Making Bricks of Mud

by Robert F. Turner

Paul was set upon by a mob, and then dragged from their hands by the police. Falsely charged, he spent two years in Jewish prisons, and was then sent to Rome to appear before Caesar. His traveling days ended, and threatened with death by savage beasts (II Timothy 4:17), we could understand his being depressed and feeling "all is lost."   Instead, he wrote to the Philippians, "the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel" (II Timothy 1:12-21). He could write, "I rejoice!"

Discounting his personal discomforts, he saw the good side of the bad - saw victory in defeat. I know his selflessness, his trust in the Lord, is the key. "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Paul had to learn this attitude; but I am impressed that he learned it so well it seems to have become a part of him. He "learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content" (II Timothy 4:11); and this kind of thinking spawned hope instead of despair. Throw mud at Paul and he made bricks of it, and built a house. Send him a lemon, and he would enjoy the lemonade, and thank you for them. It is hard to defeat a person with such an attitude as that.

We do not refer to an artificial Pollyannish attitude, out of touch with reality. Paul sought relief from his "thorn in the flesh" (II Corinthians 12:8), but, when this was denied him, he could "glory in my infirmities," making the most of them in defending his apostleship (II Corinthians 12:7-11). He did not enjoy being forsaken by his brethren any more than do we, but he could "pray God that it may not be laid to their charge" (II Timothy 4:16-17). He was confident that the Lord would save him.

Nor is this simply the self-reliance, "indomitable ego" that is so highly recommended by psychotherapists. Human philosophies "plug in" to no higher source than man himself, and, when society fails (as it does repeatedly), the individual despairs - sometimes ends it all in suicide. But the "look up" attitude of a true believer in God removes fear of the future, his soul is anchored (Hebrews 6:18-20), and he "shall not be moved." As one rancher friend of mine put it: "Things are going to pick up!"