By Mike Courson
First Christian Church
I’m using this space to highlight some principles found in II Corinthians 3-5 that enable us to have “Confidence in Uncertain Times.” This week we consider how to be persistent and to see obstacles as opportunities. [4:8-18]
Do you ever wonder why some people seem to make it and others don’t? Two athletes of equal ability accept a scholarship to play college football. One goes on to a great career and the other flounders and drops out. Two entrepreneurs with equal assets develop businesses. One makes millions while the other goes bankrupt. Why is that the case?
Several factors determine what happens in a person’s life, but a critical element is “persistence.” People who achieve stay with it longer and don’t quit easily. They’re not intimidated by obstacles, but see them as opportunities and gain confidence over time. Bouncing back from failure makes them less fearful and more self-assured. In II Corinthians 4:8-18, Paul wrote about the importance of persistence in the Christian life.
First, get back up when you’re knocked down. “We’re hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed.” [4:8-9] We sometimes use the word “but” to introduce a negative thought. I liked the church service, but the sermon was too long. I believe in God, but I don’t understand why He let this happen. New Testament writers often use this word to introduce a positive reality. There are several of them in our text, but I like the one found in John 16:33, where Jesus said: “In the world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Because of this, like Paul, we can have resiliency.
Next, love the Lord more than life itself. “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so His life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” [4:10-12] Paul sees himself as expendable so others could come to know Jesus. We may not be called to be martyrs, but the relevant question remains: “Is your devotion to Christ greater than your devotion to any other single thing in life?” To persevere in the Christian life, our allegiance to Christ has to supersede everything else. He is our strength.
Then, believe what you say you believe. “With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the One who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in His presence.” [4:13-15] Paul believed certain spiritual truths were factual and stood on those truths. He also believed his life had an eternal purpose – for him and for others. Knowing his life was helping others motivated Paul to keep going. It should motivate us, too.
Finally, keep your eye on the goal. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” [4:16-18] Paul says these troubles that seem so huge now are going to seem so minuscule and so momentary when we look back at them 10,000 years from now while in heaven. Thoughts of heaven help us to hang on when times are hard.
In II Corinthians 4:16, Paul concludes: “Therefore we do not lose heart!” I love the lyric from Great Is Thy Faithfulness – “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.” That’s what Jesus brings to our lives – not exemption from life’s hurts, but strength for the day and hope for the next one.
By Mike Courson