Summary: Today’s world is filled with energy-saving devices that make life easier, but there is something to be said for embracing life’s challenges. The apostle Paul found serving Christ hard, but he didn’t see it as a cause of discouragement. The goal was worth
Opening illustration: On September 12th, 1962, President JF Kennedy delivered a speech at Rice University in Houston, TX, about the difficult challenges facing the nation. He also shared his passion for the US to place a man on the moon. In balancing the needs of his people with the desire to conquer space, Kennedy said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade. We choose to go to the moon and do the other things, not because they are easy but because they are hard.” The nation responded. Seven years later, Neil Armstrong took a step for man but a “giant leap for mankind” in July of 1969, walking on the moon.
This morning we will look into God’s Word and see why we as believers of Jesus Christ must make the hard choices in our lives or should we be looking out for easy short cuts for our Christian life. Let us turn to 2 Corinthians 4: 5 – 18.
Introduction: Paul and his fellow apostles (4: 6 - 13) stand in contrast to these “super leaders,” who are so esteemed by some of the saints in Corinth. The Corinthians who have aligned themselves with the “super leaders” feel smug and superior to the other saints, including Paul. Paul and his colleagues have become “as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things” (4: 13). They are looked down upon as an embarrassment to the church, while their new leaders give the Corinthians a sense of pride since they are so smooth, so persuasive, and so wise. In reality, these leaders, in whom all too many of the saints take pride, are “false apostles,” as Paul spells out in 2 Corinthians 11. Because these messengers are so attractive, charming and appealing that some Christians are only too happy to give up the gospel, as preached by Paul and the apostles and to embrace whatever “gospel” these false apostles might offer (see 11: 1 - 15).
Why do we choose the hard things?
1. Depend on God’s Mercy (vs. 5 – 7)
Paul had said that his course had been open, and pure, and free from all dishonest arts and tricks, and that he had not corrupted the Word of God, or resorted to any artifice to accomplish his designs. The “reason” of this he here says is, that he had not preached himself, or sought to advance his own interest. He regarded himself as sent to make known a Savior; himself as bound by all means to promote his cause, and to imitate him. Other people - the false teachers, and the cunning priests of the pagan religion - sought to advance their own interest and to perpetuate a system of delusion that would be profitable to themselves; and they therefore resorted to all arts, and stratagems, and cunning devices to perpetuate their authority, and extend their influence. For God hath shined in our hearts - The hearts of all those whom the god of this world no longer blinds. God who is himself our light; not only the author of light (Genesis 1: 2), but also the fountain of it. To enlighten us with the knowledge of the glory of God - Of his glorious love, and of his glorious image. In the face of Jesus Christ - Which reflects his glory in another manner than the face of Moses did. But we - Not only the apostles, but all true believers. Have this treasure - Of divine light, love, glory. In earthen vessels (that have gone through the fire in the furnace) - In frail, feeble, perishing bodies. He proceeds to show, that afflictions, yea, death itself, are so far from hindering the ministration of the Spirit, that they even further it, sharpen the ministers, and increase the fruit. That the excellence of the power, which works these in us, may undeniably appear to be of God.
The best of men would faint, if they did not receive mercy from God. And that mercy which has helped us out, and helped us on, hitherto, we may rely upon to help us even to the end. The apostles had no base and wicked designs, covered with fair and specious pretences. They did not try to make their ministry serve a turn. Sincerity or uprightness will keep the favorable opinion of wise and good men. Christ by his gospel makes a glorious discovery to the minds of men. But the design of the devil is, to keep men in ignorance; and when he cannot keep the light of the gospel of Christ out of the world, he spares no pains to keep men from the gospel, or to set them against it. The rejection of the gospel is here traced to the willful blindness and wickedness of the human heart. Self was not the matter or the end of the apostles’ preaching; they preached Christ as Jesus, the Savior and Deliverer, who saves to the uttermost all that come to God through him. Ministers are servants to the souls of men; they must avoid becoming servants to the humors or the lusts of men. It is pleasant to behold the sun in the firmament; but it is more pleasant and profitable for the gospel to shine in the heart. As light was the beginning of the first creation; so, in the new creation, the light of the Spirit is his first work upon the soul. The treasure of gospel light and grace is put into earthen vessels. The ministers of the gospel are subject to the same passions and weaknesses as other men. God could have sent angels to make known the glorious doctrine of the gospel, or could have sent the most admired sons of men to teach the nations, but he chose humbler, weaker vessels, that his power might be more glorified in upholding them, and in the blessed change produced by their ministry.