A. I like the story told of the boxer who went to his corner after getting knocked down in the first round.
1. His trainer patted him on the back and said, “Great round. Now go back out there and get him. He hasn’t laid a glove on you.”
2. The boxer was a little confused by that last statement, but he went back out there and was knocked down twice and saved by the bell at the count of nine.
3. He barely made it back to his corner.
4. Again, his trainer patted him on the back and said to him, “Great round. Go back out there again and get him. He hasn’t laid a glove on you yet.”
5. The boxer turned to his trainer and said, “I’m going back out there, but you keep your eye on that referee, because somebody out there is beating the devil out of me!”
B. Have you ever felt like that?
1. Life can beat you up and ministry can beat you up.
2. Sometimes the enemy seems invisible.
3. You’re not sure where the blows are coming from, but they really hurt, and you’re not sure if you can go another round.
4. I’m sure there were times when the apostle Paul felt that way.
C. In today’s marvelous section of 2 Corinthians, Paul discusses some of the things that keep him going – that keep him from losing heart and giving up.
1. In this sermon series from 2 Corinthians we are trying to learn about leaning on God.
2. Today we want to discover how to become a Timex Christian servant.
D. Those of you who are less than 30 years old probably have no idea what I mean by today’s title.
1. Sure, you know that Timex makes and sells watches, but what does that have to do with anything, right?
2. Those of us who are a little older remember the Timex TV adds from the 60s and 70s.
3. Here’s a little trivia for you - watches with the Timex brand name were first used in 1946 with a small shipment of nurses’ watches.
a. The "X" suffix "was used to invoke a sense of technological advancement.
b. Watches were not sold under the name Timex in the U.S until 1950.
4. Over the next three decades, Timex watches were sold through a series of advertisements which emphasized durability by putting watches through "torture tests," such as falling over the Grand Coulee Dam, being strapped to the propeller of an outboard motor, or the blad of an ice skeate.
5. The slogan for the ad campaigns was “Timex - It takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”
6. Timex employed the popular TV newscaster-turned-spokesman John Cameron Swayze, and everything fell into place – and Timex watches became popular and still are bought by many.
E. As lovers of God and servants of God we need to become like Timex watches – we need to be able to take a licking and keep on ticking.
1. In 2 Cor. 4, Paul has given us some insight into how he did it – how he took a licking and kept on ticking.
2. So let’s work our way through the text and see how we too can learn to be a Timex Christian servant.
F. I’ve picked one word for each of the four paragraphs that summarizes the one of the keys to Paul’s endurance.
1. Each of the four words begins with the letter “F.”
I. The First “F” is FOUNDATION – Paul said that he preached Christ.
A. Look at verse 1: Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.
1. Last week we discussed the glory of the New Covenant and how much greater it is than the Old Covenant.
2. The New Covenant has the power to transform our very lives into the likeness of Jesus through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
3. Paul said that because he has received this ministry, there is no reason to lose heart.
4. The greatness of this ministry kept him going.
5. And the memory of the mercy of God that he had received also kept him going.
B. Throughout the letter of 2 Corinthians, we have seen Paul defending himself and his ministry against the criticism of his opponents there in Corinth.
1. He continued his defense in verse 2: Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
2. From what Paul says here, we can conclude that his enemies had leveled three charges against him.
a. They had said that he employed inappropriate methods.
b. They had said that he exercised deceptive methods.
c. And they had said that he adulterated the message of the gospel.
3. Paul countered those accusations by saying that he didn’t do any of those things, rather he just set forth the truth plainly and he appealed to each of their own consciences.
4. Anyone with a conscience would have to admit to the truthfulness of what Paul was saying.
C. Paul knew that not all would accept what he was saying, but if they didn’t, it was because they were being influenced by someone other than God.
1. Look at verses 3 and 4: And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
2. All of the writers of the Bible speak about the power of evil in the world.
3. Sometimes they identify the power of evil as Satan or the Devil.
4. Three times John recorded Jesus calling Satan the “prince of this world” (Jn. 12:31; 14:30; 16:11)
5. Paul referred to him as the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2); and in this passage he called him the “god of this world.”
6. Even in the Lord’s Prayer there is a reference to this evil power. Jesus prayed, “Deliver us from the Evil One.” (Mt. 6:13)
7. However difficult the idea of a power of evil may be for us and for our “enlightened” culture, that power is real and is our enemy.
8. Those who will not accept the good news of Christ are those who have given themselves over to the evil one and can no longer hear God’s invitation.
9. God has certainly not abandoned them, but they have allowed Satan to shut themselves off from God.
D. Even though Paul was being forced to defend himself, he pointed out that he never promoted or preached himself.
1. The essence of Paul’s gospel was the proclamation of Jesus Christ as Lord.
2. Verse 5 says: For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.
3. How sad it is when preachers make themselves the focus of their preaching and their ministry.
4. It really must be all about Christ and not about us.
5. All we are to be is servants of Jesus Christ for the sake of others.
6. When we make it about us, then we are doomed to failure and loss and let down.
7. But if we start with the right foundation – building our lives and ministry upon Jesus as Lord, and putting our trust in Him, then we can persevere, endure, and prosper.
E. Paul finished this paragraph by stating the reason why he preached Christ and served the Corinthians. Verse 6 reads: For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
1. This is an unmistakable allusion to Paul’s Damascus encounter with the risen Christ, when God blinded him with light from above.
2. This light that has dispelled the darkness in Paul’s life is something that he wants to share with others.
3. Jesus is the light of the world!
4. Let us focus on Christ and lift him up, and let His light shine out of our hearts.
II. The second “F” is FORCE – Paul said that he depended on God’s Power.
A. Paul began this second paragraph clarifying what enabled to carry out this great ministry.
1. Look at verse 7: But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
2. We are just jars of clay, or earthen vessels.
3. We are just common, weak and worthless containers, but God puts within us the most valuable treasure, and the most incredible power.
4. The important thing about our earthen vessel is that it is clean, empty, and available for service.
B. Paul then described the intense struggles he faced, and the power of God that carried him through.
1. Look at verses 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.
2. Look at these contrasts that illustrate how much we might suffer and are weakened, but how that God can enable us to remain.
a. First, we are under great pressure, but are not crushed.
1. Life and ministry can be hard, but God makes us strong.
b. Second, we are perplexed, or bewildered, but are not in despair or at our wits end.
1. Hope is always available in Christ.
c. Third, we are persecuted by people, but are never abandoned by God.
1. One of the amazing things about the martyrs is that they describe that the sweetest times they had with Christ were amidst their times of greatest persecution.
2. Joan of Arc said, “It is better to be alone with God. His friendship will not fail me, nor his counsel, nor his love. In His strength, I will dare and dare and dare until I die.”
d. Fourth, we may be knocked down, but we are not knocked out.
1. What should be characteristic of us, Christians, is not that we never fall down, but that when we do fall down or get knocked down, we get right back up.
2. Walter Payton was one of the greatest running backs in the NFL. During one Monday night football game, one of the announcers observed that Walter Payton had just accumulated over nine miles of rushing yards in his career. The other announcer remarked, “Yeah, and that’s with somebody knocking him down every 4.5 yards.”
3. Like successful running backs, we will often get knocked down, but we just have to keep on getting up.
C. But none of this would be possible with out God’s power working in us.
1. Let me illustrate this idea with soda cans.
2. This first can is unopened and is full of soda, whereas this second can is opened and completely empty.
3. Which can is easier to crush? Obviously the one that is opened and empty is easier to crush.
4. Likewise, we need to be filled with something other than ourselves to be able to withstand the challenges of life and ministry.
5. We need the all-surpassing power of God to empower us and uphold us.
III. The third “F” is “FAITH” – Paul said that he believed in the Lord and His resurrection.
A. Look at verses 13-14: It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, 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 in his presence.
1. What enabled Paul to faithfully discharge his ministry, even though it involved suffering?
2. It was the conviction that he shared with the Psalmist – the conviction that faith cannot remain silent.
3. Because we believe, we must speak. We must tell others what we know and believe.
4. And what is one of the most important things that we know and believe? That Jesus died and was raised from the dead and that God will do the same for us.
5. The good news is that Jesus died for our sins and was raised to life that we also might be raised to life.
6. We believe that and we must therefore tell others about it.
7. It is what keeps us going and telling.
B. And look at the good outcome pointed out by Paul in verse 15: 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.
1. Paul says that he keeps preaching and serving, not to promote his own good, but for the benefit and salvation of others, and ultimately for God’s glory.
2. Paul bore everything in the belief that through his ministry and suffering others came to know God’s grace.
3. The great Boulder Dam was built to bring fertility to vast areas which had once been desert.
a. Unfortunately, many lives were lost during the construction.
b. When the dam was completed, a memorial plaque was put in place with the names of all the workman who had died, and this inscription was included: “They died to make the desert bloom.”
c. Paul was able to go through what he did because he knew that it was bringing others to Christ.
4. What are we able to endure if we know that others will be brought to Christ and God will receive glory through it?
5. Paul believed and it kept him going.
IV. The final “F” is FOCUS – Paul said that he fixed his eyes on the unseen and the eternal.
A. Look at verses 16-18: 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. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
1. It is inevitable that our bodily strength will fade away, but in the midst of that our soul can keep on growing.
2. The very sufferings which leave us with a weakened body may be the very things which strengthen our soul.
3. I like the prayer that says: “Let me grow lovely growing old.”
4. William Barclay wrote, “None of us need to fear the years, for they bring us nearer, not to death, but to God.”
B. Paul was convinced that anything he had to suffer for Christ in this world would be nothing compared with the glory he would enjoy in the next.
1. Paul believed that his afflictions were temporary, but that his reward was eternal.
2. Paul viewed the Christian inheritance as something that is “stored up” in heaven for us.
3. But this production of heavenly glory was by no means automatic – for suffering to lead to glory, attention had to be focused on the unseen.
4. The things that are seen, the things of this world, have their day and then they cease to be; but the things that are unseen, the things of heaven, will last forever.
5. Paul was able to take a licking and keep on ticking because his focus was on the unseen.
C. Helen Keller accomplished amazing things, despite her handicaps.
1. She was born in 1880 on a plantation in Alabama.
2. When she was 19 months old, she contracted an illness - it might have been scarlet fever or meningitis – but it left her unable to see or hear.
3. When she was seven years old, Anne Sullivan became Helen’s teacher and taught her to communicate by spelling words into her hand.
4. Helen later became the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.
5. She became a famous author, political activist and lecturer.
6. But listen to this expression of her faith: “For three things I thank God every day of my life. Thanks that He has given me knowledge of His works; deep thanks that He has set in my darkness the lamp of faith; deep deepest thanks that I have another life to look forward to – a life joyous with light and flowers and heavenly song.”
D. Is your focus on the unseen and the eternal?
1. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the here and now – and if things are good in the here and now then we get sucked into the fun and enjoyment of this life, and become distracted from the unseen and the eternal.
2. And if things are bad in the here and now – then we can get overwhelmed and beaten down, and become discouraged and overcome by despair – these can also distract us from the unseen.
3. No matter what is happening in the here and now, our focus must be on the Lord; on what is unseen and eternal.
A. So how do we become a Timex Christian Servant?
1. Start with the right FOUNDATION – Preach and follow Christ.
2. Plug into the FORCE – Depend on God’s Power.
3. Live by FAITH – Believe in the Lord and His resurrection.
4. Have the right FOCUS – Fix Our Eyes on the Unseen.
Paul for Everyone, 2 Corinthians, Tom Wright, Westminster John Knox Press, 2003
2 Corinthians, The NIV Application Commentary, Scott J. Hafemann, Zondervan, 2000
2 Corinthians, John MacArthur, Nelson Impact, 2007
The Letters to the Corinthians, William Barclay, The Westminster Press, 1975
Be Encouraged, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Warren Wiersbe, Victor Books, 1989
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Murray J. Harris, Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein, Zondervan, 1976
“Hardships for Heaven’s Sake” Sermon by Greg Nance, SermonCentral.com
“Becoming a Timex Christian” Sermon by Rick Adams, SermonCentral.com