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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Struck Down, But Not Destroyed
Text:2 Corinthians 4:1-18 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Comfort in a World of Pain
 
Preached:2018-01-28
Added:2019-02-05
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


“Struck Down, But Not Destroyed”
2 Corinthians 4:1-18
 
I am so thankful for those words of Jesus (in our call to worship) from Matthew 11:28 where he says, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
 
I am so thankful for that promise because the Bible warns us that there are many troubles in life. You have found out, I’m sure, that there are many circumstances in life that cause us to be weary and heavy laden. Jesus himself told us, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
 
Moses pointed out that life is filled with trouble as well. In his prayer from Psalm 90, he prayed: “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).
 
And who among us would be unable to concur with Job's friend who observed, “For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground, but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:6-7).
 
Both the Bible and human experience teach us that the spiritual journey we are on, in our pilgrimage through this life, is a journey with many setbacks and trials. The Bible never sugarcoats the Christian life. Yet the Bible holds out great comfort in our trials as it points us repeatedly to Christ and his promise that all those who are weary and heavy laden can come to him and find rest.
 
That promise has been of great comfort to Christians in every era of time, and, I imagine it was of great comfort to the apostle Paul. In this chapter he describes many trials that faced him as he proclaimed the gospel. While those trials related specifically to the hardships that he faced as he brought the gospel to a hostile pagan world, they also relate to us.
 
They relate to us in a broad sense, since suffering is inevitable in the experience of being human in a fallen, sinful world. But suffering also relates to us in a specific sense in that as Christians we share, not only in the glory of Christ, but also in his suffering. And often the suffering is directly related to our identity as Christians.
 
That was true for the apostle Paul in his ministry, but it's also true for you and for me. As Jesus pointed out repeatedly, those who follow him will share in his suffering and face persecution. On one occasion he noted, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you…” (John 15:18-20a)
 
Fourfold Trouble
 
In verse 8-9 the apostle describes four types of trouble that he faced as he writes: We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
 
Who among us has not been hard pressed and afflicted at one time or another?  Sometimes we are afflicted physically, sometimes we are pressured financially. Many times, we are troubled with problems that seem to have no solution. The troubles are, as verse 8 describes, on every side. It's not just as though we have one or two problems, but at times everywhere we look it seems as though we face another problem.
 
We all know the meaning of the phrase, “When it rains it pours”. And when we experience those times of trouble on every side we are reminded of the truth of Scripture: Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward (Job 5:7). “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away (Psalm 90:10).
 
We so easily become weary and heavy laden. But Jesus tells us to come to him for rest. He promises that his yoke is easy, and his burden is light. He took our burden of sin which is the greatest of all burdens.  After all, it is because of sin in the world, and because of sin in our lives, that we become hard pressed and face problems on every side. But Jesus took that burden of our sin upon himself and nailed it to the cross.
 
In verse 8 the apostle also describes being perplexed. Perhaps Paul is speaking about being perplexed by the response of people to the gospel. There were many false teachers in Corinth and, for the most part, they were well received. Meanwhile, the truth of the gospel that Paul and other faithful servants of God proclaimed, was ridiculed and rejected.
 
Even though we understand that God knows his own people and brings his saving grace to them, and even though we know that the “god of this world”, (as we saw last week in verse 4), blinds the eyes of unbelievers to the gospel, it is nevertheless perplexing to see people who know the truth of the gospel, reject that truth.
          
We know who God is. His identity is written in every sunrise and sunset, his faithfulness is displayed in every changing season; his creative power is self-evident in the fearful and wonderful way in which we are created in his image. To us who believe it is more than obvious who God is. 
 
We can relate to Isaac Newton, the scientist with a vast wealth of knowledge and credits to his name, who observed that if he only studied the design of the human thumb, and nothing more, he would believe in the existence of the omniscient God revealed in Scripture.
               
Consequently, when we see that unbelievers are blind to what is obvious to us, especially if they have grown up in a Christian family and have been in a faithful church, it can be perplexing to see their unbelief. Some of those thoughts perhaps went through the apostle Paul's mind. We understand that he faced perplexities, just as each one of us face a variety of perplexities.
 
Verse 9 speaks about being persecuted. Paul knew better than any of us know what persecution all is about. The book of Acts describes how Paul was run out of one town after another. There were many attempts to take his life. In chapter 11 of this letter he writes – verse 24-29… Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move.
 
I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.
 
I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
 
The apostle Paul truly understood what it was like to be persecuted for the sake of Christ.  Although in the United States we are not persecuted as Paul was, yet every Christian faces persecution to some degree. Jesus guaranteed that when he said, in John 15:20, “'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.”
 
In the United States we have not faced physical persecution yet, but we do see verbal persecution of Christians who are ridiculed and mocked by our culture. The media makes it clear that every form of religion is acceptable except Christianity. False religions are often held in esteem by the Hollywood elite, but those who follow the teaching of Jesus Christ are considered dangerous. Christians are portrayed as hate-mongers who need to be silenced lest they bring more havoc and discrimination into our culture.
 
Unless there is spiritual revival in our land, we will undoubtedly face the type of persecution that our brothers and sisters in Christ face around the world in so many other nations. The writing is on the wall, and our Savior and Lord has assured us that those who believe in him will also suffer even as he did. As Philippians 1:29 points out, For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him…
 
Verse 9 has a fourth challenge as it describes being struck down. This fourth problem implies being caught from behind – being caught unaware and suddenly being taken down. I'm sure that you know what that's like. Things seem to be going smoothly and then suddenly, out of nowhere, trouble comes and strikes you down.
  
Yet, I'm sure you noticed that after describing each type of trouble the Apostle points out that it could not keep them down. He writes: We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
 
How is that possible? How is it possible that someone who was as hard pressed as the apostle was, could yet be resilient in the face of trouble on every side?  In the same way, how can people like you and me, whose troubles are not near as severe as his, stand firm in the face of perplexity, trials and trouble on every side?  How are we as Christians to persevere amid all the troubles and sorrows of life that we face?
 
Perseverance Through Faith in God
 
First, we persevere by faith in Almighty God. In verse 13 the apostle quotes from Psalm 116 describing the faith of the Psalm writer.  Consider how often David, and the other authors of the Psalms, were hard pressed on every side. Do you think David was perplexed when he was promised the kingship and yet was relentlessly pursued by Saul? Do you think he knew what it was like to be persecuted, to be struck down?
  
David's life is a record of affliction and trouble on every side. Yet his life is also a testimony to the strength of God revealed in the weakness of a human life. And David’s life is a testimony to the grace of God revealed to a blatant sinner who deserved judgment yet received forgiveness and mercy through faith in the eternal Christ.
 
When we look at the life of David, we cannot help but see that he was sustained by faith in the “greater David” the Lord Jesus Christ whom David knew as the promised Messiah. Because of that he did not allow the many troubles and afflictions of his life to overwhelm him. Instead he lived by faith and found strength to deal with each problem through faith in God.
 
Now the same is true for you and for me. If you feel hard pressed on every side, then look to the Lord God Almighty and ask, “Do I really believe that he is bigger than my problems? Do I really believe that he will work all things for my good? Do I really believe that he holds the whole world in his hands? Do I really believe that he who sees the sparrow fall to the ground, sees me and knows my need and will meet my every need, according to his will, through faith in his Son, Jesus Christ?
 
If you and I look to the Lord in faith then we will not be crushed even when we are hard pressed; we may be perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
 
Perseverance Through Our Identity in Christ
 
A second way that God enables us to persevere is through the knowledge of Jesus’ resurrection and our identity with Him in life and in death.
 
One of the things that has sustained God's people in every age is a focus on their risen Savior and Lord. In verse 13-14 the apostle points us to a scene that we do not focus on often enough; he points us to the scene of the open tomb. He writes: Since we have that same spirit of  faith, (the faith of the Psalm writer) 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 to himself.
 
The reason Paul did not lose heart when he faced all types of trouble is because he realized that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead would enable him to endure adversity and would gain his own resurrection.
 
Perhaps you noticed in verse 10-11 how the apostle links his identity with Jesus, both in the death of Jesus and also in his life and resurrection. The power of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is written about in Scripture time and again. Yet, so often we only focus on the resurrection of Jesus at Easter. By doing so we miss out on a tremendous source of biblical comfort and strength.
 
It was the apostle's focus on the resurrection that gave him strength to face the innumerable afflictions and troubles of his life. It is because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ that he did not lose heart. As he writes in verse 16, Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
 
Do you feel hard-pressed? Perplexed, persecuted, struck down? Then remember that one day you will be raised up just as Jesus was. When Jesus returns our physical bodies will be raised from the grave, joined with our souls, and we will be presented faultless before the presence of our heavenly Father!
 
The certainty of the resurrection gave the apostle strength to go on even when he faced a myriad of troubles in his life. And the same is true for you and for me in whatever troubles we face in our lives. When we focus in faith on our God, and focus on the resurrection of our Savior and Lord from the dead, we find great encouragement and resurrection strength.
 
Focusing on Future Glory
    
A third way that God, by his grace, enables us to persevere through the troubles and afflictions of this life, is to focus on the glory yet to be revealed. Verse 17-18 brings everything into perspective: For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
 
You may see all the problems of your life and mine. You may see all the problems of our nation and our world. You and I may experience being hard-pressed, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down.  But these problems which seem so monumental are light and momentary in comparison to the glory that is yet to be revealed throughout all eternity for those who believe in Jesus.
 
Do you feel hard-pressed this morning? Perplexed about life, about what tomorrow holds? Do you feel persecuted, maligned? Do you feel as though you have been caught from behind at times and struck down?
 
If so, persevere by faith in Almighty God; focus on the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and how his resurrection gives comfort for this life and certainty of the life to come.Always remember that what is seen – all the afflictions and problems of life – is temporary, but what is unseen – the eternal glory to be revealed to those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ – is eternal.
 
It is by focusing on our risen Savior and Lord Jesus Christ that you and I will find the same strength that the apostle describes in verse 8-9. In those verses the apostle acknowledges the truth of Christ, and of all Scripture, that in this world we will face tribulation, trouble, sorrow and affliction.
    
Yet by saving faith in Jesus Christ, we not only have salvation from sin, and the gift of eternal life in heaven. Through saving in Christ alone we also have strength to overcome the adversities, sorrows and perplexities of life.
 
Do you have saving faith in Christ alone? Do you know him as Savior and Lord? He is the one who says, “Come unto me and I will give you rest.” By God’s grace, have you come to him in humble repentance and saving faith? Is he your risen Savior, the one whom you profess to others?
 
If so, you can echo the words of verse 8-9 with confidence and joy: We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. – All because of Jesus Christ – His life, His death and His glorious resurrection! Amen.
 
 
- bulletin outline -
 
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. - 2 Corinthians 4:8-9
 
“Struck Down, But Not Destroyed”
2 Corinthians 4:1-18
 
I. The Bible warns us that there are many troubles in life (Job 5:6-7; Psalm 90:10; John 16:33). These troubles include:
    1) Being hard pressed – afflicted (8a)
 
 
 
    2) Being perplexed (8b)
 
 
 
    3) Being persecuted (9a)
 
 
 
    4) Being struck down (9b)
 
 
 
II. How we are to persevere amid troubles:
    1) By faith in God (13)
 
 
 
    2) By the knowledge of Jesus’ resurrection (14) and our identity with Him in life and in death (10-11)
 
 
 
    3) By considering that our troubles are light and momentary compared to the eternal glory for all who, by God’s grace, have saving faith in Jesus Christ
        alone (17-18)
 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2018, Rev. Ted Gray

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