However, seasons of difficulty come. F. Scott Fitzgerald expressed it this way: "In a real dark night of the soul, it is always three o'clock in the morning, day after day." Have you ever had that restless feeling permeate every waking hour of your life? Have you lived your life hopelessly half-awake/half-asleep and depressed?
Perseverance in trials is often like trying to get a four-wheel drive out of a mud-hole. It takes skill, patience, and a guy with a bigger truck to pull you out.
Paul had written 1 Corinthians. This was a letter that detailed the importance of unity in the church--unity around Jesus and the true Gospel. Sometime after that letter was sent, a group of false teachers plagued Corinth and Paul sent what was called a "severe letter." Interestingly, the Holy Spirit allowed that particular letter to be lost. Second Corinthians, written around 55 AD, is Paul's word of encouragement to the people.
Today, God's Word will give us some practical wisdom for those moments when we are tempted to give up...
1. Stop apologizing.
2 Corinthians 4:1-2 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God.
One of the most agonizing things we do to ourselves is to live apologetically about the truth. We hesitate to put the truth out on the table. This will wear you down.
Paul states as fact, "We do not lose heart." In other words, what God calls us to do, He gives us fortitude in the midst of the trial to complete the task.
Paul referred to the false teachers which had troubled the Corinthian church. He spoke of honesty and forthrightness in his ministry practices.
2. Understand what you are up against.
2 Corinthians 4:3-4 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
You have an unseen, powerful enemy who wants you to get discouraged and to quit!
3. Get the focus off of yourself.
2 Corinthians 4:5-6 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
When the focus is on ourselves, we wear out--we burnout. Education, talent, and skill cannot overcome all of life's challenges.
Paul explains that we are treasure in “earthen” vessels…jars of clay. This is what we call a paradox. God put valuable treasure in a place which is very ordinary. This means that you should...
4. Embrace your weakness.
2 Corinthians 4:7-10 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
Why did God put this amazing treasure in weak, fragile containers?
1 Corinthians 1:27-29 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
How can a Christian be troubled on every side and not be distressed? What is the secret?
We are: AFFLICTED.
We are not: CRUSHED.
We are: PERPLEXED.
We are not: DRIVEN TO DESPAIR.
We are: PERSECUTED.
We are not: FORSAKEN.
We are: STRUCK DOWN.
We are not: DESTROYED.
5. Understand the goal.
2 Corinthians 4:11-12 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
At the end of both verses 10 and 11 we discover that the goal of our sufferings and difficulties is to live out the life of Jesus in our mortal bodies.
Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.