II Corinthians 4:1–Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 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.
The New York City Transit Company was missing a bus and a driver some years ago. For over a week, authorities searched for the man but couldn’t find him. Finally, ten days later after the man had disappeared, he was found, bus included. IN MIAMI, FLORIDA!
The driver said, “I’d had it with the cold weather, the passengers, and my family! One day after I got off work, I thought, ‘I WONDER WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF I JUST TOOK OFF FROM DRIVING!’” So, that’s what he did! He took off for Florida where he enjoyed the sun and surf for over a week, ALL BY HIMSELF!
HAVE YOU EVER FELT LIKE THAT? Haven’t we all felt like that bus driver at times? We get so frustrated and/or aggravated about life that we either want to pull our hair out or run away! (https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/don-t-lose-heart-steve-shepherd-sermon-on-faith-62347)
I’ve seen people posting recently that they need to be at the beach to get away from it all. I think we are all feeling it.
On Thursday night, after I got home from a great Board meeting, I received a message that a friend who had been taken to the hospital with Covid was having to increase his oxygen to sustain his stats. More prayer was needed. I also received a message from someone that said their job was now on the line due to a Presidential Mandate, and they asked me to pray. I then received a text from my someone else in another state that said there was an active shooter at their workplace. They had just received the text as an alert. I heard from another person that a young woman who was pregnant had RSV and had to deliver her baby four weeks ahead of schedule. I promised to pray. And before I went to bed, I got a notice from someone about a marriage that had fallen apart. My heart was broken for them. This was all in about an hour and a half time frame. In a message I sent back to one person, I said exactly what I was thinking and feeling, “It’s too much.”
I am sure you have asked yourself in recent days, “How much can I take?” “How much can we take as a nation?” “How much can our children take?” Everyone has a breaking point. Those were the thoughts that ruminated in my mind, anyway.
The Apostle Paul gives us great help here in II Corinthians 4 when we feel like getting in a bus and driving to Fl. When we feel like we are getting hit from all sides. When we are overwhelmed and don’t know how to pick ourselves up and move on. When we feel like throwing in the towel. How do we keep from losing heart? How do we keep from giving up? How do we cultivate a spirit of resilience and perseverance? How do we rest in the supremacy of Christ? How do we continue to reach for a secure future?
I think there are four things we need to recognize and focus on in order to keep going in difficult times, in order to not lose heart. Recognize first that:
- We have daily mercy available to us.
Verse 1 of II Corinthians 4 says therefore, through God’s mercy…we do not lose heart. There is mercy for every moment. God offers mercy in the struggle. Isn’t that what we want? We cry out for mercy in our heavy circumstances. God says He has it to give.
Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Mercy and grace that help us in our time of need. That is what we need to be seeking to obtain. There is “time of need” mercy. It is specific to the seasons when we are hurt, when we are overwhelmed, when we feel betrayed, when we are under resourced, when we are in a dilemma, when we are being pressed and squeezed. Jesus, we need a huge outpouring of time of need mercy right now.
We can be supernaturally sustained by the mercies of God when we are feeling weak and vulnerable, but we have to take advantage of what is available by spending that time in prayer, by approaching God’s throne to seek it. It is the place where we receive the help that is needed. Prayer is the mechanism through which the mercies of God flow into our lives. It is on us to utilize this avenue of prayer. The writer of Hebrews says, “LET US” approach God’s throne. We are the ones who need to draw near to Jesus. He is ready, available, and willing to help us.
Too many believers leave God out of the equation when they are struggling. When that happens, they lose heart. Lamentations 3:22 says the Lord offers mercy new and fresh EVERY MORNING. Why in the morning? What about evening mercy? Well, it’s available for sure at all times, but I believe Lamentations 3:22 stresses new mercies each morning because sometimes it can be tough to get up and get going. Sometimes, when the alarm goes off and the thoughts start to swirl about everything we are facing in the day ahead, it can be tempting to stay in bed, to pull the covers over our eyes and wish we didn’t have to face the day.
That’s not abundant life. That’s not a life of joy and peace, empowered by the Holy Spirit. That’s not what Jesus promised. He said we would have trouble in this world, but that we could take heart, not lose heart, but we could take heart, because He had overcome the world. If Jesus has overcome the world, and we believe it is true, surely, we can trust Him to get us through the day. Does that make sense? Isn’t it more difficult to overcome the world than to overcome for one day of your life? Jesus says His life and power are available to us. Sometimes the mercy we need is just the ability to believe what Jesus has said and to trust Him to make good on His promises. When we wake up each day, we need to ask for the mercies of God to be poured over our lives to give us a spirit of courage and perseverance. Not only do we have daily mercy available to us, but:
- We have a compelling ministry.
When we are tempted to be overwhelmed, we need to get focused on the compelling ministry we have received from Christ. II Corinthians 4:1–Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.
Christians, we have a job to do. We may clock off and out of an earthly commitment each day or hang it up every weekend for a few, but we never go off the clock as Christians and we cannot afford to shirk our commitment to win people to Jesus just because we are experiencing earthly stresses and pressures. We have this ministry. The ministry never leaves us. The call of God to make disciples doesn’t get suspended in times of difficulty. Jesus isn’t looking down today and saying, “Oh, my people are sure going through a rough time right now. Why don’t y’all take a little time off as soul winners? Why don’t you go ahead and quit talking to people about Me? We’ll pick it back up when the pandemic is over, when the pressures are over.”
Absolutely not. It isn’t that Jesus isn’t sympathetic to what we are going through, but the truth is that He will give us what we need in order to press on, and we are the ones with the hope people need in order to make it through this difficult time. The challenges we are living with ought to make conditions ripe for revival. If we are actively sharing our faith, if we are courageous and bold, if we are committed to Jesus in the midst of the pressure, people will see and respond to the hope that is within us. We have something difference for the world than pressure. We have peace!
We can’t give up. We have a ministry to accomplish. We can’t shrink from sharing Jesus. We have to keep going in Jesus’ name. Jesus is the One who will get us out of this mess, and the more people who turn to Him, the better off we will all be. Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” (Luke 10:2) I believe this could absolutely be harvest time, Church. I believe more people could come to faith in Christ in this difficult season than at any other time in history, but we have to do more than pray for revival. We have to be actively sharing our faith. We have to be passionately sharing the life of Christ with others.
There is nothing else worth giving your life for than for the sake of the Gospel. There is nothing else so compelling, so consuming, so captivating. My call to share Jesus with people supersedes any other agenda, supersedes every cause that I could promote, stand up for, or champion.
If I can remember that I am called to be a witness for Christ, if I can focus on that calling and stay busy talking about Jesus and serving like Jesus would want me to, it will keep me from losing heart. But if my focus is on my crisis instead of Christ, I will lose heart in a hurry. Focusing on my crisis will be overwhelming but focusing on my ministry as a Christ-follower will be inspiring and energizing. Our ministry is a REASON we keep going. Third, we don’t lose heart because:
- We have internal momentum.
By this, I mean that there is something supernatural that takes place in a determined disciple of Jesus that energizes them, that fuels them, that restores and renews them no matter what happens to them from the outside. Paul goes on to say in II Corinthians chapter 4:16 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
What is this internal momentum about? It’s about having joy in the midst of unfavorable conditions. It is about having peace in spite of the raging storm. It is about having confidence in the middle of the struggle. It is about experiencing wellness and soundness of mind no matter what is going on.
There is a spiritual vitality, a growing faith that is greater than the constant pressure. There is confidence that defies the realities that come against you. It’s the “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world” principle. Whatever you come up against will not take you down because of an inner fortitude that is being developed because of the mercies you have received and because of the ministry that you choose to continue to engage in.
To put it simply, “God won’t let us go under.” It’s like we are under water, but we are breathing just fine. It’s like we are in the fire, but we aren’t getting scorched. It’s like we are in a windstorm, but our feet are firmly planted, and we are unmoved. Life with Jesus is a stabilized and established life.
This is the evidence of faith at work. Though what is seen, though what can be observed or measured is brutal, we can experience something on the inside that goes beyond the negative forces that come against us. As we have commented on the life of Kelly Kraft, he is a beautiful example of this reality. Though because of ALS he is wasting away outwardly, inwardly he is going full steam ahead.
God can pour His power into us in ways that charge us, that empower us, that fuel us to hang in there when the going gets tough. Notice, here, that Paul says we are being renewed day by day. I mentioned mercies that were new every morning. Paul is reiterating the same thing here. There is a day-by-day principle that controls the life of a believer. In order to experience the day-by-day renewing, you need to walk with Jesus day by day. The pressures and hardships happen day by day, don’t they? I don’t know if there is a day that would go by where there wouldn’t be an unwanted happening, unwanted news, or some personal challenge to overcome. Even if you go on vacation and attempt to unplug, if you engage at all in social media or watch the news, you are right back into the pressure cooker. Since the pressures happen day by day it is critical that you walk with Jesus, day by day.
It would be crazy to think that you can deal victoriously with the pressures of life that happen every day if you are just engaging Jesus once a week. If you don’t feel the renewing strength of God day by day, you may need to ask yourself, “Have I been daily pursuing my relationship with Jesus?” A daily walk with Jesus will keep you from losing hope, from losing heart.
So, you have mercies you can access every day, you have a ministry to advance every day, you can experience momentum on the inside each day as you look to Jesus, and the fourth and final thing we can focus on to keep us from losing heart is the reality that:
- We have an eternal motivation.
Verses 17 and 18, one more time: 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 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.
Why can we press on instead of being pressured to cave and quit? Because what is happening to us here is nothing compared to the wonderful things we will experience in Heaven. There is a finish line to cross. There is a celebration ahead. There is an eternal glory, an eternal reality, there is a realm and way of existing that is going to be worth it all. If we lose heart, if we give up, if we disconnect from the life Christ offers, we run the risk of missing the eternal because of something that is temporary.
Your current situation, no matter what it is, is temporary. Whatever burden you are bearing, whatever heartache you are enduring, whatever physical challenge you are having to walk through, it is temporary. Something better, something perfect is ahead.
Where we place our gaze, where we put our focus, where we invest our souls determines the outcome. Delayed gratification is a hard thing for us as humans. Having to wait for time to pass so our circumstances can change is tough. We want out of the burden. We want to break free from the oppression and pain. The last thing we want to do is to welcome pain into our lives without looking for an escape hatch. I’m not suggesting go looking for pain, for you to go borrowing trouble, or for you to accept hardship without doing spiritual warfare and asking God for release. Spiritual warfare, however, isn’t a foolproof way to escape from having trouble. It is simply a foolproof way to ensure you will escape. God has miracles for us, and we need to seek them, but just as soon as one miracle comes another pressure will surface because this is the world in which we live.
To combat the pressures, we have to view our temporary circumstances through an eternal perspective. Don’t live short-sighted. Recognize that there is more going on than meets the eye. I know things look bleak in the world today, but God is still in control and is still at work to accomplish His will in the world and to take us into the next place with Him.
I believe something eternal happens in our lives, in our souls, in our minds…every time we press on in faith believing. I don’t think we have to wait until Heaven for the work of eternity to be done in our lives. I believe God does an eternal work in our lives every time we hold His name up high. I believe God does an eternal work in our lives every time we look to Him to help us in our time of need. I know my faith is stronger now than it has ever been, even though the current pressures I face are probably stronger than they have ever been. How is that possible? Could it be that our faith grows in proportion to our pressures and problems as we are fixed on Jesus? I believe it to be so.
Paul had so many reasons to give up. He had so many reasons to give in. Instead of giving up or giving in, he gave himself completely over to the Lordship of Jesus. It is what made the difference. It is why he didn’t lose heart.
He said in verses 8-10: 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
I have mercy available to me for every day’s challenges. I have a ministry that is worth pressing on for. I have an internal momentum that is supernatural and gives me strength to persevere, and I have an eternal motivation that helps me keep it all in perspective. I will not lose heart.