We all have our tough times, don’t we? And I think I would be right in saying that most of us complain about some of the struggles we face in life and especially in front line ministry for Christ. Well, when I feel like complaining, the Lord usually leads me to the same passage in the Bible.
In 2 Corinthians 11:23–27, the Apostle Paul writes about how many times he has been thrown in prison, beaten, abused, flogged within an inch of his life, stoned, shipwrecked. He says that he has gone without sleep, food, drink, and warmth, and that everywhere he has faced dangers, including being backstabbed by those within his own church.
Eventually, as a result of what smells suspiciously like a religious set-up, and after nine years in prison, Paul was executed in Rome. Yet, incredibly, it is this same Paul who can write this:
2 Corinthians 4:8–9 “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
Read all of chapter four – it’s only short. Here Paul is explaining what it means to live the Gospel life. He tells us that an absolute commitment to the proclamation of the Gospel drives everything that a true Christian does. Paul said we would often be knocked down, but not knocked out. Then he reminds us that we are not promised an easy life. Remember what Jesus said to his disciples:
John 15:20 “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”
But in the very next chapter, Jesus says this:
John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Here is the secret of a resilience like Paul’s. It is based on an accomplished fact – something that we believe in by faith, not because there is no evidence for it, but because it happened before we were born. On a cross and in a borrowed tomb, Jesus has already conquered the world! For that reason, Paul explains why he is more than able to put up with so much hardship in his life:
2 Corinthians 4:14–18 “(We do this) because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.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 an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Let’s face the facts. Life can be hard… really hard. It is a miracle of grace that any of us survive as long as we do! Paul was an amazing man. Good on him; he didn’t seem to get depressed. But many of us do.
The wounds of life go deep, and just as we have been shown mercy, we must show mercy to others. Sometimes I have heard the comforting words, “Don’t worry the final chapter of the story of your life hasn’t been written yet.” I would say that this reflects a poor understanding of the Gospel. Because those words aren’t as comforting as the reality that if you are in Christ, the final chapter of our life has in fact been completely written already. It was written in stone, in the stone of the open tomb in a garden outside Jerusalem. It was written in the awesome victory of Jesus Christ not just over the guilt of your sin, but over all of sin’s effects.
Hold on to that truth. Hold on by faith. It’s because of that, as Paul says, that, we are knocked down, but we aren’t knocked out. The storms may rage around us, but we will always stand in the victory of Christ.