He considers himself a winner, but some might wonder how he’s come to that conclusion. His body is bruised and scarred from numerous beatings. His life on the road has left its mark too. On top of it all, he’s lost his freedom, and the likelihood of execution is looming over him.1
He had a promising start, born with the top grade of citizenship that could have opened so many doors.2 Yet since embracing the new faith, he was falsely imprisoned on numerous occasions,3 violently interrogated,4 shipwrecked three times,5 and even stoned once!6 He narrowly escaped several conspiracies,7 but he certainly didn’t escape all violence.
Nor was it just the ferocious opposition and rejection—he also faced poverty and want. He wrote, “To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. … We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world.”8 All in all, he had a lot of troubles, to the point that sometimes his life seemed unendurable.9
Under these circumstances, it seems almost beyond belief that he can boldly declare: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return.”10
Paul considered himself a winner because any outward appearance of failure was dispelled by the inner satisfaction of knowing that he had done what God expected of him. He had secured the ultimate win—and we can too, if we use our gifts and time for God’s glory. (Hopefully, our own unique life path will include a lot less battering than the valiant apostle Paul’s!)