2nd Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 16
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2006|
|If we’re going to live without losing heart, we’re going to have to learn the basics. Now this is going to be verses 7-11. How to Live Without Losing Heart – Part 3|
Learning the Basics
We’ve been in a little mini-series called “How to Live Without Losing Heart.” That word “losing heart” is the word in the Greek that means to turn back to the ways of the flesh. And how many of us have done that? It ends up making us faint-hearted and weary, but that’s what the root of it means. How to live without losing heart. This is part 3, and today we’re going to talk about learning the basics. If we’re going to live without losing heart, we’re going to have to learn the basics. Now this is going to be verses 7-11.
Let me get you into it today by going back and reviewing a bit. All of us at one time or another have lost heart. I promise you, you have lost heart, whether you understand the word, what it means or not, you have. Every believer has; at points in our life we’ve stopped trusting God. Maybe it was a tragedy, whatever, but we didn’t trust God. We’ve gone back to doing things the way we used to do them in our own strength, in our own power.
Prayerlessness, trying to achieve a ministry rather than receive it, forgetting our future hope by being overwhelmed by present circumstances, impatient in wanting to see immediate results, and then a lack of discipline in the ordinary things of life that we’ve already studied. These have all been familiar symptoms to each of us at one time or another. And what we’ve done, we’ve underestimated the deceitfulness of our flesh even when it comes to what we would call “good things.” But the encouraging thing is, we don’t have to live that way. I love this. And I can choose to live that way, but I don’t have to live that way. Once we realize the new covenant, that we are not demanded in any way to perform, it’s not based upon our performance, but under the new covenant, it’s Christ doing through us what we could never in a million years do ourselves.
Once we recognize that our adequacy, our sufficiency is not in our flesh but our adequacy and sufficiency is in Christ who lives in us; once we see that Christ is changing us into His image from glory to glory, as we learn to yield to Him and to His Word and to His will, then victory is no longer something that causes me to think about conquering my flesh. Victory is not me conquering my flesh, victory is Jesus overcoming and conquering me. It is in the new covenant that we can say that we’re dead to sin and alive unto Christ.
Well, it is this truth of the new covenant that has radically transformed the apostle Paul. He used to be a man under the old covenant. Now he’s a minister, as he told us in chapter 3, of a new covenant, a servant of a new covenant, and this is caused a gratitude, a gratefulness in his heart for the ministry that God has given to him. In 4:1 he says, “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart.” Received mercy, received ministry. You see, just as he received his salvation, he received his ministry. This was not something he sought out; this is what God did in his life. He was given the ministry of being an apostle, a preacher to the Gentile world to take to them the message of the new covenant. Paul knew that his ministry was not deserved, he understood that. He didn’t deserve to be saved, he understood that. He talks about the mercy, when he received mercy, that lets you know immediately the attitude of his heart. And because his ministry was from God, not from him to God, but from God to and through him, because of that it made him very careful about his manner, the way he went about doing what he did.
Paul was very aware of the false teachers and preachers that were invading Corinth. He understood that. And so he says in verses 2-4, “but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing,” hang on to those terms, “in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
Now what Paul is saying there, as we looked at the last time, he’s horrified at thinking of any fleshly agenda ever mixing with the awesome truth of the gospel of Christ. He would never adulterate, it’s what that’s called, the Word of God. His message was so clear, it was so devoid of any flesh of Paul that when people heard it they understood it. And if the people didn’t understand, as if a veil was there, it wasn’t the preacher; it was the darkened and hardened mind of the hearer. Now this caused him to frame an attitude of what he preached about. His message wasn’t about man, about himself. He says in verse 5, “For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.”
You have to ask the question, why was Paul so adamant about his ministry and his message being so devoid of anything to do with self? What was his point? Why would he say, “For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord?” Well, if you’ll read verse 6, the answer is there. There is no other message. There is no other message that can pierce the spiritual darkness of men’s minds. Look at verse 6, “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
He says, “For God who says ‘Light shall shine out of darkness’.” What does he mean by that? The word “out of” is the word ek. Ek is the word that means something that comes out right in the midst of everything else. Like something would happen inside this room, not out there, but in here. Something happened right out of the darkness. What’s he saying? Christ, the Son of God, came to this earth to become the God-man. He became one of us in a sense. He was not exactly like us; He was the perfect man, the God-man. He was always God, but He came to this earth to become a part of humanity. He got His humanity of the nation of Israel through the tribe of Judah, through the line of David. And He came to this earth and out of the darkness, in the midst of it, the light shone.
He says in John 9:5, “While I am in the word, I am the light of the world.” He was the light, born in a manger, born to a virgin, born sinless. He became the light. You have to understand being in darkness to understand His being the light. Light came out of the darkness. “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts,” I love this. The word “shone” is the word lampo. We get the word “lamp” from it. God who promised the light, became the light, but not only did He become the light, He’s the One who turned on the light. That’s what he says. The word “light” is the word photismos, which means to illuminate. It was God who illuminated our hearts. All of us were in darkness, all of us were blinded by the god of this world, but when Jesus came and when He ministered and revealed Himself to our life, He turned on the light. He illuminated the light. It was God who illuminated the light of the Lord Jesus, the gospel of the glory and the grace of Christ. All of us were living, as I said, in darkness. I think we forget this from time to time. But God in His power pierced that spiritual blindness and that darkness and revealed the good news of His Son.
Now, I want to tell you, the messages of the false teachers of Paul’s day and of today, the messages of false teachers could not pierce that darkness. It might entertain people, it might get a crowd, but it cannot in any way pierce the darkness of men’s mind that have been blinded by the god of this world. It couldn’t do it then, and it can’t do it now. But Paul said early in our text the god of this world has blinded the people, and the idea is of them being in darkness.
I wonder if you have ever been in just pitch darkness? I mean real darkness. On our honeymoon I took my wife to Mammoth Cave. One afternoon we decided to take the tour down into the cave. We were real excited to find that there were three busloads of first graders going with us. We got down to the very bottom of that cave and I want to tell you, it was dark. But a guy said, “I want to show you people who think you’ve been in darkness what darkness really is.” And he made everybody, if you had a watch or anything you had to put it in your pocket, anything that had any kind of light to it of any kind, had to turn it off. And I want to tell you it was loud; darkness was loud. I mean, it hurt my eyes. And of course the first graders weren’t really excited about that. Then he took a pin light and he turned it on, and that little tiny bit of light was so refreshing, it just ministered to our eyes. We can see something. And that’s what we’ve got to get in our minds as to what the light that shown into the darkness of this world.
He says the god of this world has blinded the unbelieving. Now “the unbelieving,” apistos, is referring to those who have no faith. It’s used 23 times in the New Testament. Sometimes it’s used in a very harsh way; sometimes it’s used in a very general way just to depict people who don’t understand. Any one you know that’s an unbeliever today fits this category. He’s blinded by the god of this world and he lives in spiritual darkness and he’s perishing, headed toward an eternal death, eternal separation from God. The unbelieving, trapped in spiritual darkness, Jesus came into this world and became the light and turned the light on in the midst of their darkness.
Please hear me just for one second. The message that Paul preached was so clearly Jesus and so clearly His Word and so clearly the gospel. Why? Because any method of a false teacher, any method of a well meaning believer who is trying to do anything other than preach the gospel of Jesus, the good news of Christ, cannot in any way pierce the darkness of spiritual lies, of spiritual darkness of people’s minds. It cannot do that. And we’re living in a day where there are so many Christian shenanigans that have somehow put Jesus on it somehow, and people think that this is a great thing. Listen, the Lord Jesus Himself said, “No man comes to Me,” now listen carefully, “except the Father draw him.”
“Well, I thought it was the music. I thought it was the casual way we came to church. I thought it was the big facility. I thought that’s what caused people to come.” No, sir! Jesus said, “No man comes to Me except the Father draw him.” And this is Paul’s point. Why would you preach anything else because only the message of Christ who is the Light, only that message, only He can turn the light on in the darkness, the spiritual darkness of people’s minds?
I wonder if Paul was not even thinking about the day when he got saved? You talk about light. He saw Him and it blinded him for three days. And the light had come into the world, but now had come to live inside of Paul. And Paul became the lamp, but Christ was the Light that shown through Paul. When you heard Paul, yes, you heard a man. You heard him give his life experiences, but you heard a message that was pointed and directed and focused on the Lord Jesus Christ. You didn’t hear all this other stuff. You heard the Word of God, you heard the gospel, the message of God, and that was what was changing people. That was what was changing the darkness of their minds. No wonder he didn’t lose heart.
No wonder he’d been radically changed by the divine light that had illuminated the gospel to him and now that light, in the person of Christ and the person of His Holy Spirit had come to live in him. I know there’s somebody here that’s saying in your mind if you’re not saying it out loud, you’re saying, “I want to be a lamp. I want to be that lamp that the light of Jesus could shine through me. I want to do that. I’ve lost heart. I’ve gone back to doing things my own way. I’ve been sincere about it, but I’m frustrated, I’m at the end of myself. How can I be a lamp? How can I have the message of Christ so alive in me that other people can look at me and they see Jesus in me?
That’s really what we want to talk about today. There are three basics we’ve got to learn. We’ve got to learn the basics. Somebody told me of a famous coach that sent all of his plays for the next game to his opponents. All of the plays he was going to run. He said, “Now you can practice all you want. I’m not going to beat you on the plays; I’m going to beat you on the basics.” Do you realize the person that starts skiing has worse injuries later on down the road than he does when he first starts? Do you know why? Because he’s done it and done it and done it for so long he’s forgotten the basics of what kept him from getting hurt to start with and he makes stupid choices and that’s when he gets hurt or killed. That’s what happened.
We need to go back to the basics. We need to understand that if I’m going to walk in the fullness of what God offers me, if I’m going to live as a servant of the new covenant, if I’m going to be a lamp that the light of Christ can shine through me, then I’ve got to go back to what the basics are. And if I don’t understand these basics, I’m not going to walk in the fullness of what Christ says is mine in Him. Three things Paul brings out in verses 7-10 I want you to see this morning.
The first basic is that we must understand the frailty of our flesh
First of all, one of the basics we’ve got to understand is that we must understand the frailty of our flesh. The frailty of our flesh. Look at verse 7, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves.” Now, the first thing that happens when I study this, my eyes drift toward the word “treasure” or the word “earthen vessels.” But before we look at the word “treasure,” let’s make sure we understand the “earthen vessel.”
The word for “earthen” is the word ostrakinos. It’s the word that means a clay pot. Used in a metaphorical way as it is here, it pictures human frailty. Now if you want to get real excited, look in the mirror in the morning and say, “Good morning, clay pot,” because that’s basically what we are. The word for vessel is the word skeuos, which is a vessel that is hollow and has to be filled with something. It’s like a hollow clay pot. Now this helps us quickly understand what we are not, apart from Christ. We are hollow clay pots. Without His Spirit living in us, without His Spirit manifesting God’s power through us as Christ’s character and life is manifested, we are empty clay pots. I want you to do that in the morning. When you get up in the morning, look in the mirror and say, “Good morning, empty clay pot. Now, Lord Jesus, You’re the treasure. I want You to do something in my life today.”
Now the word for “treasure” is the word thesauros. We get a word from that which refers to wealth that is not wealth that has been accumulated overnight. I mean, you can accumulate wealth overnight and it’s gone overnight. This is wealth that over the years, wealth that has accumulated slowly and therefore will always stand and continue to be wealthy. Now Paul knows that the treasure of the message that has illumined his heart is a treasure that has started back before the foundations of the world and nobody could every take it away from him. It would always be a treasure; a treasure beyond description. But if you’ll follow the context, the treasure is not the gospel message itself, it certainly comes from it, but the treasure is Christ Himself. Christ Himself, the Jewel of God has been deposited into the life of believers. Christ, the life, the light the love, He’s God, has come to live in us, in earthen vessels, in clay pots. Paul understands this.
So many believers don’t seem to get it. They still think that because they can be successful in the world they can be successful in Christianity, but when it comes to the spiritual dimension of our life, we look at God and we’re nothing but empty clay pots apart from His empowering us and apart from His Spirit living in us. Paul understands this. There’s no power to deliver the message apart from God. No power to minister. As a matter of fact, all clay pots can be apart from Christ would be a frail, weak, pitiful vessel. The only thing they are capable of coming up with when it comes to ministry is nothing more than depraved simple agendas and fleshly goals. That’s all it is.
You know if we could just come back to what the good news is: that God didn’t come to renew our flesh, God came to replace it. We have come so far from what Christianity is. I love Vance Havner. I used to listen to him on the Founder’s Conferences at Moody’s Founder’s Week. And he would say, “Do you know what the problem is with our generation?” And everybody would listen to him because he always had something to say. And this was in the 20th century; we’re in the 21st century. He said, “You know what the problem with our generation is, in our Christianity? We’ve lost the wonder of our salvation.” And I’ll tell you what, that goes deep inside of me. We’ve lost the wonder, folks. We’re living in such a CEO mentality, such a corporate structure, we think we can do for God what only God can do through us. We haven’t yet come back to the point that apart from His power, we’re nothing more than an empty clay pot, capable of nothing impressive to God.
The only time God is impressed with us is when He looks at us and sees Himself. But what a treasure He has put within us. He not only gives us the message, He is the message. He wants His life and His light to shine through us. He wants others to look at us and make sure they understand the power is not from us but is from Him. Listen to what he says. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that,” that’s a purpose clause, “that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves.”
Now what is he saying here? The word “surpassing” is the word huperbole. We get the word hyperbole, English word. It means an extravagant exaggeration, but used here it has the idea of something that is far beyond something else. In this context he’s talking about that the power always must be of God which is so far above and beyond anything a man could do. The greatness of His power; the word for power is dunamis. Dunamis refers to the ability, the divine ability that God gives us and so it’s beautiful what he’s saying. We have this treasure within earthen vessels and he wants people to see that treasure so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not of ourselves. That little verb “will be” is in the present tense which means “might always be,” never, ever be any different. However it’s in the subjunctive mood. What does that mean? It means it’s really iffy. It means that it’s a wish that he has, but he knows that people have a choice of whether or not his happens or not.
There are many times in my life that I would rather do it in my own power, to accomplish my own results than I would do it God’s way, and you’ve been the same place. And on those days the power is not the surpassing greatness pointing to God. Paul knows the basics. He understands this basic. He understands the frailty of his flesh, when many Christians do not seem to understand this basic truth. His adequacy as he says back in chapter 3:5-6 is not from himself. He said, “I consider nothing as coming from myself, but my adequacy is in Christ.”
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves. So to live not losing heart, we’ve got to learn the basics; and the first basic we’ve got to learn is that apart from Christ empowering our lives we’re no more productive than an empty clay pot capable of nothing but empty ideas, fleshly creativity that only entertains people and never sees them changed. Paul understood that if you’re going to walk without losing heart, which means going back and resorting back to the flesh, which brings about a faint-heartedness, if you’re going to live that way or don’t want to live that way, you need to get this truth down. You’ve got to start by saying “Lord I can’t, You never said I could. You can, You always said You would.” It starts right there.
The second basic is that we must expect the fight of our life
The second basic we’ve got to learn is that we must expect the fight of our life. Now, this is a bittersweet truth that he’s going to bring out, but it’s going to be the fight of our life. Verses 8-9, Paul shows that the battle starts when we learn to let the treasure be manifest, when we learn to depend upon His strength and His power and not our own. He understands the battle. He shows the vulnerability of the vessel. This is so neat. He puts the weakness of the vessel on one side and the power of the treasure on the other side. You’re going to see it and it’s bittersweet. The bitter part of it is that we’re going to have some pain that’s going to be involved in our walk trusting God. We’re clay pots and we’re weak and we’re going to have times when we’re lost in knowing what to do. We’re going to have times when we feell pushed in to the point we think we’re going to be crushed. We’re going to have times when we’re going to be persecuted and followed after, we’re going to have all kinds of these things happen, but he’s going to show you the balance to that. We can expect to battle.
He says in verse 8, “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed.” Now the context of 2 Corinthians tends to lend to the fact that much of what he’s about to say, his affliction, his being perplexed, has to do with the church at Corinth. Other things brought about in his life certainly brings that out in chapter 11, but most of what he’s talking about is what happened at Corinth. There are some people there that have really treated him badly. The church of Ephesus didn’t really, later on, it just left its first love, but Philippi and Colossi, you find other pleasures, but Corinth was a thorn to him. Corinth was a pain to him and it caused him a lot of grief.
Let me show you what I mean. That word ‘afflicted’ that’s used there in verse 8 is the word thlibo. Thlibo means to be troubled, to be pressed in on both sides as if you just can’t take it anymore. By the way, have you been there in your serving the Lord? It’s a painful word, both physically or emotionally; it can be either way or both. Look over in chapter 7:5. Let me show you how it connects with the Corinthian church. “For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within.” There’s your word. Now what’s he talking about? Let me put it in context for you.
When he goes to Macedonia he goes over there to find Titus. He was supposed to have met him in Troas, but Titus didn’t show up. Paul had two concerns. One was that he was concerned for the welfare of Titus, but the other one was that he had to know how that the church of Corinth had responded to a letter written to them that we do not have. And he had evidently scalded them because of the way people had treated him in that church and they wouldn’t bring them to a church discipline and so he sent that letter, but he didn’t know how they had responded. He loved these people, he hated to see them walk in the fleshly mindset that they’d walked in. And Titus, he met Titus in Macedonia and before Titus came he was full of this affliction. It was causing him conflicts without and within but verse 6 says, “But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus.”
Titus had good news. In fact, 2 Corinthians is the response to that good news. But all of this turmoil, all of this emotion, all of this affliction that he went through was caused mainly by the church of Corinth, and so he wants to make sure the Corinthians understand what he’s talking about. The point is he was fiercely challenged in his apostleship by the Christians at Corinth: much pain. Now that’s what vessels can expect when they realize that they are nothing but a clay pot and they let the Treasure manifest His light and power through them. They can expect this: darkness and light just don’t get along real well and they can expect a conflicting situation.
Well, he next mentions the word “perplexed” if you’ll go back to our text, chapter 4:8. He mentions “perplexed.” The word is aporeo. The word means to “be hesitant, to not know which way to turn.” You see, some people think that’s sinful in their lives when they get into a place like that. No, no, no, no. We’re weak vessels. We’re clay pots. Clay pots can get to this point. Certain things can happen within the context of ministry even to where we’re afflicted, but it can bring us to a point of not knowing what to do.
Several things right now in my life I don’t know what to do. I don’t know whether to turn left, turn right. This is the word used over in John 13:22 when it says the disciples began looking at one another at a loss to know to which one He was speaking. Those words “at a loss” is this word aporeo. You get to that point like a mugwump that sits on a fence: he’s got his mug on one side and his wump on the other. He doesn’t know which way to go.
It’s at a loss. That’s the word “perplexed.” Whatever happened to Paul, and we’ll never know the complete details, whatever it was at the church of Corinth, really caused him some emotional upset in his life. And had brought him to the point of not knowing whether to turn to the left or turn to the right. He didn’t know what to do.
Look at verse 9: not only that, “persecuted, but not forsaken.” What can we expect? What is this fight you’re talking about? You can expect to be afflicted from every side. You can expect to be brought sometimes as a weak vessel to the point where you don’t know which way to go. You don’t even know what to say. You can definitely expect to be persecuted. I can promise you that.
The word “persecuted” is the word dioko. I get a kick out of this word. It means “to pursue.” It is used to pursue with the intent to kill. To be hunted like an animal. And I love to deer hunt. I was hunting with some friends of mine near Appomattox, VA. I didn’t know they ran dogs. I’d never been with anybody that ran dogs when they hunted. I don’t particularly think that’s the best way. You get a big old redbone hound, he’ll run a doe or fawn to death and I just don’t think that’s very sporting but that’s what they were doing.
I was sitting there and I heard shots, and I couldn’t see what was happening but I could see the ridge. And I could hear “boom, boom, boom, boom.” Whoever it was was not a very good shot. But the dogs were behind, and I knew it was a deer, but the dogs were over here. I couldn’t see any of this, but I could hear the sounds and kind of piece it together. Over here was howling and here come those hounds. And you could hear the boom, boom, boom as that thing was running. And that thing evidently made it through there and got down into the creek. I’m sitting on the creek. And I’m thinking, “Here it comes.” It was a doe.
And that doe had been run to where its tongue was hanging out. And that doe, I felt so sorry for it, it came up and stopped and was panting because it had been running from those dogs. It wasn’t so much afraid of those people who couldn’t shoot, she was worried about the dogs. And she looked back and she leaned down and lapped some water because she was so thirsty and boy, she just took out like a bolt and I thought to myself, “That’s the word dioko right there.
You might be saying, “I’m a believer now. Things are wonderful. I’m healthy, I’m wealthy, I’ve got a big house.” Folks, that’s got nothing to do with Christianity. If you’re not hearing the dogs behind you on the trail, then there must not be much to pursue. You see, you don’t have this until you start letting the treasure be manifested in your life. There’s no battle: when Joshua and the people crossed over the Jordan River, they didn’t have warfare until they got into the land. The river was not a warfare; that was a circumstance. The battle started once they got over to possess what God said was theirs. You don’t even know what warfare is until you start releasing the treasure and letting the light shine out of you and then you can expect to be persecuted: hunted down like an animal. Ask Paul if he understood that.
Wait until we get to chapter 11 and he starts talking about what had happened to him. You can expect the fight of your life: if you get saved and you go home to an unbelieving husband or you go home to an unbelieving wife, you can expect a conflict like you have never before experienced in your life, because light and darkness have clashed. And you’re going to be afflicted, you’re going to be perplexed to the point you don’t know which way to turn, you’re going to sense the hound dogs on your trail.
But not only that, he mentions one other thing in verse 9. He talks about “struck down, but not destroyed.” If you took that literally, “struck down” simply means to be thrown down physically, kataballo. Ballo means “to throw or cast,” and kata means “down,” to cast down. But if used in a figurative way like it is here, yes, he was thrown down many times, beat up and thrown down, but what he’s talking about here is in the sense of people trying to knock down and stop what God is doing in your life: trying to stop you. Kind of like when they put him in prison in Philippi. You can be struck down. People will try to stop you in that which God is doing through you.
Well, like I said, this is bittersweet. That’s the bitter side. We’re vessels; you can expect to be perplexed. Don’t think that’s sinful: that’s just being a weak vessel like a pot of clay. You can expect to be at times when you sense people hunting you down and you begin to even have fears without, conflict within. You can expect that, but look at the balance here, look at the balance. This is the beauty of it, this is the sweet part. On the one side we’ve seen the vessel, now let’s look at the power: let’s look at the treasure.
Verse 8, “we are afflicted in every way,” that’s the vessel, “but not crushed;” that’s the treasure. That’s God in you. The word crushed means not brought to that point that you cease to exist in the ministry that you have. God’s power in and through Paul never let him get to that point. He got to a certain point, but He never took him that far. The affliction caused him to be momentarily perplexed. He didn’t know which way to turn, he didn’t know what to say, even when he was dealing with Corinthians, but he did not despair. And the word ‘despair’ means to be at a total loss of what to do. He was never at a total loss of what to do because God gave him wisdom in the midst of every situation. He never got that far.
The light of Christ shining through him caused him to be hunted down like an animal, but never forsaken. Even when he says in 2 Timothy, “Everybody departed from me, Demas left me, and no one stood with me when I was first put on trial,” but he was never alone. He says, “But God delivered me.” And that doesn’t mean kept him from dying. He “drew me to Himself.” And what he was saying is that “I was really never alone. God was right there with me. He’s beneath me, He’s above me, He’s behind me, He’s in front of me, and the new covenant says He lives in me,” and Paul says in Colossians, he says, “I’m hidden in Christ who is in God.” Yes, I can be persecuted and I will be and it’s going to be bad; it’s going to be affliction, it’s going to be pain, it’s going to be a time of perplexity, but hey, I’m not alone, God’s not going to allow me to be crushed and God’s not going to let me despair. God is there. The treasure is in the vessel.
So we see that he was struck down but not destroyed. “Destroyed” is apollumi; it means “to be completely destroyed” or “to perish.” And you say, “Wasn’t Paul martyred for the faith?” Yes, he was, but now listen: the message that he preached could never be stopped, and that’s what he’s saying. He went on to be with the Lord. He said, “Hey, it’s gain for me to see Him.” But the message could never be stopped. I’m preaching out of 2 Corinthians that God inspired him to write by the Holy Spirit and he’s still blessing people today in the 21st century. Nobody could shut down the ministry that God had begun within him.
So when we allow Christ to live in us, if we’re going to be the lamp to let the light shine through us, we’d better learn the basics. And the first thing we’d better learn is that we’re nothing but clay pots apart from Christ: we can do nothing, ministry means nothing. It’s a man’s term, it’s not what God does until the Treasure fills us and until the Treasure, the light of God, empowers us and the power is always pointing back to Him. We must understand the frailty of the flesh. We must understand that we can expect the fight of our life. I know a lot of people seem to want to be entertained in this day and time. There’s not much entertaining in this because Christianity is not a game that we play on Sundays. Christianity is a life, a relationship. It’s letting Jesus be Jesus in you, and you’d better learn to expect this. That’s what Peter had to tell the ones suffering in 1 Peter. He says, “‘What in the world, do you think this is some strange thing? My goodness, look at your life. It’s lived for Christ. Don’t think it’s strange that you’re being put to the test.”
The third basic is we must display the furtherance of His sufferings
Finally, the last thing, we must display the furtherance of His sufferings. Big difference between suffering His sufferings and suffering the ones I caused myself. Verse 10, “always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus,” a tough phrase, “that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” What are you saying here? Didn’t Jesus die once for all? Didn’t He suffer once for all? That’s true, He did. But now He lives in us in the Person of His Holy Spirit.
You need to understand something: the world out there hates Jesus as much or more today than they did when He first came to this earth and light shown out of the darkness. They’re still trying to kill Him; get His name off of everything. I thought Hollywood has been thrown a complete curve ball by the movie, The Passion of Christ. Now they’re trying to find out what they can do for Christians because it makes money. Will they ever get a clue?
People hate Jesus as much today, and I want to tell you, when you see it coming from the pagan world, you’d better remember something: they hate Him as much as they’ve ever hated Him. They’re just appealing to our pocketbook. It’s different. And you see, the problem is He still lives in us, so they’re seeking to kill us. That’s the downside, that’s the bummer. If they’re seeking to get rid of Him and seeking to kill Him, He lives in me and therefore they’re seeking to come after me. They’re coming after you. Because they hated Him, they hate us because He lives in us.
Jesus said it would be that way. He said in John 15:18, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.” So what he’s talking about is that Jesus is the Good News of God. He is the Light, the Treasure, and when people of the world see Him in us, that’s going to automatically cause us to suffer, not our own suffering, but the sufferings of Christ. They continue on in us because He lives in us, “always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that,” hina, that’s a purpose clause, “the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”
It’s important that we participate in the sufferings of Christ instead of the ones we bring on ourselves by not keeping our big mouth shut. Have any of you been in those situations? I find that 75% of the persecution that comes to me, I started it myself. If I could have kept my big mouth shut, if I could have kept on doing what I knew to do, I could have avoided a lot of pain in my life. There are a lot of ministries that are nothing more than self-inflicted martyrdom. And they get out there and make everybody in the world mad, they say the wrong thing at the wrong time and they cause their own problems. What he’s talking about here is something entirely different.
When Jesus is being Jesus and I’m suffering because of that, the world sees it and he says, “so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” And the word “manifested” means “put on display.” In other words, when Paul suffered, everybody in the Praetorian Guard knew that he was suffering for the sake of Christ. They knew that he didn’t do it himself, they knew he was there not as his own initiation, and that’s when the message is even clearer. In the midst of our suffering He’s glorified, they see His life in us. They understand; they connect the dots. The suffering—the life; the light—the darkness. They see the difference and so therefore we must display the furtherance of His sufferings, not the sufferings that come from running our own mouth and doing what we shouldn’t have done when we did it, causing our own pain in our life.
So the basics: we must understand the frailty of our flesh, we’re only empty clay pots apart from His filling us. We must expect the fight of our lives which is bittersweet. If we continue to trust Him, He’s the Treasure, even though the vessel is weak. And we display the furtherance of His sufferings.
I don’t know if you’ve every read Hannah Whitehall Smith. She’s not a theologian. She’s a dear woman that loved the Lord and she’s written some devotional books and one of the little books she wrote I happen to be looking at this past week. She said, you know, she came to a point in her life that she was overwhelmed by something, I don’t know what happened. She didn’t tell what it was, but Paul would have said she was perplexed. She just didn’t use the term quite right in her article. She was afflicted from every side. She was perplexed; she didn’t know what to do.
And she said, “I kept hearing in my spirit the verse, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’” She said that just kept coming to her over and over again. She said, “You know what I did? I just took it literally and I just shut every window, I shut every door, I got in a room and I made myself just get as still as I possibly could get. I just wanted to be able to sense and to experience the wisdom that only God could give to me.” And she said it was incredible. How many times we won’t be still enough to experience Him. And she just got good and still and God gave her the wisdom and took her through that situation and she said, “I learned something in it that I want to say to all my Christian friends and that’s this: I learned in the midst of that situation, my only strength, Paul would say the strength of an empty clay pot, the only strength it has is in being still.” Because when we get still that’s when we begin to understand the treasure that lives within us.
Folks, if you want to lose heart, go back to doing it your way: frustrated, judgmental, critical, that’s the Pharisee of today. If you would really like to be a lamp to let the light of Jesus flow through you, understand you’re a clay pot apart from Him. You can do nothing. And understand the conflict that comes, and understand, don’t make it your own sufferings, let it be His and His life will be manifest in the midst of that suffering.