“On frequent journeys, I faced dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own people, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the open country, dangers on the sea, and dangers among false brothers; labor and hardship, many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, often without food, cold, and lacking clothing” (2 Corinthians 11:26-27 HCSB).
In addition to the physical challenges posed by first-century travel, Paul the Apostle also had to be alert to the dangers posed by “…men who claim to be brothers in Christ but are not” (TLB). Unfortunately, it appears that Paul encountered so many people who fit that description that he was forced to include them among the other hazards he faced.
These pseudo-Christians were likely motivated by two factors, one spiritual and the other secular. Paul identified the first motivation in his letter to the Galatian church when he spoke of “…some false brothers (who) had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus in order to enslave us” (Galatians 2:4 CSB). The second possibility involved those who posed as Christians in an effort to detect genuine believers and report them to the religious or political authorities.
Finally, there were labors, hardships, sleepless nights, hunger, thirst, and insufficient cold weather clothing for Paul to contend with. Perhaps the best cumulative illustration of these challenges might be found in the final chapter of Paul’s last Biblical letter to Timothy…
“The time of my death is near… Timothy, please come as soon as you can… When you come, be sure to bring the coat I left with Carpus at Troas… Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm… The first time I was brought before the judge, no one came with me. Everyone abandoned me. May it not be counted against them… Do your best to get here before winter…” (2 Timothy 4:6, 9, 13, 14, 16, 21 NLT).
The “coat” mentioned above was a cape-like garment that enabled its wearer to stay warm in the winter. In addition to his pressing need for a cold-weather cloak, Paul’s sense of urgency was probably driven by the challenges associated with winter travel during that time. Shipping lanes were generally closed between November and March and if Timothy delayed, he would not arrive until the following spring. Paul may have feared that he might not survive that long.
So while Paul may have felt foolish is compiling this lengthy list of hardships, a person who could endure these kinds of adversities was certainly not a weakling. That would surely give anyone felt that way about Paul a good reason to rethink his or her position.