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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Gossip - What It Does

(To read the earlier posts in this series click here and here.)
We’ve spent some time in previous posts looking at what gossip is.  Gossip is secret slander.  Or as one lexicon defines it, gossip is “providing harmful information about a person, often spoken in whispers or in low voice, with the implication that such information is not widely known and therefore should presumably be kept secret.”  We’ve probably got a good handle on it by now.
Now, it’s time to consider what gossip does.  That is, what effects does gossip have?  One passage that is particularly important for helping us understand the danger of all sinful speech is Eph 4:29, where Paul writes, Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths… 
What is corrupting talk?  Several other translations call it “unwholesome talk”.  The Greek word sarpos is defined by one lexicon as “decayed, rotting, rotten; literally, of decaying fish or fruit no longer useful for food; more generally useless, of no value, unfit; figuratively, of unedifying speech harmful, bad, unprofitable.”[1]  Given that the opposite godly quality that we are told to “put on” in Eph 4:29 is speech that is “good for building up”, this figurative definition seems to fit.  The term most likely refers to any kind of speech that is unedifying or harmful.
Paul is talking about words that tear down, and gossip would certainly qualify.  Gossip tears down.  Gossip is intended to damage the reputation of a person in another’s eyes.  In a sense, when we engage in gossip, we are tearing someone down behind their back.  It is unedifying to say the least, not only to the person who is the subject of the gossip, but also to ourselves and to the person who is listening. 
Think about the effects that one act of gossip can have.  (For this and future posts, I’ll refer to the person about whom the gossip is spoken as the “subject,” the person doing the gossip as the “gossiper,” and the person listening as the “hearer.”)  First, one act of gossip has the potential to affect the relationship between the subject and the hearer.  It is quite possible that had the gossiper not said anything, the hearer would never have had a negative thought about the subject.  If you think about it for even a few seconds, you can undoubtedly think of examples in your own life where you have been prompted to have a negative view of someone solely because of gossip you heard about them.  It happens all the time.  And it is often the case that what is shared is a skewed version of the truth if not a complete fabrication.  Without great discipline on the part of the hearer, it may take a long time for that wrong perception to be corrected.  Worse, it may prevent a wonderful, edifying relationship between the subject and the hearer from ever developing.
Second, an act of gossip has the potential to affect the relationship of the gossiper and the hearer in a number of ways.  If you engage in gossip with someone, it can set the entire tone of your relationship.  There are some people who don’t know what to do around each other if they are not gossiping.  It’s like they have no idea what else to talk about.  It leads to a very shallow relationship where neither person ever shares anything of real value or meaning.  If the hearer is already someone who engages in gossip, and you approach them with gossip, you’ve just given them the green light to sin in your presence.  This can lead to a long relationship of mutual corruption. 
Just as bad, if the hearer is not someone given to gossip, your sin could influence them to begin engaging in the same behavior.  Sinful flesh would gladly take advantage of such a justification.  You could end up planting the idea in their mind, “if _________ does it, it must be okay,” so that they end up using your sin to find comfort in their own.  Where does that train end?  It’s possible, even likely, that the person you encouraged to sin will encourage still others.  What a grievous thing to be the catalyst of a whole tribe of people engaging in corrupting talk!
Further, if the hearer is not a gossiper, you may have wrecked your own reputation with them.  Their former high opinion of you may be damaged when they hear you speaking disparagingly about someone else.  They may be prompted to think, “I wonder what you say about me when I’m not around.”  That person then may keep you at a distance, costing you the possibility of another edifying relationship.  As your reputation for gossip grows, you guarantee that others will never trust you with any important information about themselves.  You will cut yourself off from meaningful relationships.
And we’ve not even considered the wider damage that can and does take place.  When ungodly talk is repeated it rarely retains its original form.  The information may be accurate at its first utterance, but it won’t stay that way for long.  We’ve all played the party game where you sit in a circle and one person tells his neighbor a secret.  That person then turns to whisper the same secret to the next person.  The secret is passed around the circle until it gets back around to the originator, who then shares it out loud with the whole group.  The secret never even resembles the original message.  It is always completed distorted.
That may be a cute game at parties, but it’s a relational cancer in real life.  Someone can originate one morsel of gossip, and if it is not stopped quickly by someone who is godly, before long there can be many different versions of the story floating around.  Not only is the subject’s reputation sullied, but so is the reputation of every person who participated in the sordid infection.  Wrong perceptions and false assumptions rather than the truth will reign.  Anger and hurt feelings will spread like a fever.  If someone tries to right all the wrong versions of the story, the whole thing can become even more convoluted.  In short order, you have a group of people believing wrong things about one another, distrusting one another, perpetuating false conclusions about one another, shunning one another, retaliating against one another, splintering into factions, going their separate ways, and demolishing many relationships.  How many local churches have been destroyed this way?
No wonder, James wrote of the tongue: And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell... It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so (James3:6-10).
Gossip, like other sins of the tongue, tears down.  It destroys.  It sets on fire the entire course of life.  It is a restless evil.
But is the worst thing about gossip that it destroys relationships and local churches?  Certainly those things are horrible and lamentable, but I believe there is something even worse that gossip does.  It causes the name of God to be dishonored in the world.  How is that? 
Ephesians is all about how God has created the church in Christ for His own glory (Eph 3:20-21).  God took sinners who hated Him and each other and transformed them into saints who love Him and each other.  Only God can accomplish such a transformation.  Only God can take those who know only of self-interest and knit them together in one body, so that they are members of one another (4:25).  He gave them gifts with which to build one another up until they all attain to the unity of the faith, to maturity, to the likeness of Christ (4:7-13).  Like members of a literal body, they are to serve one another so that the body builds itself up in love (4:16).  What is accomplished by this?  Ultimately, the manifold wisdom of God is displayed to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places, for again, only God can accomplish such a transformation (3:10).  So when the members of that body tear each other down rather than build each other up, the very reputation of God is defamed. 
And this is why the enemy adores gossip.  It does damage the church, but that’s not his ultimate aim.  He wants to discredit the Almighty.  And when he can get the Church to willingly participate, it is all the more delightful to him.  Remember, the devil’s name means slander.
Much is at stake when we open our mouths to gossip.  Beyond the thrill of sharing some forbidden secret there lies the potential to destroy lives, devastate churches, and dishonor the God who saved us.  It’s no small thing.  It’s a world of unrighteousness. 

[1] (Louw-Nida) The Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament.
Posted by Greg Birdwell

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Gossip and Slander

This is our second installment in a series on gossip.  Last time we took a quick look at the biblical words translated “gossip” in both the Old and New Testaments.  One of the best definitions of the word is found in The Greek-English Lexicon of the NT (Louw-Nida): “providing harmful information about a person, often spoken in whispers or in low voice, with the implication that such information is not widely known and therefore should presumably be kept secret.”  A more succinct definition might be secret slander. 
It is important to note the connection that we find in the Bible between gossip and slander, because the one helps us to understand the other.  The two are found side by side repeatedly in the Word.  For example, in Ezekiel 36:3, the word of the Lord comes to the prophet regarding Israel’s treatment at the hands of the nations.  He talks of how the people “became the possession of the rest of the nations, and you became the talk and evil gossip of the people…” (English Standard Version).  Consider what other translations use there:
“the talk and the whispering of the people” (New American Standard)
“an object of people's gossip and slander (Holman Christian Standard)
So we have two concepts, obviously related.  That the Israelites were the object of both the “talking” and “whispering” (or “gossip” and “slander”) indicates that the content of the speech was the same.  Apparently, the difference between the two was simply one of secrecy. 
Romans 1:29-30 seems to show the same relationship.  Here in a list of the attributes the debased mind, Paul writes, “They are gossips, slanderers…”  Alternate translations are helpful here, too:
“They are whisperers, evil-speakers…” (Young’s Literal Translation)
“They are whisperers, back-biters…” (King James Version)
As with the Hebrew word for gossip (ribah), the element of whispering is inherent in the Greek word, psithurismos.  The key is that it is a whisper the content of which makes it sinful.  Slander seems to be similar – the act of speaking evil – but there is no element of secrecy.
The connection between the concepts of gossip and slander is so strong that the New American Standard three times uses the phrase “malicious gossips” where most other translations have “slanderers” (1 Tim 3:11; 2 Tim3:3; Titus 2:3).  All of this is to say that we are pretty safe to conclude that gossip can be thought of as secret (or whispered) slander.   
This is significant because of how light a sin we tend to consider gossip.  It is one of the “respectable sins” mentioned by Jerry Bridges’ in his book by the same name.  Such sins are subtle by nature, according to Bridges.  They are not the obvious sins of the culture.  As a respectable sin, gossip slips under the radar all too often in the church.  We either don’t notice it all around us or it is so commonplace that it would seem petty to address it.
But if we could begin to see gossip as a form of slander, I’m not so sure that it would be able to maintain such a low profile, at least in our own estimation of its seriousness.  Slander is intentionally sharing harmful information about someone to damage the person’s reputation.  It is intended to cause a person to be diminished in the minds of others.  That may not sound so horrible, but most people don’t know that the word “devil” in our New Testament comes from the Greek word for slander.  The word is diabolos.  If our Bibles were super literal, we would read in Matthew4:1 that “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the slanderer.”  Likewise, 1 Pet 5:8 would read, “your adversary, the slanderer, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
You see, the sin of slander is so closely tied to the character of the devil that he is referred to as “the slanderer” 33 times in the New Testament, only two times fewer than he is referred to by his proper name, Satan.  The Bible teaches that the devil occupies himself day and night slandering and accusing the saints before God (Rev 12:10).  So when we slander, we engage in the same activity as the devil, the very activity with which he is most closely associated.
And gossip is nothing less than secret slander.  We could think of it as surreptitiously engaging in the same deeds as the devil.  Gossip is not an innocuous activity.  No wonder we find it listed in the Bible alongside quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, conceit, disorder, impurity, sexual immorality, sensuality, unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife, deceit, hatred of God, insolence, pride, boasting, invention of evil, rebelliousness, foolishness, faithlessness, heartlessness, ruthlessness, and the celebration of all these things (Rom 1:29-32; 2 Cor 12:20-21).  We must take gossip seriously. 
Next time, we’ll begin to look at how this and other sins of the tongue can affect our relationships in the family, the church, the workplace, and the community.  It will become clear that not only is gossip not a small sin, but it is one of the most harmful sins we can commit against one another.
May we all examine ourselves in light of this.  And may the Lord help us to grow so that our every word is edifying, fitting, and grace-giving (Eph 4:29).
 Posted by Greg Birdwell

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What is gossip?

This is a question that has been on my mind for some time.  It seems that there are many different ideas floating around about what gossip is.  Over the years I’ve heard some say that gossip is sharing derogatory information about someone with a third party.  Others have defined it more narrowly as sharing untrue derogation information about someone.    Some have said gossip is talking about someone’s sin to someone other than the person who committed it.  Others say it is simply the repeating of rumors.   
Who is right?  What is gossip?  I decided to do a study on the subject and see what the Bible has to say.  In this first post in a series on gossip, I’d like to share with you a little about some key words from the original languages.  In future posts, we dig a little deeper into related issues.
When we do a word study in the Bible, the more uses of the word we can find the better.  This allows us to take a greater sample and it gives us a better picture of how the word is used and what it means.  With “gossip”, we really don’t have a whole lot to go on.  The English Standard Version uses “gossip” and its various forms only four times – once in the OT and three times in the NT.  However, the underlying Hebrew and Greek words are used more than that, which does give us a little more to go on.
The main Hebrew word in the OT translated “gossip” by most translations is ribah.  It is defined by various lexicons as whispering, defamation, evil report, and rumor.  The following are some places where the word is used:
Psalm 31:13 For I hear the whispering of many-- terror on every side!-- as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.
Jeremiah 20:10 For I hear many whispering. Terror is on every side! "Denounce him! Let us denounce him!" say all my close friends, watching for my fall. "Perhaps he will be deceived; then we can overcome him and take our revenge on him."
Everyone knows what whispering is, but these contexts imply whispering against someone, scheming with others about someone.  There is the intent to hurt the person.  But the word is used in other places, too:
Proverbs 10:18 The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool.
Several lexicons consider slander/defamation and gossip to be close synonyms.  Defamation is the making of a statement (true or false) about someone, with the intent to cause damage to their reputation.  Slander is similar, but the information is expressly false.
Proverbs 25:9-10 Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another's secret, lest he who hears you bring shame upon you, and your ill repute have no end.  (More literally, “your evil report.”)
Again, this usage seems to involve a damaged reputation, or “ill repute.”
Ezekiel 36:3  Therefore prophesy, and say, Thus says the Lord GOD: Precisely because they made you desolate and crushed you from all sides, so that you became the possession of the rest of the nations, and you became the talk and evil gossip of the people. (Several other translations use “evil report,” “slander,” or “whispering.”)
These passages all carry the idea of a bad or evil report that is harmful to the person’s reputation.  When we combine this idea with the element of whispering we arrive at what one lexicon describes as “secret slander.”
But what do we find in the NT?  There is one main word used in the NT, a verb, psithurismos. (Rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?)  Let me share the definitions of this word from two good lexicons:
1)    Greek-English Lexicon of the NT (Louw-Nida) - providing harmful information about a person, often spoken in whispers or in low voice, with the implication that such information is not widely known and therefore should presumably be kept secret
2)    Greek-English Lexicon of the NT (Bauer-Danker) – sharing derogatory information about someone that is offered in a tone of confidentiality
These are much fuller definitions than we find in the Hebrew lexicons, but the question is, are they accurate?  Unfortunately, the contexts in which the word is used in the NT do not provide much help.  The verb form of this word is used only once in the NT, in 2 Cor 12:20, For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish--that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.  Here it appears in a list of vices, but without enough context to get a feel for what the word means. 
The noun form is also found in only one place, again without much context that is helpful: Rom 1:29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips 
While the NT texts are not super helpful in helping us to get a feel for the Greek word psithurismos, the definitions given by the Greek lexicons do fit nicely with what we’ve seen from the corresponding OT word ribah.  There is an element of secrecy and an element of a bad report or the sharing of derogatory, harmful information.  Implicit is the possibility that the information will cause damage to the person’s reputation.  A very succinct definition could be secret defamation or slander.
Beginning next time, we’ll look at some of the relevant passages to try to determine what the Bible teaches more broadly about this and other sins of the tongue.  Until then, consider your speech over the last 48 hours.  Have you secretly shared harmful information about someone to someone else?  There will be much time for introspection over the coming weeks.  May the Lord help us to guard our mouths and hearts for the good of the body and for the glory of God.
 Posted by Greg Birdwell

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Perilous Extremes: Learning vs. Living

(click to read the first and second posts in this series)

When we started Providence back in 2008, we wanted to be a church where doctrine matters.  It seemed that with the spread of seeker-driven methods in the evangelical church, many congregations shied away from theological teaching and deep exposition in favor of a simpler, more pragmatic approach to doing church.  It was our conviction that the church needed to be solidly biblical in order to glorify the Lord as the church was intended to do.
We still hold this conviction.  But in this post, I’d like us to consider a couple of perilous extremes that can easily overtake us if we are not careful.  I have seen both of these in myself and in the congregation in the last four years, so it might be profitable to give them some thought. 
These extremes are found on either end of what I would call “the learning vs living” spectrum.  Probably the first extreme that a person will visit when coming to a church where theology matters is an over-emphasis on learning, or gaining knowledge.  Obviously, we are to be students of the Word.  The psalmist was passionate about coming to a greater understanding of the Scriptures: Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments (Psa 119:73).  He directly asks God to teach him the word no less than 11 times in one chapter (Ps. 119:12, 26, 29, 33, 64, 66, 68,108, 124, 135, 171).  
Paul exhorted Timothy both to stay in the Word himself and to preach the Word in season and out of season (2 Tim 3:14-15; 4:1-2).  In Titus, there is taught the necessity for an elder to teach sound doctrine and rebuke those who contradict it (Titus1:9).  Throughout the New Testament we find the exhortation to beware of false teachers bringing in vile heresies (Matt. 7:15; 24:11, 24; Mk. 13:22; 2 Co. 11:13; Gal. 2:4; 2 Pet. 2:1, 3; 1 Jn. 4:1).
These things are true and important, but our sinful hearts can tend to hold them in a vacuum and go to the extreme of making the study of Scripture and theology an almost purely academic endeavor and an end in itself.  Sermons can start to sound like college lectures, small groups resemble formal debates, and an inordinate amount of conversation is spent discussing prominent pastors and writers who are peddling bad theology.  It is possible to begin to feel as if my identity as a believer and my value to the church is found solely in how much I know and how well I can articulate it.  In other words, the Christian life can become all about learning and debating to the exclusion of application and serving. 
When people begin to realize what is happening there can be an attempt to correct the situation.  If the problem is an over-emphasis on learning/knowing, the common remedy is a new focus on applying/doing.  We realize that simply knowing what we know has not automatically made us more like Christ, so we start to concentrate on sanctification.  When studying Scripture, we try to keep our eyes on what the text requires of us. 
This is a very good thing.  But like any good thing, we can take it to an extreme as well.  There are two dangers that can result from over-correcting in this area.  The first is something I mentioned in the message on Sunday – morbid introspection.  Introspection is necessary for application – we must ask ourselves if we are being obedient to God’s Word.  But it’s possible that we can become so intent on applying God’s Word that we spend a great deal of time examining ourselves, asking ourselves questions to try to nail down every motive for everything we do.  We can become preoccupied with such questions, unable to lie in bed at night without fretting over the state of our own hearts.  Our attention is trained on ourselves with such intensity that we do not think of Christ and others.
A second danger that can come from an over-emphasis on applying/doing is that we are turned off by hard study and theology.  We deem such things impractical and give ourselves to topical studies that may be light on truth and heavy on pragmatism.  Or we don’t study anything – we just serve.
But there is a middle way.  There is a way to be balanced in our approach to the Word and application.  The key is to note the context of each of the above Scripture references related to Biblical teaching and sound doctrine.  What those passages either explicitly or implicitly show is that the knowledge of the Word is for the purpose of applying it to our lives.  When the psalmist asks God, “teach my your statutes,” he means so that he can be obedient.  Consider the first verses of Psalm 119:
  1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD!
 2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart,
 3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways!
Psalm 119 shows that David wants to know the Word so that he can live righteously.  He doesn’t separate study of the Word from living the Word.  They go together, so we must consider them inseparable.
Paul’s teaching shows the same thing.  When he exhorted Timothy to stay in the Scriptures, it was because they “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2Tim 3:15).  One verse later, we find the crucial statement on the inspiration of Scripture, which includes what it is inspired to do: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2Tim 3:16-17).  The entire book of Titus is based upon the truth that sound doctrine cannot be divorced from godly living. 
So we cannot shy away from Bible study and biblical theology, AND we must not engage in biblical and theological study without seeking to apply it in our lives.  We must learn the Word so that we can live the Word.  May the Lord help us to keep this also in balance for the good of the church and for His glory.
Posted by Greg Birdwell

Thursday, August 2, 2012

But what about those who do go hungry?

“But what about those who do go hungry?”  This is a question I have been asked more than once regarding the passage we covered on Sunday morning.  In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus exhorts us, “do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on…Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  How do we square Jesus’ words with the obvious cases where believers have gone without the things they needed? 
I think of Paul’s testimony in his correspondence with the Corinthians regarding his various experiences as an apostle:
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. (2Cor 1:8-9)
To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. (1Cor 4:11-13)
But as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger…
(2Cor 6:4-5)
Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. (2Cor 11:25-27)
It would seem from Paul’s example alone that Jesus’ words in Matt 6:25-34 should not be taken as a blanket promise that believers will never go without the things they need or that they will always have plenty.  Clearly Paul was a believer and clearly he suffered hunger and cold and pain, not to mention physical torture and persecution.  God’s provision at times takes the form of something more profound and significant than the meeting of a physical need.  It comes in the form of a more intimate knowledge of Him.
We have to remember that God’s highest purpose for us is to conform us to the image of His Son (Rom 8:28-30).  It is clear that at times He does this by bringing extreme difficulty into our lives.  He does this to teach us things about ourselves and to teach us things about Himself.
A particularly valuable insight can be gained from Jesus’ own temptation in the wilderness in Matthew 4:1-11.  Not only does Jesus know what it is like to be hungry, and not only was His hunger part of the will of God, but Jesus Himself quotes a passage from the Old Testament that tells us why God allows us to be hungry, thirsty, cold, uncomfortable, and even miserable.  When the Tempter sought to prod Jesus into meeting His own need by turning stones into bread, Jesus answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 
That quote in itself may not tell us much.  But if we look at it in its original context, we find that Jesus is quoting a passage in which God tells the Israelites why He allowed them to be hungry in the wilderness – Deuteronomy 8:1-6:
1 "The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers.
 2 And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.
 3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
 4 Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years.
 5 Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you.
 6 So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.
Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness was a mirror of this temptation from Israel’s history.  Just as Israel was tested with hunger to see if they would be faithful to the Lord, so also Jesus was tested with hunger.  The Israelites failed by grumbling against God (Ex16:1-8).  Jesus succeeded by trusting in God, not merely in His provision of food, but that the Father Himself would ultimately sustain Him.  Sometimes God lets us be hungry so that we will see that He Himself is our sustenance.  And this kind of thing is always for our good.
This is how Paul understood his trials.  Regarding the difficulty he describes at the beginning of 2 Cor, he writes, But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead (2 Cor 1:9).  It was in his own weakness that Paul came to appreciate the strength of God.  He writes in Phil 4:12-13, I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  Rather than doubting God’s provision because of his trials, Paul saw that God Himself was his strength, and for that reason he was confident that he could endure any hardship.
This seems to be the idea expressed in 2 Cor 4:8-10.  It was Christ in Paul that enabled him to endure all manners of adversity: We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.  In our weakness, He shows Himself strong.
Jesus’ message in Matt 6:25-34 is that we should not be anxious – God can be trusted.  But we ought not think that when a believer experiences physical hunger or goes without the necessities of life, that God has failed to come through.  We ought rather to see that God is using that difficulty to bring that believer into a more intimate experience of the sustenance that God Himself is. 
 Posted by Greg Birdwell