As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything. 2 Corinthians 6:1-10
I can only imagine what Paul’s life was like. Each of the good and bad times that he listed, he lived. Paul even survived a stoning, which is a very uncommon experience (Acts 14-19-20). Throughout these good times and bad, Paul lived under the grace of God. Paul also lived each day as the day of salvation, which helped him live under grace through some very hard times. Paul was not a popular man. Many found him hard to deal with. This reminds me of an old Dear Abby article about judging others that I kept in one of my bibles, long before I went to seminary:
Dear Abby: One of the toughest tasks a church faces is choosing a good minister. A member of an official board undergoing this painful process finally lost patience. He'd watched the pastoral relations committee reject applicant after applicant for some fault, alleged or otherwise. It was time for a bit of soul-searching on the part of the committee. So he stood up and read a letter purporting to be from another applicant.
"Gentlemen: Understanding your pulpit is vacant, I should like to apply for the position. I have many qualifications. I've been a preacher with much success and also have had some success as a writer. Some say I'm a good organizer. I've been a leader most places I've been.
I'm over 50 years of age. I have never preached in one place for more than three years. In some places, I have left town after my work caused riots and disturbances. I must admit I have been in jail three or four times, but not because of any real wrongdoing. My health is not too good, though I still get a great deal done. "I've not gotten along well with religious leaders in towns where I have preached. I am not too good at keeping records. I have been known to forget whom I baptized. However, if you can use me, I shall do my best for you."
The board member looked over the committee. "Well, what do you think? Shall we call him?" The good church folks were aghast. Call an unhealthy, trouble-making, absentminded ex-jailbird? Was the board member crazy? Who signed the application? Who has such colossal nerve?
The board member eyed them all keenly before he answered, "It's signed, 'the Apostle Paul."'
May we live under grace no matter what times we face.