Paul was a late-comer to this missionary gig. He knew the price paid by the early apostles. Jesus told them they must pick up their own cross. Initially they were afraid. But when the Spirit submerged into their souls, they followed his example. So Paul felt foolish listing his losses, the things at the time of his call that Jesus said he “must suffer.” Still, the congregation at Corinth couldn’t conceive the cost of the call. They were partial to preachers proud in their position. Paul is saying to his family at Corinth, follow my example, not the turnpike paved with popularity. You have a cross to bear.
“Since you admire the egomaniacs of the pulpit so much (remember, this is your old friend, the fool, talking), let me try my hand at it. Do they brag of being Hebrews, Israelites, the pure race of Abraham? I’m their match. Are they servants of Christ? I can go them one better. (I can’t believe I’m saying these things. It’s crazy to talk this way! But I started, and I’m going to finish.) I’ve worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death’s door time after time. I’ve been flogged five times with the Jews’ thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. I’ve been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. In hard traveling year in and year out, I’ve had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I’ve been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. I’ve known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather.”
2 Corinthians 11:21-23 MSG