A. We are well into one of the best chapters in the NT.
1. If you were not familiar with this chapter, I hope you are being exposed to something which will go with you for the rest of your life.
2. But we’re not done.
B. Some in Corinth have accused Paul of being too weak and too prone to troubles to be worthy of being an apostle. In 2Corinthians, Paul explains and defends his weakness.
C. 2Corinthians 4:8–12 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
II. 2Corinthians 4:8–9 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
A. In these verses Paul poignantly reflects upon the life of the Christian.
1. On the one hand we are bullied both by the painful realities of this cursed existence and by the peculiar trials of following in the footsteps of the crucified One: "We are afflicted in every way, ...perplexed, ...persecuted, ...struck down."
2. And yet on the other hand, we are buoyed by the power of the Spirit who works in our hearts, so that in spite of the pressing weight of the trials "we are...not crushed, ...not despairing, ...not forsaken, ...not destroyed."
B. The Christian life is lived in the constant interplay between these two realities: bullied, but also buoyed.
1. Bullied by the world, by the devil, by the curse, by our own weakness.
2. And yet in spite of what you would expect, we stay afloat.
C. How can this be? What keeps these people going? What gives them hope in the midst of suffering? It is the truth of God and the power of God which buoy us.
1. In the midst of the agonies, we know that there is a God who watches over us, who is our Helper, who ordained the trials for our benefit, and who promises He will never leave us or forsake us.
2. "Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ (Is.41:10)
3. Romans 8:31 If God is for us, who can be against us?
III. 2Corinthians 4:8a “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed;”
A. Afflicted in every way: A wide variety of afflictions: health, relational, family, job, church, school, finances, neighborhood, house, car, mental illness, what’s happening in our society,
B. There’s heartbreak, there’s tragedy, there’s disappointment, there’s physical pain, there are wounds, there’s rejection, there’s shattered dreams, there’s loss, there’s failure, there’s betrayal, there’s humiliation, there’s dangers, there’s burdens, there’s diseases, there’s injuries, there’s frustration, there are responsibilities, there is the threat of evil being done to us. We could go on and on.
C. And yet we are not crushed.
D. There is One who watches over us to sustain us, to protect us — not from affliction but from being crushed by affliction, not from feeling like we’re being crushed, but from actually being crushed.
E. Along with the afflictions, He knows how to include the strength, the joys, the encouragements, the faith to keep us going.
F. One of my favorite hymns: “Day by day, and with each passing moment, Strength I find to meet my trials here; Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment, I’ve no cause for worry or for fear. He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure, (Lovingly) Gives unto each day (its part of pain and pleasure) as He deems best, Mingling toil with peace and rest.” (Lina Sandell)
IV. 2Corinthians 4:8b “perplexed, but not driven to despair”
A. Included in Paul’s list of tribulations he – and all God’s people – endure is perplexity.
B. The Greek word translated here as "despairing" is the same word translated "perplexed" but in its intensified form. The point is that we are perplexed, but something holds us back from utter despair.
C. One of the features of living in this cursed world is that a lot of very dark and sad and perplexing things happen. And part of being yet unperfected is that we are often troubled and confounded by what we see and experience in this world.
D. However, through it all, the Christian has a reason for hope. Even in the face of disturbing injustice and seemingly purposeless tragedy, we know that God is on His throne, that He rules over the affairs of His world, that He knows what He is doing, that He has all things well in hand, and that it all fits into a perfect plan which will result in glory and understanding and justice and praise. So, though at times we may be perplexed, we are never cast into despair.
E. The world sees disturbing things and concludes that either there is no god or he is powerless or evil.
1. Steel Magnolias: “Things aren’t supposed to happen this way!”
2. Without Christ, that’s despair.
F. Sadly, some kids grow up in the church and they accept what they learn about Christianity. But when they leave home or go to college and learn about some of the horrific things which have happened in history and which are happening right now in the world, and they lose their faith.
G. But Paul says here that being perplexed about some things which happen is part of the way we are tried and tested. It’s part of our hardship in this world.
H. But it doesn’t turn into despair, because we believe in a good God who even uses evil for good purposes. (“You meant it for evil; God meant it for good.” – Gen.50:20)
1. The Christian can’t understand many things which happen. But the Christian can know that God understands why everything happens, and He has a good purpose for it all.
2. We are perplexed, but we’re not driven to despair. We know that some day we’ll understand.
I. C.A. Tindley
1. We are often tossed and driven on a restless sea of time, Somber skies and howling tempests oft succeed a bright sunshine, Trials dark on every hand, and we cannot understand,
2. By and by when the morning comes, When the saints of God are gathered home, We’ll tell the story of how we’ve overcome; In that land of perfect day, when the mists have rolled away, We will understand it better by and by.
V. 2Corinthians 4:9a “persecuted but not forsaken”
A. Paul says that he – and other believers in Christ – are persecuted. We will be mistreated, despised, disrespected, ridiculed, abused.
1. And yet, no matter how hated and mistreated and abused we are, the One who really counts has promised that He will never forsake us.
2. "Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at your enemy, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you." (Deut.31:6)
B. The Christian life is not an easy one. It involves being treated the way they treated Christ (“If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” -- John 15:20).
1. However, through it all we are strengthened by the assurance that Jesus is with His people when they are persecuted. Whether it is prison and torture or just not being thought of as "cool", Jesus promises that He will stand with those who stand for Him.
2. "The Lord also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble; and those who know Your name will put their trust in You. For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You." (Psalm 9:9-10)
C. The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose I will not, I will not desert to his foes; That soul, tho’ all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never, no never, no never forsake! – Alfred Fedak
VI. 2Corinthians 4:9b “struck down, but not destroyed;”
A. “knocked down but never knocked out” (JB Phillips)
B. Paul’s list in 2Cor.11
C. Paul’s comments in 2Cor.1:8-9
D. Show me an elderly Christian and I’ll show you someone who has been knocked down a lot but never knocked out.
E. This is not good news for everyone. Those who are still clinging to the hope that their lives are going to be smooth and trouble-free, to them this assurance is not encouraging.
1. But to those who have seen and accepted the fact that life is hard, this is wonderful news.
2. God will keep you going. You might at times feel like you’re going to drown in life’s troubles, but God will make sure you never do.
A. We don’t have to be afraid of trouble.
1. The way I learned to swim versus the way Elijah and Ezra learned to swim.
2. If you’re afraid of going under water, you can’t enjoy swimming. And if you’re afraid of hardships you can’t enjoy life.
B. As we learned last week from James 1:9-10, as believers we’re not supposed to focus on the thing which is natural to focus on.
1. Nebuchadnezzar on the roof of his palace focusing on his success
2. When we fail, it’s natural to focus on our weakness and on other failures we’ve had and on
a. But that’s not what we need to focus on. We need to focus on God’s faithfulness, we need to focus on how God works all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. We need to focus on the truth that failure is one of God’s tools to teach us and transform us.
3. We focus on the things we need to focus on.
a. When we are afflicted, we are prone to focus on our affliction, but instead we should focus on the our mighty fortress!
b. When we’re perplexed, we should focus on the One who holds all things in His trustworthy hands.
c. When we’re persecuted, we should focus on the One who has promised never to forsake us.
d. And when we are struck down, we should focus on the One who has promised to be our Helper.
C. Lauren Daigle’s song, Look Up Child
1. Where are You now when darkness seems to win? Where are You now when the world is crumbling? Oh I, I, I hear You say, I hear You say "Look up child, look up child"
2. Where are You now when all I feel is doubt? Where are You now when I can't figure it out? Oh I, I, I hear You say, I hear You say "Look up child, look up child"
3. You're not threatened by the war, You're not shaken by the storm, I know You're in control, Even in our suffering, Even when it can't be seen I know You're in control
4. Oh I, I, I hear You say, I hear You say "Look up child, look up child" "Look up child, look up"
D. And when we do this, people say, "Look, even though troubles afflict her, she is not cast down. Or, What keeps him afloat? It must be God!"
E. Of course, God’s power in human weakness doesn’t always work. When people respond to their weakness with bitterness & self-pity, it’s not really the kind of weakness Paul is talking about here.
1. There must be a degree of faith and contentment in weakness. We must be content in not knowing, not knowing what to do, not knowing what’s going to happen. We must be willing to wait on the Lord.
2. God wants us to remember that our weakness isn’t a bad thing. It allows God’s power to shine.
F. Now we’re going to go into this more deeply next week, but I want to give you a little glimpse of the next verse.
1. 4:10 ALWAYS CARRYING ABOUT IN THE BODY THE DYING OF JESUS, SO THAT THE LIFE OF JESUS ALSO MAY BE MANIFESTED IN OUR BODY.
2. We are following Jesus. And His path leads to triumph and glory. But the way it gets there is through the valley of suffering.
3. Why do we suffer? Because we are carrying in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
4. That’s what it’s all about. God has destined us for glory beyond our imagination, but like fine wine, the way to get there involves the crushing of grapes. (Isaiah 65:8 Thus says the LORD: “As the new wine is found in the cluster, and they say, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,’ so I will do for my servants’ sake, and not destroy them all.”)
G. What’s the alternative? There is another path. It is the path of the world.
1. They eat, but they’re still empty inside. They drink, but their souls are dying of thirst. They laugh and have good times, but ultimate shame awaits them. They sing and have fun now, but soon they will cry out in agony of heart and their spirits will be crushed.
2. There are only two paths. That’s what Jesus said.
3. Matthew 7:13–14 “The way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
4. The road we want to travel down is the road of pleasure, popularity and ease which ends in even more pleasure, popularity and ease. That road is a demonic fantasy. It does not exist. The path which leads to life is a hard path, and those who walk in it are few.