and offered the free rides, and my van ended up picking her up. At a restaurant I met a group of fellow Ohio State students that live a block from me. We had a NKU student in our vans twice, and I was able to talk with a Kentucky student during one of those rides and pray over her. The man we talked to the first night saw someone from our team the last night. Everyone has multiple stories like this. I really felt that we were to leave all the details and plans to God and just walk in obedience and complete abandon. If there was a door to the gospel cracked, were we going to kick it in. I’ve honestly never seen anything quite like it in ministry.

It was so awesome to be a part of this group and be able to influence and be influenced. This is something that is sustainable wherever we go. If you would, pray that this continues in the normalcy of our lives. Thank you to anyone who supported or prayed, and I’m glad to bring back a good report.

Besides the healing of brokenness, my theme this week was “More to Come,” coming from a song out of the Passion Conference this year. With all God was doing during the week, we knew that every night He had greater things. He was going to show up and blow the roof off our expectations. We prayed in faith and went in faith, and He delivered. My words to the group were that God still has more, and always has more, even in a different environment and different circumstances. That may be the most exciting aspect of the week—the mission continues.

Friday, January 25, 2019

The Shutdown, The Wall, and Illegal Immigration

While it may be denied, it is not difficult to see that we have a problem with illegal immigration. I guess that says something positive about our nation that so many people want to get in. But every crime committed by an illegal immigrant—especially the more heinous and violent ones—is a stain on our federal government, demonstrating its failure to protect its own citizens. Not that it’s ever had a problem with failure before.

So I am in agreement that something needs to be done to curb and stop illegal immigration. Let me explain the reasoning behind that.

I am sure there are people out there who want to prevent illegal immigration because they have a bias against Mexican people and other Latin Americans. But I don’t think that’s the majority view by any means. The process to legal immigration, which we could argue is convoluted and could be more streamlined, is designed to weed out violent criminals. By documenting who comes to the U.S., we are able to deny people who will be a risk to U.S. citizens. That’s what any country would do. It is not bigoted, it is sensible.

There is a demonization by some liberals of people who hold this view. They will equate wanting to prevent violent criminals from entering the country with hate and racism.

I don’t care who it is. If the person is Canadian, European, or Latin American, if he’s a violent criminal he shouldn’t enter the country. I know most immigrants—and most illegal immigrants—are fine and not a danger. But we can’t know that unless we document them and subject them to a background check (that many of us have to go through for work, purchasing firearms, etc.). The “Build Bridges, no Walls” or whatever catchphrase peopleuse is naïve. It would be criminally reckless to just let anyone in, and underneath the half-baked opinions I think people know that.

But apart from violent criminals, we should welcome immigrants. I’ve had some good friends who are immigrants. It is not a bias towards other ethnicities, but a basic desire to weed out people who would be a threat to our citizens. If you want to demonize that, you need to find a better argument, if you even care enough to do so.

With that being said, we turn to the issue at hand. We’re in our second month of a government shutdown. Personally, if federal employees weren’t being hurt by it, I wouldn’t mind a partial shutdown. Half the federal government could be shut down permanently and it would probably improve our lives. But, unfortunately, caught in the middle of the political stalemate are a whole lot of people being screwed over. The Coast Guard, TSA agents, air traffic controllers, and other “essential” people are being forced to work without pay. Other employees are out of work altogether.

It’s ridiculous. I don’t know why there isn’t a provision anyway to at least pay these people, even if other areas are underfunded or not funded. A lot of people are struggling as the President and Congress stare at each other across no-man’s land. Their stubbornness isn’t affecting them, so they don’t care.
Illegal immigrant Cristhian Rivera is accused of murdering Mollie Tibbetts.
1. This is an immigration issue, not a "toxic masculinity" issue. But that
doesn't fit the liberal narrative.
2. I can only hope justice is done and Rivera is executed.

What is this about, anyway? President Trump, who I didnot trust in 2016 and don’t trust now (although unlike the irrational masses, I don’t think every thing he’s done is terrible just because he’s mean), told us that we were going to build a wall and Mexico would pay for it. That made plenty of sense, with sovereignty and all. Then it was going to be reimbursed by Mexico. Now we need to appropriate funds or the shutdown continues.

While I agree with the President that illegal immigration is a problem, I don’t think his solution will actually solve it. A wall might decrease the numbers, crossing the border openly is only one way of getting in. From accounts I’ve heard, the most common way of illegally immigrating is through overstaying visas. That doesn’t get solved with a wall. I can’t imagine tunneling comprises a huge percentage, but that also can’t be stopped by a wall unless it is dug deep, raising costs even further. There is also smuggling across checkpoints, which apart from the smuggling is a legal means of entering the country.

The same is true of drugs. Smuggling and tunneling are common ways of getting them across. We could also go into the excessive costs, which would be significantly more than the $5 billion espoused by the President, the environmental impact, and taking private citizens’ land (though it might be justifiable if a wall would help things).

The wall seems much more to me as a lasting monument to President Trump. He wants a symbol to point to, a literal mark on our country. An ego like his needs fueling.

I imagine everyone found something they liked and didn’t like in these thoughts. My point is that liberals are naïve or just don’t care when it comes to the safety of U.S. citizens from criminals that we can’t document. Maybe it’s a bleeding heart, maybe it’s to help voter fraud, or maybe it’s just contrarian. Meanwhile, many conservatives believe a wall will help the problem, when I fear it will not. And while we argue over the merits of the Great Wall of Donald, we continue to trample on the federal employees still waiting for their paychecks.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Abortion, and Why Christians Can't Vote Democrat

While I unabashedly admit that I am politically conservative, I don’t think there are a lot of political issues that have a set Christian viewpoint. I’m not ready to say, “Jesus would have lowered taxes,” or something to that effect. And I think it is important to not make political views into biblical views if there’s no a scriptural backing.

But there is one that, so I’d think, is pretty clear in scripture. Abortion is more than just a political issue, but it is that, and it is typically an issue surrounding elections.

In writing this, I am operating under the assumption that a Christian is anti-abortion. If you as a Christian support abortion, I’d encourage you to check out a book I read, a collaboration of some great writers. It’s called the Bible. It might change your perspective.

So assuming there is a basic understanding of human equality in God’s eyes, we have to take the practical step in our political decision-making.

Christians, you can’t vote for Democrats.

I’m not saying that voting Democrat makes you not a Christian or implies you aren’t a Christian, because the candidates we vote for don’t determine our salvation, though I all but heard it in 2016. In fact, I have well-respected and good friends that have done so.
Photo via The Odyssey Online

Nor am I saying that being a Christian means you have to vote Republican. I know on the surface this seems partisan, but I’m not saying to be Christian is to be Republican, and I’m not saying don’t vote for Democrats just because they’re Democrats. I’m saying don’t vote Democrat because of what they support, and if Republicans were pro-abortion I’d say don’t vote for them. It just happens, in this case, that an entire political party is wrong. (And like the Planned Parenthood and NARAL endorsements, it makes knowing who not to vote for a little easier.)

Now, like I said, I disagree with the Democratic Party on a lot of issues. (To be fair, while I agree with a good part of the Republican Party’s platform, they have a knack for choosing nominees who either don’t share some of those beliefs or are too cowardly to do anything about them. We waited two years with no repeal of the Affordable Care Act, no defunding of Planned Parenthood, etc.) Most of these issues, however, are not gospel issues.

But it’s different with abortion. There is such an obvious answer in scripture and it strikes at God’s heart by killing innocent humans created in His image.

I’ve heard the argument that abortion is but one of many issues and shouldn’t make or break a vote. I’ve even heard actively pro-life people made fun of for being “single-issue voters.” Consider this.

If a candidate lines up with us on everything else, but supports the legal killing of Jews, would we vote for him? If everything else checked out but she thinks it should be legal to kill black people, should we vote for her? If he thinks killing the elderly because we don’t want to take care of them is morally acceptable or even good, should we vote for him?

I mean, it’s only one issue, people. So he’s wrong on that little issue of killing innocent people if they meet or fail to meet certain criteria, but his economic policy is great. He wants to waive our student loans and he really knows what he’s doing with national security. Why should supporting the legalized killing of a group of human beings be a deal-breaker when he has so much else going for him?

If that is a deal-breaker, and we believe the preborn are equal to us and deserving of the same protection, why is it okay to vote for someone who supports the legalized killing of one group of human beings but not ones who support killing other groups of human beings?

The problem in the church is that we pay lip service to the equality of the preborn, but we don’t actually believe it. Otherwise support for the killing of a group of innocent human beings would be appalling enough to make everything else not matter. While Planned Parenthood is lying with their “3 percent” line, even that small amount would moot any positive contributions and make them evil. The same is true of candidates.
Photo via The Odyssey Online

Now, what about that rare Democrat who is anti-abortion? I would ask a follow-up. Will he/she still back the Party in relevant decisions? For example, in the 2009 vote for Speaker of the House, where the Democratic majority selected Nancy Pelosi, the known pro-life Democrats in the House—Collin Peterson, Henry Cueller, and Daniel Lipinski—all voted for Pelosi. The Speaker has enormous power in determining what legislation comes to a general vote, and I would question where these men prioritize their anti-abortion beliefs if they want a Speaker who will do all she can to prevent pro-life legislation from having a chance. Supporting the Party who holds to a pro-abortion view will stifle any progress to prevent the injustice.

Pro-life Democrats are going the way of the Whigs, so this probably won’t be a huge issue in the future. While I would not automatically discount a pro-life Democrat, I would hesitate to determine that his/her commitment to life is greater than his/her commitment to the Party.

But for the vast majority of Democrats, there is a commitment to the legality of abortion. We saw how far they’ll take it during the Kavanaugh deliberations. They’re much more committed to death than the Republicans are to life.

We need to repent of our complacency or complicity as this injustice continues to take place.

I’m not going to shun you or question your salvation if you’re voting for Democratic candidates. But I will question you on how you can consider the preborn our equals when you’re voting for candidates who vow to make sure they keep dying.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Lessons from Paul's Sojourn in Corinth

Our definition of success and God’s definition of success don’t always match.

Have you ever had that moment when the Spirit tells you to talk to a person, and they completely reject what you have to say? It has left me asking why God put me there in the first place. I’ve seen this before in my life. The Spirit tells me to go talk to someone and he completely rejects what I have to say. Did I pollute God’s voice with my own thoughts? If not, God, why did You put me up to this in the first place?

Ancient Corinth. Picture via Realm of History.
When Paul came to Corinth from Athens, his ministry initially seemed mild. He was making tents with Aquila and Priscilla and reasoning in the temple for a while. But then God called Him to something more.
And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean; from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles. –Acts 18:5-6

Being “pressed in the spirit” is from the Greek word sunechó, which means “to be held fast,” “to be seized,” “oppressed,” “afflicted,” or “constrained.” It does not directly tell us that this is of the Spirit, but it’s a logical jump to make. An individual with a close walk with God will experience being “pressed in the spirit” by the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.

Paul was urged to go all out in preaching the gospel to the Jews in Corinth. But, in our eyes, he saw no success. The Jews in Corinth opposed him and blasphemed.

It could have been easy in that moment to look at what transpired as failure. His goal was to convert, and it didn’t happen. But we have to look at it with Heaven’s eyes.

Think of the wider, long-term consequences. This was a huge moment in Paul’s ministry for two reasons. First, the Jews in Corinth heard the gospel. That’s never a bad thing, no matter the reaction. Now, if they choose to reject Christ, they do it in full knowledge, and no one else can be blamed for their unbelief. They were given the opportunity, and that’s all we’re responsible for.

Second, this was when Paul doubled down on bringing the gospel to the Gentiles, which was still a fairly new thing. It was a watershed moment that illuminated Paul’s path that God had laid for him.

William Borden. Picture via The Traveling Team.
It’s not that God used failure. There was no failure. We define success in numbers or stories. God defines it in obedience. He knows the end. We have to trust Him, obey Him, and leave the consequences to Him.

We could look at the lives of people like William Borden or David Brainerd. Surely dying in your 20’s before your ministry takes off is a failure. Surely being born into poverty and the victim of abortion attempts is failure. Surely Joseph being a slave and a prisoner for years is failure. Surely Jeremiah’s ministry of being ignored and ridiculed was failure. But in all these things God had a purpose.

Surely a man’s ministry ending in crucifixion is failure. But it was our salvation.

God’s ability to exercise His Providence is not predicated on our understanding. Our following Him is never failure.

The lesson to learn from Paul’s time in Corinth is that the Spirit will call us to do things that will end in failure in the world’s eyes. We have to trust that God sees the bigger picture and has a reason for what might seem futile in our eyes.