For those of you who may be at home with sick children or some other reason you are unable to meet with other local Believers, I've prepared a message for your encouragement and edification.
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This But Not That
2 Corinthians 4:8-10 We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. (NKJV)
Life is hard. Even on the very best of days we are never far from understanding that life in general is difficult and complex. That doesn't mean it's not joyful.
That doesn't mean it's not satisfying. At any given time there are usually several difficult aspects or circumstances in life.
Have you ever wondered why God allows life to be this way? I mean He could simply snap His fingers and we can live the rest of our days and complete joy, pleasure and excitement. God could simply decide that His children will never have another problem, another heart ache, another pain or another difficulty and guess what? They wouldn't.
God doesn't decide that though. We live day after day with joy as well as pain, with suffering as well as happiness. Again I ask, why? We're going to look at Paul's answer but first let's look at his list of "this and that".
Hard-pressed but Not Crushed
Have you ever felt hard-pressed? Do the pressures of life tangibly squeeze in on you? Do you ever feel like everything is just coming at you from every direction? As human beings we will feel this way simply because of life. As Christians we will be even harder pressed because we will have a world that hates our Lord pressing in on us as well.
While it may feel that way, we are not crushed. God protects us, He cares for us and while He will allow us to endure hardship, He will never allow it to crush us. You may ask "but what about people who are destroyed or died? Has not God allowed them to be crushed?" For Christians the answer is "no" because to leave this life is the ultimate victory.
Perplexed but Not in Despair
To be perplexed means to be filled with uncertainty. I'm not sure there's a day goes by that I'm not uncertain about something. Living in a sin cursed world with millions of other frail sinful human beings assures us each day of our share of uncertainty. Politics, finances, weather, health and many other factors all conspire together to remove any sense of certainty from our lives.
This is reason to despair if you don't know God. But for those who do know the Creator there is not one single reason to despair because He has revealed to us the end of all things. We know who wins, we know where we end up and we know that all uncertainty will disappear for those who have placed their faith in the Lord God.
Persecuted but Not Forsaken
It is human nature to feel forgotten and betrayed every time we face persecution. For the Christian, we face the temptation to accuse God of abandoning us or forgetting about us in the midst of our trials and suffering. When the unsaved world that hates Jesus Christ persecutes us for our faith in Him, it is easy to reach the point of feeling like God has forsaken us because He could stop the persecution if He chose to.
We may be persecuted, God never forsakes us. As a Christian matures spiritually they come to realize that persecution refines the believer's faith in God and in reality is a sort of compliment from God. God never allows us to be persecuted beyond our ability to endure it and He is always faithful to reward us eternally for suffering in His name. So if you are suffering, it is because God knows you can handle it and He is doing it so that you will have even greater faith. You may be persecuted but you are far from forsaken.
Struck Down but Not Destroyed
Following the same theme, many things may happen to beat us down and knock us down but God will not allow us to be destroyed. Like a broken bone that heals stronger than before the break, a Christian becomes stronger each time they are struck down and rise back up in the power of Jesus Christ. God will never ever allow us to be destroyed. Even if your flesh is destroyed and the body dies, you have gained the ultimate victory.
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So what does Paul say about all this? What is the purpose, the reason and the benefit that God has prepared for us by allowing life to be tough? Notice what he says:
"Always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested"
The suffering we endure in this body is a living example and testimony of how Lord's body died for us. The trials we endure, the perplexing nature of life and the persecution remind us of the pain and suffering Jesus experienced on our behalf. When we are crushed and struck down, it transforms us into the image of Christ, manifesting the life of Christ in us so that everyone around us can witness it.
If you are hard-pressed, it is an example of how the Lord was hard-pressed. If you allow God to work through it, the life of Jesus will be manifested in your life. If you are uncertain about life, you do not need to despair because God is in control. This uncertainty is a reminder of what Jesus did for us and how you can become like Him. If you are suffering persecution, God will never forsake you. Let that persecution be a memorial in your life to help you recall what Jesus did for you and how you will suffer for His sake - which in turn He will reward you for.
Is life tough? No?
Don't worry, it will be soon.
Is life tough for you right now? If it's not, don't worry, it will be soon. When it is, have hope that things will be rough but you will not be crushed, you need not despair. God will never forsake you and you will not be destroyed. Take joy that through the difficulties you're reminded of how the Lord Jesus suffered for you. Through the sufferings we have life more abundantly. God is using the difficulties of this life to transform us into the image of His son so that we can spend all eternity with Him.