2nd Corinthians 4:7-18
Job 6:2-4: If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales. It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas. No wonder my words have been impetuous. The arrows of the Almighty are in me. My spirit drinks in their poison. God’s tears are marshaled against me. Oh, that I might have my request that God would grant what I hoped for, that God would be willing to crush me, to let loose his hand and cut off my life. Then I would still have this consolation, my joy and unrelenting pain that I had done, not denied the words of the Holy One. Now these are the words of Job, who is going through immense suffering. It’s not just one thing that’s happened to him. But cataclysmic things have been happening to him again, again and again. First he lost all his wealth and what he’s worked his whole life to gain. When bandits came and took him, all his servants are also taken away. And on that very day, an accident happened. Including all of his children, where a building collapsed in on itself, where they all were. In all, ten of them died. Job has practically lost everything. And then he gets struck with an illness. And the illness is so bad that he is on the cusp of death and reduced to taking shards of pottery and scraping boils off of his skin.
The story of Job is about one man’s tremendous suffering. But that is not the only reason. That’s not the only part about Joe, because Joe wasn’t just an ordinary person. He was someone who was righteous, not in the eyes of his friends or his family or his social circle. But God himself calls job blameless and upright in Job one eight. Thus this boat book just doesn’t just detail for us one man’s suffering. But through conversations with his friends, they talk about such themes as What is the purpose of suffering? Why do good people suffer and wicked prosper? What is the nature of God in suffering if he is all powerful and all good? How can such a God allow such suffering and death? Is there any justice? Now there’s a traditional view of suffering that comes up in the book of Job, which jobs three friends represent in the story. And that idea is alive in Jesus Day and is still relevant today. And it’s the idea that all suffering. As a result of sin and that it is punishment given by God. It’s only the result of direct personal sin. It’s a very simple equation. It says sin A results in B suffering, as well as the inverse being true that righteousness results in blessing. And this is the position that jobs friends take in the story and job 33 eight through 12. A It’s good to see that we have words up on the screen now.
Everybody give Shalom a round of applause. Just a little. Thanks. Thanks. Shalom. If we could get to that next slide, job 33, eight through 12. It says this and this is jobs, friend. Eliyahu speaking to him and he says this. But you have said in my hearing, I heard the very words I’m pure, I have done no wrong. I am clean, I am free from sin. Yet God has found fault with me. He considers me his enemy. He fastens my feet in shackles. He keeps close watch on all my paths. But I tell you in this you are not right. And what jobs friend is saying is that job, you must be lying. If you say that you are a righteous and you are suffering for no reason of your own, you must be right lying. Because God wouldn’t do this to you if you didn’t deserve to be punished. And of course, as readers of the Book of Joe, we understand when we read the beginning that he doesn’t deserve it. And this isn’t just a position, this traditional view of suffering that job’s friends take, but also the disciples. Take this stance, John nine one through to Jesus is walking along with his disciples, and as He went along, he saw a man born blind from birth. And His disciples asked him, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind.
See what the disciples are saying here. There is only one explanation that this man could be born blind. That he deserved it. Exactly what jobs are friends are saying to job. And today there is an idea that is very prevalent in America that. It is always God’s will for the believer to be financially successful and healthy. Physically healthy. And it’s a very simple equation. The same one that we talked about earlier, faith and righteousness equals blessing, a lack of faith and sin equals suffering. And it’s very simple and it’s also very noticeable to everyone. Everybody can see who God is favoring as opposed to who God is against, because the people that God is favoring have houses. They get to go on vacation, they have children, they have cars, they have spouses, which becomes symbols of God’s favor on their lives. And in turn, turn into symbols of righteousness. And this only serves to inflate the egos of those who are well off. And it also gives them excuses not to help those who are suffering because they deserve it. We see that so clearly demonstrated in the life of Jesus when he comes in contact with the Pharisees and Sadducees. And Jesus rebukes them. Harshly for this for this mindset and the book of Job. At the end of the Book of Job, God himself comes and speaks to Job and he rebukes jobs.
Friends. For saying this about God. This idea of moralism or what maybe we would call karma today breeds self righteousness and pride because it is a system or religion that is based on what you can do to earn God’s favor. And of course, this idea of moralism isn’t completely wrong. The Book of Genesis Chapter three teaches us that when sin entered the world, so did death and the curses. The book of Romans tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And that our are deserving of wrath. Of deserving of punishment. As well as the the Book of Proverbs details the differences between walking and wisdom, as opposed to walking and foolishness in the consequences and rewards for doing such. But what if. God? The Creator of heavens and earth and all that is in them Almighty all. Knowing God can use suffering for a greater purpose than punishment. What if he does? John nine two through three, we see Jesus’s response to his disciples when they ask him, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind. Neither this man nor his parents. Sin said Jesus. But this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in Him. Now this brings us to the passage that we will be in today, this passage of second Corinthians four, seven through 18, which is probably the most famous passage in all of second Corinthians, and maybe one that you’re familiar with.
And an important thing to understand about second Corinthians is the background in why Paul is writing to these Corinthian believers. First of all, Paul has a. Has a care and love for the Corinthian Believers. That is great. He would write more to the church in Corinth than any other church or person. All of his life. He had a relationship with them and he knows that the relationship with them is in jeopardy. And he’s writing this letter to defend his apostle ship, defend his ministry, and more than that, defend the gospel, the message that he brought to them. See how Paul got to Corinth is that he was on his second missionary journey in what we know today as modern day turkey. What was known back then as Asia and as he is going in establishing churches and preaching the gospel, God visits him in a man from Macedonia, visits him in a mission, in a vision, and says, Come, we need help. Paul sees this as a sign from God. He leaves Asia, goes across the Aegean Sea to Macedonia, and as soon as he gets there, he is beaten and thrown in prison. And then told to leave the town of Philippi. And as he leaves the town of Philippi, he goes to Thessalonica. And when he gets this Thessalonica, he begins preaching, establishing a church.
And a bunch of people in Thessalonica don’t like what he’s doing, and they raise up a mob to go find him and to kill him. And he leaves and he goes to the next town, Berea, and he starts and it starts going well. But then the people from Thessalonica hear what he’s doing and they come down and chase them out of Berea. And it says that he goes to Athens briefly and then goes to Corinth. And he’s been on the run and he’s still recovering from the scars that he has on Phillip II. And while he is in Corinth, God visits him. Jesus visits him in a dream and says, Do not be afraid, for I have many people in this city. And despite being afraid, tired and worn, Paul stays in the city of Corinth and preaches the gospel and establishes this church where he spends a year and a half of his life, which would be more than any period of time up to that point that he spent in any one place on his missionary journey. Now, what’s been happening while he’s been away is that a group of people have infiltrated the Church of Corinth. And they’ve beginning. They’ve began to slander and attack Paul. And they’re trying to convince the people in Corinth to no longer listen to Paul and what he has to say, but in fact, listen to them. And what are these specific attacks? Well, the book Second Corinthians as a whole addresses them, but specifically Chapter 11, Paul addresses them, and you get a picture of what they are accusing him of.
Paul would call these people very in a very tongue in cheek way, super apostles. And the reason why he called them super apostles is because they’re accusing Paul of being weak, of being unimpressive and being not good at speaking. They’re also accusing him of encountering too much suffering and hardship and opposition for God to be with him. His trials and tribulations bear testament to the fact that if God was with him, he has abandoned him if he ever was, and the message He carries can’t be from God, because otherwise God would have Him be welcomed into these towns instead of being ran out. And you see that the accusation that is being leveled against Paul is very similar, remarkably similar to the accusations that jobs friends made against him. And what is Paul’s response to these attacks that they are bringing against him? The whole book of Second Corinthians, but a part of it is this passage second Corinthians four, seven through 15, which says this, but we have this treasure and earthen vessels so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed, perplexed, but not despairing. Persecuted, but not forsaken. Struck down, but not destroyed.
Always caring about in the body the dying of Jesus. So that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death, for Jesus sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you. But having the same spirit of faith according to what is written, I believe, therefore I spoke. We also believe, therefore we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus and will present us with you for all things are for your sake. So that the grace which is spreading to more and more people, may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. And you know what Paul is saying here? And he’s not denying any of those things. He’s not saying, I’m not weak, I’m actually strong. He’s not saying that I’m actually a really good person. You just don’t see it. He’s not saying that I haven’t suffered tremendously. But what he is saying is that you say that I’m weak and unimpressive and therefore God cannot use me. But it’s because I’m weak. It’s because I’m unimpressive and able to be shattered at any moment. The fact that I am a jar of clay and I am not shattered is what visibly displays the power of God in my life.
For if it was just myself, I would have been crushed a long time ago. I would have been struck down and I would have been destroyed. I would be utterly alone. I would have no hope. Yet I persist. I am resilient and it’s not because of the strength. Of of what I possess. But it’s because of the treasure, the value of knowing Christ and the spirit of God who dwells in me. You say the hardship and the suffering, the trials I go through display that God is against me. But I tell you, it is through these things that the value of knowing Christ is displayed, that the glory of God and what He can do in the life of someone who trusts in Him is made visible. And the value of knowing Christ is powerful. Powerful, no matter who you are or what circumstance you find yourself in. Because it’s his strength, his wisdom, his goodness. Not my strength, not my wisdom that matters. Because although I may face affliction, devastation and abandonment, I am never truly defeated. I cannot be overcome. I am never without hope, even if I’m struck because I am never alone, because of Jesus Christ and his love for me. Displayed on Calvary. And that Jesus, the Lord Jesus who was raised from the dead, were also raise us, raise me with Jesus. And it’s through me being put to death.
It’s through me suffering that the glory of God and what He can do abounds to those. Who are dead so that they can live. And you know what’s amazing about this passage? Yes. All these things are very true and clear and evident in Paul’s life. But he doesn’t say I. He says we. Referring to all believers, those who have put their faith in Christ. He says, We have this treasure. We are afflicted. We are being delivered over to death. Why? For the glory of God to be made known and the power of Him displayed in our lives. And for us being put to death, making others alive. And that’s a remarkably powerful message. Why? Because it’s still for us today, those who have the treasure, those who have believed in Christ. And it’s also because it is a message of grace. It is not about how good you are or I am. What goodness, we offer God or resources or strength we can give him but what He gives us. And therefore, because it’s about what he gives someone, it is accessible to anyone. Second Corinthians 12 nine, Paul would recount. What Jesus said to him. But he said to me that being Jesus, my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me. Life also.
Has a greater meaning than just our comfort. We’re staying alive. Our survival. And because ultimately is about Christ and His glory. And about others being made alive. Through his death, second Corinthians five, 14 through 15. The next chapter, Paul would write this for Christ Love compels us because we are convinced that no one that one died for all and therefore all died. And he died for all that those who live should no longer live for themselves. But for him who died for them and was raised again. That no matter the circumstance, there is hope. Because for those who have placed their faith in Christ, because the end isn’t death and suffering is only a passing shadow. Second Corinthians 416 Therefore we do not lose heart, though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day for our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us in eternal glory that far outweighs them all. Now reading Second Corinthians four, it’s very easy to ask the question, What gives Paul the right to write this? I mean, who is he? To write about suffering and about God using that suffering. For His glory and to bring life to others. One thing that we need to know is that Paul is not speaking from a place of inexperience or ignorance. He knows this first hand. Paul, writing to this to the Corinthians and second Corinthians 1223 through 29, will give them a list of all the things that he has gone through, for Jesus sake.
And of course, this list isn’t even exhaustive because he’s writing second Corinthians years before he dies. But this is what he says. Are they servants of Christ? He’s talking about those super apostles we talked about. I am more I have worked much harder, have been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, have been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the 40 lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked. I spent a night in a day in the open sea. I’ve been constantly on the move. I’ve been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits and danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles, in danger in the city and danger in the country and danger at sea and danger from false believers. I’ve labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep. I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food. I’ve been cold and naked and besides everything else, I face the daily concern for all the churches. I’m going to be honest, I have little to no idea the physical toll. Of what it means to get flogged. How long? The scars take to heal. How much it destroys your body. I’ve I don’t know. I don’t know what it means to be beaten.
Time and time again with rods. But I do know is they didn’t necessarily have a wide variety of pain medication on hand. I don’t know what it would be like to spend a day in the night in the open sea. Not knowing what was beneath you and what could eat you at any time. It sounds kind of like a nightmare. And I also don’t know what it’s like to fear for my life constantly, because I know that there are people out there looking for me to try and kill me. Paul at one point, he just throws out there. I was pelted with stones, but at that point in his life, that was an execution. The people of Lystra picked up rocks and threw it at him outside the city, and they hit him and hurt. They hit them so frequently and so badly that they believed that he was dead. But through the power of God. He survived. And through. The Treasure of knowing Christ, he continued. Why? Because the value? Nothing. Not even his life was worth more than the gospel. The message he carried. And it’s because of that that the people around him could realize what the true worth. Of the gospel was. Think about it for a second. The reason that Paul is enduring such hardship. For no fault of his own. He is following the will of God for his life.
And he is experiencing torment and pain. Because of it. He is being. He was betrayed. He was hungry. He was tortured. He was chased. But what does he say in response? Second Corinthians four, 11 through 12. He says this For we who live, are constantly being delivered over to death, for Jesus sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us. But life in you. He says that he is being put to death so that they may live. This sounds morbid, and it kind of is, but. The reality is there is nothing more easily demonstrated than the fact. That for anything to live. Something else has to die. I mean, we’re omnivores, right? So we eat plants and we eat animals. And those animals and those plants have had to be alive at some point for us to get nourishment from that. So animals do the exact same thing. Plants, on the other hand, you know, they don’t eat other plants or animals. Some of them eat animals. There’s some exceptions, but for plants to live, they need soil. That is enriched by death. And not only do they need that soil, they also need energy from the sun. And that son may may technically not be alive, but it is dying. It is burning out. And it is giving energy to the plants so that we can live for without death.
There is no life, which is ultimately where the idea of sacrifice comes from. A giving up a laying down a death of some kind so that another may live. This isn’t just something that applies to the food chain either. I look out and I know that many of you guys are parents. How much parents have you sacrificed for your kids so that they could live? How much sleep have you given up to comfort your kids? How much? Time have you sacrificed? At work for them to have a shelter and food. See. If a child is going to have a shot. A shot at life at all. They must have a parent or guardian or someone who is willing to daily die for them. And Paul. Is doing just this. Dying to himself. And he is doing it for Jesus sake, to spread his message, the message of Christ, the Gospel, so that others may know the same Christ who saved him so that they too can have this eternal life that He is sharing. And there is no doubt that Paul is living extraordinarily. I mean, you take a list of people who have impacted the world more, and it may be just Jesus. But what he says is it’s not him who’s doing it. It’s the power of God in him. And he isn’t being a maverick or he’s not pioneering Christianity. He’s not revolutionizing Christianity.
What he is doing is believing the words of Jesus and following the example that Jesus gave. Matthew 1624 through 25 says this. Then Jesus said to his disciples, If anyone wishes to come after me, He must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life, for my sake, will find it. And of course, we know that Jesus did take up the cross. He died so that we could have life, so that we could be reconciled with God. So that we could be forgiven our sin. And he has called us to continue that Ministry of Reconciliation. What Paul would talk about in the next chapter, chapter five of which Paul is giving his life for so that others may not come to know Christ and experience life, forgiveness and reconciliation, all the while being put to death himself. And Paul would summarize this idea to the Roman believers in Romans 12 one. He would say, Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy and view of what Christ has done to offer your bodies as a living, sacrifice, wholly and pleasing to God. This is your true and proper worship. Now, a good question to ask is what does it take to make a sacrifice? Well, I’ll tell you whether a sacrifice is big or small, every sacrifice takes an element of faith.
Because the sacrifice is denying yourself of something you want in the present, in the moment, for something that is intangible in the future. People go on diets, they save their money, they pay huge sums for college. Why? Because they believe that it will pay off in the future. Are the results of their sacrifice, something they can enjoy in the in the moment. No, they can’t. And are the results of their sacrifice guaranteed? No, they’re not. But are they without evidence? Absolutely not. Other people go on diets and they lose weight. Other people pay huge sums for money to go to college and end up with well paying careers. But none of that is guaranteed. Every sacrifice takes an element of faith. And we are not alone. We have evidence for the faith that we also carry, the evidence that Jesus Christ rose from the grave. And we have witnesses. Of that fact. And witnesses to the promise promises that he’s given. And that is exactly what Paul is holding on to and why he is able to live so extraordinarily for. He has a faith, and the faith he has informs him that what he is dying for is worth. Worth his life. Why? Because this life is only in passing, and the suffering he endures now is nothing compared to what is to come, which is a remarkable statement considering all the pain and trial that Paul has faced.
Listen to what he says in second Corinthians four, 16 through 18. He writes this Therefore, we do not lose heart. But though our outer man is decaying yet, our inner man is being renewed day by day for momentary light affliction. Right in the story of story of Paul that that’s just funny to me that he writes that for a momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at things which are seen, but the things which are not seen for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. See, Paul’s faith in God is not based on present circumstances. For if it was, he would have reason to think that God was being unjust and unmerciful. Instead, his faith is bolstered because he lives by faith and not by sight. And what is to come and not what is his faith is in God’s promises as well as in the character of God, not his own understanding of what He sees in the moment. Therefore, he trusts God in the suffering for God to use it. For Christ. Glory. For God’s glory and for others. Good. In his good, and what he encourages all believers to do is to follow him while he follows Christ. Why? Because nothing. Nothing could be more worthy of giving your life for.