Summary: Last week we looked at the story of Joseph. He bounced back from multiple situations: sold into slavery, a false accusation, betrayal, etc. But he wasn't the only one who bounced back from multiple hardships; Paul did too.
BOUNCING BACK (part two)
There are many personal stories of people who bounced back from a bad situation. We're bouncing back from the pandemic with vaccinations and loosening COVID restrictions. People have bounced back from having COVID. Churches have bounced back from having to shut down for a period of time. And you may know of churches that have bounced back from losing people or from a church split.
We know people who have bounced back after a medical procedure or diagnosis. People who have bounced back from losing a loved one. People who have bounced back from an addiction or from incarceration. Sometimes people take a hit financially through bankruptcy or job loss and they bounce back from that.
Last week we looked at the story of Joseph. He bounced back from multiple situations. He was sold into slavery by his brothers, yet he chose to continue to serve God and he made a good impression.
Potipher's wife took notice of Joseph, but not for his godly qualities. When he dismissed her sexual advances she cried rape and he was thrown into prison. Again, he made the most of his situation. Eventually, he was released and made 2nd in command.
During the famine, his brothers came to Egypt to buy food. They saw Joseph but they didn't know it was him. After a while he revealed himself to them. They were terrified but Joseph assured them they didn't need to worry. He knew God allowed all this to use him to save lives.
Joseph wasn't the only one who bounced back from multiple hardships; Paul did too.
2nd Cor. is a good book to learn about Paul's hardships. In Chapter 4 we find the familiar 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."
Paul states the negative reality followed by the positive reality. Yes, we are feeling pressure all around us but that pressure isn't crushing us. It's uncomfortable, but we're dealing with it. Some people thrive under pressure; it gets them pumping, gets their juices flowing, kicks them into high gear.
But for others, being under pressure is unnerving; it can even cause them to snap and go off or perhaps have a nervous breakdown. For some, pressure causes them to throw in the towel and go hide. Some try to deal with the pressure by using drugs, alcohol or something else.
Then there are those who don't like it but they don't let it stop them. That was Paul. Despite the pressure he was under, he wasn't going to compromise or cave in. He mentioned being perplexed; which is being baffled or confused. Being perplexed can be debilitating. When we're in a situation where we don't know what to do we can shut down or even panic. We feel like something needs to happen right now but we don't know what.
Being perplexed can be nerve-racking but Paul said he wasn't at the point of despair. His perplexity was problematic but it didn't mean the situation was hopeless. We're never in despair when we have Jesus. We may be confused, but he isn't.
And if we don't figure out what to do before the buzzer goes off it's not a hopeless situation. Things may get worse, we may feel bad that we couldn't come up with a solution in time, but that doesn't mean we might as well give up. Part of bouncing back is staying the course; even if it means having to do something different.
Then Paul said he was persecuted but not abandoned. Dealing with persecution can make us feel like Jesus has left us alone to fight the battle. It can feel like he's not doing anything about it; but that's not true. Those who persevere through persecution know that Christ is with them, despite the harsh treatment they're dealing with.
When we go through persecution and mistreatment; when we suffer for doing good, we can get to where we want to give up. Forget this; if being vocal for Jesus is going to get me persecuted then I'm just going to keep my mouth shut and blend in from now on. If doing the right thing is going to get me in trouble anyway why bother?
Jesus warned his disciples that since they persecuted him they would persecute them too. But he would also remind them that he would be with them. Knowing this can help us bounce back and keep going. It's about honoring God for what he's done; It's about loving and serving God despite what happens.
Paul said he was struck down but not destroyed. Things don't always go the way we want them to; no matter how well we do. We might do everything right but there are factors outside of our control. And those external factors may cause things to not turn out well; resulting in us being struck down. We gave it our best but our best wasn't good enough. How do we bounce back from that?