II Corinthians 4
Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there. How about a hand for all of the dads this morning? Dads are pretty wise, I think. Take for example one dad who was overheard in the frozen food section of the grocery. He was checking things off his list as he said to his son, “You know, if we really mess this up, we’ll never have to do it again.” That’s good life training right there.
Dads, let me remind you that your kids are like sponges. If you are a young dad, it won’t be long before you start to hear your own words come out of your kids’ mouths. That reminds me of the story where a mom asked her little daughter to set the table for dinner. Guests were coming for dinner. When everyone sat down to eat, the mom noticed that something was missing. She turned to her daughter and said, “Susie, you didn’t put a knife and fork at Mr. Smith’s place.” “I thought he wouldn’t need them,” explained the little girl. “Daddy says he always eats like a horse.” Yep, dads, be mindful of what you say lest it become a quotable in an awkward situation.
Seriously, though. Dads, don’t underestimate your influence and our need for stand-up, God-fearing, engaged, committed and intentional male role models in all of our lives today. You are valued, important and loved.
This morning I want us to look a wonderful message from a Father in the Faith, the Apostle Paul. The text comes from II Corinthians 4. I encourage you to turn there as Maggie and Jennifer Kelly come to read and comment on our text. They will be reading from the NKJV.
2 Corinthians 4:1-18 (NKJV)1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.
Paul was ALL HEART.
2 But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
Paul was ALL IN.
5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Paul had had a REAL EXPERIENCE.
7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.
Paul knew what was IMPORTANT.
8 We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed–
Paul had it ROUGH.
10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So then death is working in us, but life in you.
Paul had a SPIRITUAL PERSPECTIVE.
13 And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak,
Paul had GREAT FAITH.
14 knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you.
Paul had UNDAUNTED CONFIDENCE.
15 For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.
Paul had an IMPORTANT MISSION
16 Therefore we do not lose heart.
There is that HEART again.
Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Paul knew what was REAL!
I want us to look this morning at the Apostle Paul’s struggle as he serves as an amazing “Father in the Faith,” an example to us all regarding how to deal with the difficulties of life. Verse one and verse sixteen say a whole lot about Paul’s ability to focus and overcome. “Therefore, we do not lose heart.” Paul was “all-heart.” He would not be discouraged or depressed, diminished or dissuaded. He found ways to stay engaged, encouraged and effective. He was in it to win it.
Life happens to everyone. Our faith doesn’t flourish in times of comfort and ease. Faith is established and grows when we are faced with challenges and when we choose trust God in spite of them. Our staff has really been under fire ever since we broke ground on this facility. Allow me to just list the ways we have been under pressure since we broke ground:
Our son was diagnosed with a blood disorder that persists to this day. Throughout the fall and winter he had regular infusions and saw doctors in Charleston, Cleveland, Morgantown and Baltimore. We are currently dealing with the recent flood happenings in our home. Pastor Megan and Pastor Jed have both dealt with home invasions. Jed and Megan’s families have also dealt with major illness of a child which has resulted in hospitalizations, multiple doctor appointments, specialists, and surgery. Pastor Megan’s husband, Devin, has suffered with back pain and had back surgery in FL that wasn’t successful. Devin still suffers from pain. Megan’s mother suffered a brain bleed which could’ve taken her life. Pastor Brenda walked her daughter through the death of her father, has dealt with debilitating migraines and abdominal pain that required testing. She just recently prayed through a situation where an unsaved niece was on life support. Several of us have had family members dealing with mental decline and mental illness. Pastor Mandy’s dad had heart surgery this past year. Her three kids have all dealt with viruses and strep throat. They have had business disappointments as well. Mandy has continued to deal with neck, hip and shoulder pain from an accident she had two years ago. A few months back, Pastor Mandy’s husband had a very serious car accident. When you see the car, you realize how much worse things could have been for Gary, but to this day he is still in concussion therapy and is dealing with fairly serious repercussions from the accident. Mandy is also praying for a close cousin with a brain tumor.
Kind of curious that each of us have had some major issues to wade through this past year, but God is faithful, amen? Yes, challenges come to everyone. It doesn’t matter how faithful you are trying to be. If you are breathing you will be pressed, perplexed and persecuted on some level, whether for your faith or just because life is tough. Just know that when you are in those pressure-filled moments, that is when God is doing some of His deepest work in you and His most public work for others to see.
I can’t give you a reason for every trial you face, though God has one, I can assure you. I can, however, give you reasons for not losing heart. I can give you reasons for going the distance. I can give you reasons to keep praying, keep walking and to keep believing. Here is what I see Paul saying in a nutshell: Though I have trials, I will not lose heart because I have a treasure, a testimony, and a transformed life!
Let’s talk first about the treasure we have and how this treasure is carried around with us.
In the NKJV of the Scripture which is the version that was read, we read in verse 7 that we have this treasure in earthen vessels. What is the the earthen vessel, and what is the treasure?
An earthen vessel was a clay pot. Clay pots were made by skilled potters who would take the raw clay, shape it and mold it into the desired shape. The clay would then be baked until it was hardened. The artisans would then paint, glaze and decorate the jars so be able to accomplish their intended purpose.
It is important for you to know that in ancient times, sacred scrolls or valuable documents were rolled up and placed inside a jar of clay and then hidden for safe keeping. The Dead Sea Scrolls were kept in such jars of clay. Very important messages were deposited into earthen vessels. Do you know where I am headed this morning?
According to II Cor. 4:7, you and I are like jars of clay, like earthen vessels, in which a very important message, a treasure has been deposited. We can understand the analogy because Scripture tells us we are made from clay. We understand that God has created us on purpose for a purpose. The older I get the more I understand that my earthen vessel, my clay pot, is fragile, breakable, and wears out with time. It is functional, but temporary. The treasure, however, the Gospel, the knowledge of the glory of God (II Cor. 4:4) is eternal which is what makes it so important. God has given you and me a treasure that will last forever, and the way He has chosen the rest of the world to experience it often is through our fragile, weak, and difficult moments. Why is that important? Why would God put the treasure, the message of the Gospel, the power of God, into ordinary, fragile people? Wouldn’t you want to deposit a treasure in something safe, something nothing else could penetrate? Something that could never break open? One would think . . .
God’s strategy however, is really quite genius. God made sure the treasure would be placed in the kind of vessel that would be mobile and vulnerable enough so that everyone could see it. If the message of the Gospel was relegated to a museum that had guarded security, was only in one location, and could only be experienced at certain times of the day, how many people could be exposed to it?
God wanted His treasure, His Word on display, to be seen and experienced everywhere and by all people, so He placed His message inside mobile men and women. Brilliant, right? Tell your neighbor, “You are a mobile museum.”
Now, what about the fragile part? What about the reality that you and I aren’t Fort Knox? What about the fact that we do show wear and tear? That we don’t always handle every pressure in life with grace and a smile on our face? God strategically put His message in broken, fragile vessels so that every time we are shook up, His message, His life, can spill out. Every time we are squeezed, His life can be seen. Every time we are hit with a challenge, and a hole appears in our vessel, God’s grace and mercy can leak out.
The treasure is placed in fragile, earthen vessels so that we can’t claim that any strength is our own. We can’t tout that any peace is our own. We can’t take credit or glory for what happens in these old bodies, and we don’t need to try because it isn’t about us.
But here is what I know: If you will cherish and display the treasure, God will guard the vessel.
What do I mean by that? I mean, God will see you through. You don’t have to lose heart because God will take care of you even as He displays His glory in and through your life in times of trial.
God allows trials to come our way so that His message advances. Paul saw it this way. Paul knew he had been chosen to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15) and because he knew he was obeying God’s design for his vessel, he knew he could trust God to accomplish his purpose in his life even when it was tough.
One word of caution: Don’t allow trials to junk up your vessel. If we junk it up with anger and bitterness that can be a byproduct of our trial, God can’t pour in the things He wants to seep out as you walk through your challenge. Don’t junk up your vessel with sin which keeps the attention on you. Keep the vessel empty, surrendered, and clean so that God can keep filling it with His power, His peace, and His strength.
Take heart, you have a treasure to display!
That leads me to the second point which has already been stated in part. Take heart, you have a testimony to share. Your broken places, your bruised places, those moments when life punches you in the gut, the trials you face become your testimony when you are willing to allow God’s purposes and treasure to stream through them. If having the power of God deposited into our lives doesn’t transform the moment we have a flood or the moment we have a sick child, or the moment we have our car and life rearranged because someone was not paying attention, we have missed an opportunity to turn our test into a testimony that could help someone else.
You see, every time you share what God has brought you through or every time you give God praise in the midst of your circumstance, you are turning your trial into a trophy, your inconvenience into an inspiration that can help someone else keep going. That is one reason we are here. We are here to help others keep going by pointing them to the power of God that is also available to them.
Paul knew his trials had power; power to advance the Gospel, power to encourage other preachers to keep on fighting the fight of faith. How do you stay positive and on point during times of trial? Verse 13 tells us Paul did it with faith. Faith in what? Look again at the second part of verse 13 and verse 14: …we also believe and therefore speak, 14 knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you.
Paul was saying, my trial isn’t going to take me down because I’m not going down. I am going up. My trial won’t have the last word because Jesus has the last word in my life, and I know that I know that I know that I am going to experience victory because my God is a raiser and a restorer, and I will one day be with Him. That was Paul’s testimony.
Part of his testimony also included his conviction that what he was going through was WORTH IT to help others see God’s glory spilling through the dry and broken places in his life. Look at verse 15: For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.
Paul was “all-heart” for himself, for his mission, and for other people to experience the glory of God. It didn’t matter what was thrown at him. The greater the pressure, the greater glory would be given to God and the more people would be helped.
Finally, Paul didn’t lose heart because he possessed a transformed life.
Don’t miss this part of Paul’s experience. This may be what some of us as believers are missing this morning. It is a deep work of the Spirit. We heard this past Wednesday night from Pastor Rich Kelly that when God wants to do a great work, He first goes deep. We see it in the life of Paul. God went into Paul’s existence where no one else could see what was going on. Only God and Paul truly knew what was being accomplished. While life was being taken from him, a different kind of life was being given to him. While people were minimizing his impact, God’s purposes were spreading. While Paul was being attacked, God was advancing the Kingdom through him. There was a transformation going on in Paul that couldn’t be seen, but was being experienced by Paul.
Look at 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Paul could see something others may not have been able to see because he was experiencing it on the inside. There was a surge of strength. There was a quiet surrender to the plan of God. There was a determined resolve to finish what God had given him to start. There was a courage that trumped the worst case scenario. There was an ability to overcome anything that was given to him by God.
Paul’s body was temporary. If it got roughed up, it was ok because he didn’t need it long-term. If his reputation got marred it was ok because he wasn’t living to make a name for himself. If he was incarcerated for spreading the Gospel, it was fine with him because God’s agenda could never be put behind bars. God can work anywhere. It wasn’t about the physical. It wasn’t about his comfort. It was about what God was doing on the inside of Paul that transformed his external circumstances into just another way God could get the job done. And if God was sustaining Paul in the process, Paul had all he needed.
You know what Paul did? He relied on God day by day. That is what verse 16 says. Paul was being renewed or transformed day by day. Not one person in this room can live life two days at a time, but we often try don’t we? We get down and out and stressed out and freaked out and put out and are worn out about something that may or may not even happen. Paul chose to trust God each day and what he found is what you and I can find. Grace for today. Strength for today. Peace for today. Wisdom for today. Provision for today. That is the transformed life, my friends. When you can just rest in what God has you in for today without worry or fear about what tomorrow holds, that is peace. That is rest. That is what will keep you from losing heart.
If Paul would have dwelt on all of the possibilities, he would have lived overwhelmed because every day of his life was rough. He chose, however, to live day by day and it transformed his trials to the point that he described them as light afflictions just for the moment. He saw beatings and imprisonments and shipwrecks as speed bumps; just little bumps in the road. That is only possible through the indwelling power of God. Paul’s trials didn’t define him. They refined him. They shaped him on the inside to where he never became trial-focused, but was always treasure-focused and testimony-focused. If you will trust God day by day, He will transform you into the person who can face and overcome anything, but it is a daily surrender.
You have a treasure to guard.
You have a testimony to share.
You have a transformation to experience. Don’t lose heart.