We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10
We are now turning to a portion of the new covenant that I like to call the fine print of the Christian life. The fine print is a fitting metaphor because the fine print is usually the part of a contract you never saw because it was tiny and purposely tucked away somewhere you couldn’t see it or you might not have signed the bloody thing. Not that God is sneaky and trying to pull one over on us. We miss the fine print more due to our own misunderstanding about Christianity than God’s trickery. Somewhere we got the idea that the American Dream was a blessing from God we all deserve. Many preachers teach that becoming a Christian will make you healthy, wealthy and wise. Well, the wisdom part, maybe, but certainly not the other two. In fact, a case could be made from the scriptures that becoming a Christian could make you’re life worse. That’s certainly the case for what Paul is saying here.
In fact, looking ahead to verse 12, he says, “So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you,” which is to say, Bad things happening to us translates into good things for you! And if you want to make a difference in other people’s lives, you can expect the same thing to be at work in your own life. In other words, God will allow bad things to happen to us because that will force the good things out that will spill over to those around us. Look at what Christ endured for our benefit.
So, are you ready for the fine print? Let’s look at it again: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” Each one of these brings pressure from without, but that pressure forces to the surface, something of the real presence of God in us so that others will see the reality of the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This is a basic principle of our effectiveness in the world. It is certainly a center piece of the new covenant.
Think about what happens in a hospital when a Christian well acquainted with the new covenant gets admitted. It’s a Holy Spirit invasion! Fellow patients, nurses, doctors beware! Or how about all those jailers in Rome and other cities where Paul was imprisoned who were chained to him for hours? Paul was in prison (who would wish that on anyone?), but their lives were never the same.
All these hard things (troubles, perplexities, persecutions, knock downs) that were happening to Paul were for the benefit of the Corinthians, because of what they were able to receive from Paul and his companions by way of their suffering. In God’s economy, nothing goes to waste.
“We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” The important thing here is that both of these things are going on at the same time. We experience the death of Christ so we can show forth the life of Christ. We experience the dying nature of our humanity so that the life of Christ might be seen in us. Everything doesn’t just get better; it gets worse and better at the same time. That’s the fine print.
The 21 Day Challenge
— Day Eighteen —
The fine print of the Christian life
Given what we have learned in 2 Corinthians, we cannot be isolated from the world around us. We have got to be right out in the midst of it. But how?
2 Corinthians 4:7-9
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
A clay jar is made to hold something. We were made to hold something; and that someone is God himself; the Lord of Lords, the Holy Messiah, the King of Kings! The glory of our humanity is that God designed us to correspond to His deity; and that His deity, with its fullness and wisdom and power should relate to and correspond to and be manifest through our basic humanity.
Let’s take a break from 2 Corinthians for a few minutes and step into the Book of Judges 6, where we find our dear friend Gideon. Even though we find him shaking in his boots, God is calling Gideon to deliver Israel from the hands of Midianites. Gideon was a nobody with no reputation, who saw himself as inferior to everyone else. Yet Even though God found Gideon hiding behind a wine press, He called him to deliver the nation.
32,000 men gathered to help Gideon but God cut the number down to 300. God told them to take clay jars, put candles in them, and during the darkness of the night to circle the Midianite camp. At the signal of the sound of the trumpets, they were to break the pots so that lights would spring up on every side. The Midianite army suddenly saw lights springing up all over the mountainside. Thinking they were ringed by an army, they panicked and in the confusion of darkness began to kill each other.
Take a minute and imagine the significance of this story for us.
What would happen if we began to live the new covenant, acting and living Jesus as Lord in control of everything in our life and our world of influence?
What do you suppose would happen to all the antagonists of Christianity? They would become disheartened and begin to attack one another. It happens! People see us as ordinary jars of clay – just like them. Even though there is nothing outstanding about us, people see the extraordinary power that is not coming from us; it is coming from God.
But how does humanity present the extraordinary power that is not coming from us but is coming from God?
Paul tells us in Verses 8-9: William Barclay translation is in blue
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; “We are sorely pressed at every point, but not hemmed in;”
perplexed, but not in despair; “we are at our wit’s end, but never at our hope’s end;”
persecuted, but not abandoned; “we are persecuted by men, but never abandoned by God;”
struck down, but not destroyed; “we are knocked down, but not knocked out.”
For Your Consideration:
- What is your reaction to this news – that it takes our weaknesses to have His strength? Me, personally, do not like it. Don’t get me wrong, I want to see the power of God in my life. Yet, I want the power to come out of an untroubled, peaceful, calm life. I want to move through life protected from danger and difficulties.
What about you?
- Would you describe your Christian life as one where you are “sore pressed,” and “at wit’s end,” and “persecuted,” and “knocked down?”
- Do you think we have any choice in the matter? Can we choose which afflictions we are willing to go through and what ones we would rather not?
- Is Paul saying that we are not protected from life? Let’s see … Can Christians get cancer? Can Christians have financial collapse? Can Christians go through difficulties, family separations, divorce, problems of every sort?
- If your walk with the Lord is better than mine, will you experience less difficulties? Why? (Hint: He wants the invisible to be made visible – His love and joy and peace in our life that can never be explained because of us, but is explained only with God at work in us.)
- Yet, do you know Christians who are afflicted and crushed; have perplexities that drive them to despair; are persecuted and feel abandoned; are knocked down and often are knocked out for weeks and years at a time?
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