How to Endure Difficulties (pt. 4)

2 Corinthians 4:7-18

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

I. The Humble Purpose for Our Difficulties (vv. 7-12)      
a. to display the power of God
b. to reveal the life of Jesus

II. The Glorious Motivation for Endurance (vv. 13-18)

a. belief in future resurrection

Now that we have seen the purpose behind the difficulties that we face in ministry Paul will reveal to us the proper motivation for endurance in Gospel ministry.  This proper motivation is found in vv. 13-18.  Here the apostle Paul reveals what kept him going in ministry, and if we will follow Paul’s example then it can keep us going as well. 

In v. 13 Paul writes, “But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,” we also believe, therefore we also speak….”  From this we see that Paul continued to “speak” because he believed.  This speaking, of course, refers to the proclamation of the gospel.  He continued to preach because of his conviction in the message.   

To make this point Paul quoted from Psalm 116:10 saying that he has the same spirit of faith that the psalmist had.  In this context “spirit” (πνεῦμα) is not referring to the Holy Spirit but rather to the disposition, or character of Paul and the psalmist.  This means that Paul and the psalmist were two similar guys.  They both faced affliction.  We saw this of Paul in vv. 8-9, and in Psalm 116:3 the psalmist says that “The snares of death encompassed me….”  Yet, both of these men were able to endure this affliction.  Thus, both men exhibited an amazing endurance, and Psalm 116:10 reveals what motivated this endurance.  Both Paul and the psalmist were motivated to endure by a fervent belief in God.  This belief is what caused them to step out and proclaim the truth of God.  In fact, Paul’s belief was so motivating that he could not imagine not proclaiming it to all who would listen.  In 1 Corinthians 9:16 he said, “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.”

Paul’s belief was rooted in all that God had done for him up to that point, however it also looked beyond what God had done in the past to what God would do in the future.  In face, in vv. 14-18 we see that this belief about the future focused specifically on two aspects of the future.

First, in vv. 14-15 we see that Paul was motivated by a belief in a future resurrection.  Paul writes, “Knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, 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.” 

This theme of future resurrection was not only vital to Paul’s endurance, but it is also vital to the gospel itself.  Without the resurrection there would be no Gospel. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 Paul said to the Corinthians, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures….”  By the power of God Jesus was raised, and this resurrection proved that He is God, that His atonement was successful, and finally that we too will be raised up with Him.  This was the hope that Paul depended on to sustain him in the midst of great difficulties.  Paul was willing to be “given over to death” because he knew that by the same power that his Savior was resurrected he too would be resurrected.

What made this resurrection even sweeter was the fact that Paul would experience this resurrection with his Savior and with his fellow Christians.  Paul was eagerly anticipating the day when all of God’s people will be presented together before the throne of God, and he was even more eager to make sure that the Corinthians would be a part of this future resurrection.  In fact, Paul told the Corinthians that “all of this” was for their sake.  In other words, Paul endured in his gospel ministry because he believed in a future resurrection and he didn’t want the Corinthians to miss out on that resurrection. 

Paul knew that the grace of God through the gospel was extending to more and more people.  As a result of this there was more and more thanksgiving.  This thanksgiving would ultimately result in the glory of God.  This is what Paul has in mind in v. 15.  You can almost picture the scene from Revelation 7:9-10:

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

Paul did not want the Corinthians, or anyone for that matter, missing out on this glorious future.  In 11:2 Paul would later say, “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.” 

Paul’s belief in a future resurrection motivated him to endure in his gospel ministry.  Paul understood that the difficulties he faced were insignificant in light of the eternal glory that he would experience.  He was never overwhelmed by the difficulties of this life because of the vision that he had for the future. 

As we face daunting trials, difficult people, and struggles with sin we too must hold on to this vision of future resurrection.  For if we believe as Paul believed, then we will be able to endure as Paul endured.

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