Down But Not Out
2 Corinthians 4:8-18
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair [2Cor. 4:8].
Paul is making a comparison here. He says, "We are troubled." That is a comparative degree. But he says, "Yet not distressed." That is a superlative. He was pressed for room, as it were, but he still had room to preach the gospel. There was hand-to-hand combat in the corners, but he still could turn to God. When you can't look this way or that you can always look up!
"We are perplexed" -- he was unable to find a way out -- "but not in despair." He did get out -- the Spirit of God led him.
Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed [2Cor. 4:9].
He was "persecuted," pursued by enemies, but he was "not forsaken" -- not alone -- he was not overtaken by the enemies. When he was in prison, he could write to the Philippians, "But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; so that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places" (Phil. 1:12-13). Even when he was in prison he could always say that the Lord stood by him.
"Cast down, but not destroyed." This is tremendous -- he was smitten down; the enemy got him down, but the enemy did not destroy or kill him. Actually, in all these phrases Paul is making a play on words which is lost in the translation into English. If I could paraphrase it in English, it would be something like this: "I am struck down, but I'm not struck out." Even at the end of his life Paul could say, "...I have finished my course..."
Paul seems to be fighting a losing battle. Can't you sense that this man is very weak? And yet, in his weakness, he is strong. If we could have seen this little crippled, weak, sickly Jew up against the mighty juggernaut of Roman power, we would have concluded that he was nothing. But the fact is he brought a message that withered the Roman Empire. Even the historian Gibbon said that the Roman Empire could not stand up against the preaching of the gospel of Christ. (And the gospel still continues to topple thrones.)
Paul seemed to be so weak, and yet God delivered him again and again. He used miraculous means and He also used natural means. God will never forsake His servants.
You and I live in a day of compromise, a day of expediency, a day when we seem to measure a man by how popular he is or by how many friends he has. I also think you can measure a man by the enemies he has. It is important to make the right kind of enemies. Jesus said that if we would love Him and follow Him, the world would hate us. Paul had the right kind of enemies.
Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body [2Cor. 4:10].
Remember that in 1 Corinthians 15:31 Paul could say that he died daily. In Romans 8:36 he wrote, "As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." In 1 Corinthians 4:9 he wrote: "For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men." Christian, do not be afraid to suffer. Jesus said the world would hate us if we were following Him. It is wonderful to take our place with the Lord Jesus Christ in these days.
The test of our ministry is not stars but scars.
17 From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.
For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh [2Cor. 4:11].
Until you are prepared to die you really aren't prepared to live.
Likewise, we may actually be the strongest at the moment we feel the weakest, for that is when we are more about the Lord and less about ourselves...He must increase, I must decrease.
So then death worketh in us, but life in you.
We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;
Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you [2Cor. 4:12-14].
It is interesting to note here, and this is very important to see, that Paul did not consider death to be the end. He is looking on beyond. Death is merely one of the experiences which he will have. In the next chapter he will speak of the comfort found in martyrdom for Christ. There is a comfort in laying down your life for Jesus' sake. He is saying here that he is joined to a living Christ. He is dead to the things of the world because he is joined to a living Christ. "He which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus."
For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day [2Cor. 4:15-16].
This is a wonderful verse. As we grow older, we sort of begin to die out as far as the body is concerned. However, we grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ. These old bodies that we have are dying. I can tell it all over. I'm ready to trade it in on a new model. It is beginning to waste away, but the inward man is renewed day by day. I feel closer to the Lord today than I did the day I entered the ministry. I was young then and I had a lot of enthusiasm, but I didn't know very much. What a stumbler I was and how often I failed. I was a real ignoramus then. Now I know a little more; I have grown a little down through the years.
"Day by day." One day at a time. No matter how wealthy or gifted you are, nobody can live 2 days at a time. The Lord told us to pray for 'daily' bread., and said He would give us strength for each day...
25 ...as thy days, so shall thy strength be.
16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Yard by yard, life is hard.
Inch by inch, life's a cinch!
So don't stare up the stairs,
just step up the steps.
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal [2Cor. 4:17-18].
The invisible world is the only real world. If we could see the world the way God sees it we wouldn't be so attracted to it.
1 John 2:15-17
15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
This is about Abraham. Since he was looking for the city he could not see he wasn't drawn to Sodom, but Lot was looking at the world and didn't want to leave.
1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
Then it says of Moses...
27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.
I'm thankful for eyesight, and would not want to be blind. And yet there is an advantage that blind Christians will testify of...not being so drawn in w/ the facade of a world the devil controls around us. The best of God's creation is found in things we cannot yet see with our eyes...but one day we will!
And then v. 18 talks about the temporary and the eternal. He makes a contrast. Down here we seem to have a lot of trouble and, my, it does seem to last a long time, doesn't it? It seems so hard. But when we begin to measure it by the weight of glory that is coming someday, it is a light affliction compared to that weight of glory.
Every ounce you tote on earth will receive a ton of reward in heaven!
"...we spend our years as a tale that is told" (Ps. 90:9). Our years pass as "...a watch in the night" (Ps. 90:4). "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." We are not to fix our gaze on the things which are seen. These things that we see around us are all passing away. The things which are not seen are eternal.
I am looking for that city whose builder and maker is God. I want to see the invisible. I know the spirit world around me is real. There is a great battle going on in the air, especially in moments like this when we preach the Word, and also when we go out into this world and indulge our flesh. Everywhere and all the time this battle rages. Let's not get caught up in the temporary trappings of this world.
Our trials work for us, not against us. And God is behind it all working things according to His will and for His glory and our good. The invisible world is the only real world! You may be down, but you're not out.
[w/ helps from J. Vernon McGee]
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