I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. Philippians 1:20. (EHV).
Everyone has a breaking point. If you talk to military SERE instructors, they will tell you that one of the biggest lessons Americans learned from POW experiences in World War II, Korea and Vietnam was that every prisoner has a breaking point. Every person has a point at which they can’t withstand further incarceration, discomfort or torture. Eventually, every person, honorable or not, can be broken.
Paul understood this. He expected Christ would empower him to stand, to resist the temptation to give in to Rome. Paul knew Christ wouldn’t abandon him, wouldn’t leave him to fend for himself. Paul understood that his sufferings were meaningless when compared to how Jesus Christ would be glorified by every petty attack against him.
Paul understood it because he also understood that, on his own, he wouldn’t last. Without the Spirit of God to speak for him, work through him, Paul would break. He would give in to what the Jews and Romans wanted and he would recant. It’s simply human nature because a person can only take ‘so much.’ The North Koreans understand this concept. So did the Vietnamese, and communist Chinese. So did the Soviets, Nazis, and the mafia. The interrogator or oppressor simply has to find what will break the subject and then do it. With some people, it’s physical; with others it’s emotional. Everyone has a breaking point.
Jesus knows this too. Jesus knows that we can’t stand on our own, that without Him we are nothing. He knows that the world is fallen and set against Him, so He gives His Spirit to us so that we might stand with Him and endure, even overcome. Even when we break, or are broken or killed, He is with us so that we might endure in Him and yet prevail. And when we prevail for His sake, Jesus is glorified. He is increased in the world. He is given praise and we benefit. We especially benefit eternally.
Again, Paul understood all this. He understood that, if he didn’t succeed here, he would succeed in eternity because Jesus had already succeeded, already prevailed, for him. He understood that his (Paul’s) first, best mission is to live for Christ no matter what that required. Paul knew he would reach his breaking point but that he could endure past that with faith and honor because Jesus was with him at all times. Two thousand years later, that’s still true. I suspect some of those SERE instructors would agree.
For further reading: Romans 8:19, 1 Corinthians 6:20, Philippians 1:21
Lord Jesus, be with me when I’m attacked or persecuted and help me endure for Your sake.