Summary: There was hand-to-hand combat in the corners, but he still could turn to God. When you can't look this way or that you can always look up! Link inc. to formatted text, audio, PowerPoint.
Down But Not Out
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair [2Cor. 4:8].
Paul is making a comparison here. He says, "We are troubled." That is a comparative degree. But he says, "Yet not distressed." That is a superlative. He was pressed for room, as it were, but he still had room to preach the gospel. There was hand-to-hand combat in the corners, but he still could turn to God. When you can't look this way or that you can always look up!
"We are perplexed" -- he was unable to find a way out -- "but not in despair." He did get out -- the Spirit of God led him.
Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed [2Cor. 4:9].
He was "persecuted," pursued by enemies, but he was "not forsaken" -- not alone -- he was not overtaken by the enemies. When he was in prison, he could write to the Philippians, "But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; so that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places" (Phil. 1:12-13). Even when he was in prison he could always say that the Lord stood by him.
"Cast down, but not destroyed." This is tremendous -- he was smitten down; the enemy got him down, but the enemy did not destroy or kill him. Actually, in all these phrases Paul is making a play on words which is lost in the translation into English. If I could paraphrase it in English, it would be something like this: "I am struck down, but I'm not struck out." Even at the end of his life Paul could say, "...I have finished my course..."
Paul seems to be fighting a losing battle. Can't you sense that this man is very weak? And yet, in his weakness, he is strong. If we could have seen this little crippled, weak, sickly Jew up against the mighty juggernaut of Roman power, we would have concluded that he was nothing. But the fact is he brought a message that withered the Roman Empire. Even the historian Gibbon said that the Roman Empire could not stand up against the preaching of the gospel of Christ. (And the gospel still continues to topple thrones.)
Paul seemed to be so weak, and yet God delivered him again and again. He used miraculous means and He also used natural means. God will never forsake His servants.
You and I live in a day of compromise, a day of expediency, a day when we seem to measure a man by how popular he is or by how many friends he has. I also think you can measure a man by the enemies he has. It is important to make the right kind of enemies. Jesus said that if we would love Him and follow Him, the world would hate us. Paul had the right kind of enemies. I am confident that I have the right kind of enemies also.
Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body [2Cor. 4:10].
Remember that in 1 Corinthians 15:31 Paul could say that he died daily. In Romans 8:36 he wrote, "As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." In 1 Corinthians 4:9 he wrote: "For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men." Christian, do not be afraid to suffer. Jesus said the world would hate us if we were following Him. It is wonderful to take our place with the Lord Jesus Christ in these days.