Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Knocked Down But Not Out

II Corinthians 4:5-12

When my adult son was little, preschool age, he used to have an inflatable punching toy.  If I remember correctly, it had the figure of a clown on it.  It was weighted with sand at the bottom, so that every time he hit it, it would bounce back upright.  No matter how many times he hit it, no matter how hard he hit it, boing!, that clown would bounce right back up! Wouldn’t it be nice if every time some problem would hit us, if every time some trouble attempted to knock us down, we would bounce right back up, that nothing could keep us down.  In our Scripture today from St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church, he gave a similar description of what he and some other Christians who were actively serving the Lord went through.

As Paul traveled throughout Greece, Asia Minor, and on to Rome preaching the Gospel, he faced attacks from many enemies.  Some that attacked him were his own Jewish people who did not want him preaching that Jesus was the Messiah, and especially that he not only preached to Jews, but that he also reached out to Gentiles.  Paul also suffered attacks from Gentiles and pagans who did not like what he was preaching, either.  Then there were some who claimed to be followers of Jesus, but who were actually false preachers who brought heretical messages.  Paul was frequently arrested or ran out of town.  He was beaten, scourged, and even stoned.  Would you keep going if this was the response you continued to experience?

Our Scripture begins with Paul stating that the message he preached was not one about himself, or one that he made up to promote himself, but the message of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ (vs. 5).  False teachers had accused Paul of preaching for his own benefit.  They were actually the ones guilty of doing so.  Paul was humble, and never promoted himself.  He preached Christ Jesus as Lord.  The focus of Paul’s preaching was Jesus, not himself or the latest topic of the day, or even his own ideas and philosophies.  The same holds for today.  Preachers should not be spouting off their own ideas and philosophies, but instead what Jesus did on the cross.  Just as in Paul’s day, people today need to be introduced to Jesus.

Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was planned as carefully as Creation was planned (vs 6).  God created physical light in the universe.  He also created spiritual light in the soul, and brings believers out of Satan’s kingdom of darkness and into His kingdom of light.  Jesus’ sacrifice upon the cross is as necessary to our eternal life as the sun is to the solar system.

The Apostle Paul did not view himself as anyone special, which often his enemies claimed he did.  Many preachers throughout history have looked at themselves as something special, someone that everyone should be holding in esteem.  Paul, though, saw himself as lowly, common, expendable, and replaceable, just as an earthen vessel (vs. 7).  However, a lowly container can contain something valuable.  The valuable message of salvation in Jesus has been entrusted to frail and fallible humans (earthen vessels).  God’s power dwells in us.  Though we are weak, God uses us to spread the Gospel, and He gives us His power to do so.  By using frail and expendable people, God makes it clear that salvation is the result of His power, and not any power that His messengers could generate. The power of God transcends the earthen vessel.  Our value and worth is not in ourselves.  It is in what we contain, the Holy Spirit, and the message we are to proclaim.

Then Paul states how, no matter how many attacks and assaults he may go through he does not stay down. He is not crushed, destroyed, in despair, and never forsaken by the Savior (vs. 8-12).  These problems did not cripple him.  Rather, through the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, they strengthened him.  Paul’s suffering was the badge of his loyalty to Jesus, and the source of his power.  He faced death every day, yet he was willing to pay that price if it meant salvation for those to whom he preached the Gospel.  The Apostle’s suffering was actually a result of attacks against the Lord Jesus, not himself or other believers.  Those who hate Jesus frequently take out their vengeance on those who represent Him.

Like Paul, if we are faithful to the Great Commission, and stand true to God’s Word, the Bible, we will face trials and persecution.  However, like the Apostle, we don’t need to worry.  We have the victory through Jesus.  We may get knocked down, but we are never knocked out.  We can be confident of victory.  God will never abandon us.  All of our trials are opportunities for Jesus to demonstrate His power and presence in and through us.

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