2 Corinthians 4
“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.” (2 Corinthians 4:1)
Paul recognizes immediately in this chapter that he does ministry only because of the mercy of God. And even though his life of ministry is hard, he does not lose heart. He goes on in verses 2 – 4 to explain this. I am sure that in his day and we have seen it in our days too, there are “ministers” who “tamper with God’s word”. There are those who use practices, or they water it down to try to sensationalize the word of God to try to attract more people. But watering it down or adding to it is not what any minister is called to do. Paul says he had renounced underhanded ways and that he would not tamper with God’s word no matter how much that seemed more attractive to the Corinthians. Paul goes on to say that those who can’t see the truth of God’s word are looking at it as though they are looking through a veil. He states that the “god of this world” is the one who is keeping them blind to the gospel. Satan has very crafty ways to keep unbelievers blind to the gospel. And Paul is recognizing this with these statements. It’s very frustrating when you know someone who is not “getting it”. But when you stand back and you see that it is Satan who is keeping them blind, it can change the way you pray for them. We must pray that God will penetrate the veil that Satan is blinding them with.
“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:5-6)
Paul did not stand before the Corinthians or any group for that matter to preach himself. Paul’s only goal was to preach Jesus and to let Jesus light shine through him. He wanted his life to matter in a way that was bringing glory to God. I wonder how he did that at times. It is human nature to want others to say good things about you. It can be so easy to fall into the trap of desiring human praise. Yet somehow Paul was able to keep his focus on Christ and on shining the light on Christ and not on himself. Paul worked at keeping himself humble but when you study his life you also see that Paul did not have an easy life, especially since his conversion experience. But he kept his focus on God’s glory and not on his own life.
“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; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Corinthians 4:7-10)
Paul describes himself, and us as “jars of clay” or “earthen vessel” in some translations. Our bodies are breaking down day by day and they are nothing more than a vessel. Paul wanted them to see him as a weak vessel who was being used by God and anything good that came out of him was because of God’s power and not of himself. Paul describes some of his afflictions in general terms here, but he is letting them know that in his mind his afflictions are the way he shares in the suffering of Christ. He wanted everything he had gone through to be used by God so that Jesus life would be manifested in him. What does that even mean?
We all go through trials, we all have things that happen to us that, well we would rather not have happened. The question is whether they will make us bitter or if they will make us better. To me this is hard to write, because while I have been through some stuff and a lot of it is not stuff I would want to put on repeat. I don’t have to look very far to find someone whose stuff is harder or worse than my stuff. And I don’t ever want to sound trite or “churchy” if you will. Life can be hard sometimes, I know it can. But I do believe that when you lay your “stuff” whatever that stuff may be, at the foot of the cross and you ask God to use it for his glory that he will.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 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.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
Please do not let your “stuff” cause you to lose heart. The one thing you can count on is that the world is still turning, at least as I write this it is. Paul says “though our outer self is wasting away”, with every turn of the globe our bodies are decaying and our human selves are “wasting away” and that means that what we are going through today, what Paul calls our “light momentary affliction” is preparing us for “glory beyond all comparison”. In other words we can’t measure our afflictions against the world or against someone else afflictions. If we did we might lose heart. But the only way not to “lose heart” is if we renew ourselves every day by bringing them to the foot of the cross and weigh our afflictions by glory. What can God do to use the afflictions that we have that can outweigh them? If we hand it over to Him, and allow Him to use it and we keep our focus on Jesus only He and His glory can outweigh them.
Oh Lord Jesus, please help us to bring You our stuff. Whatever is on our hearts and troubling us today Lord, we ask you to take it and use it for your glory so that the weight of it will not feel so heavy.
Please pray today for our people in the medical field. From the ones working the desk or cleaning to the Doctors and the Nurses who are taking care of our patients and all the ones in between!