Summary: Is it okay to be doing badly? Is it okay to be weak? The world would say "no" but the Apostle Paul uses weakness and discouragement to see the Lord’s life created in him and others.
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Pastor Tom Fuller
I want to ask two questions. Is it all right to be doing badly? And, is it all right to consider yourself weak?
Our modern culture would say “no” to both questions. It is not all right to be doing badly, to be depressed, to have the weight of the world on your shoulders. In fact the church of Jesus Christ is known for being the only army that shoots its wounded. If you don’t have a big smile and a “praise God!” on your lips then you’re suspect – you must be doing something wrong.
Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not advocating a sour expression and a “oh woe is me” attitude. In fact, God’s Word tells us that the JOY of the Lord is our strength. Jesus said He came that we might have joy, and that to the fullest.
But I think as Christians we fall into the error that when things are going badly we’ve got to fake it.
To the second question – we as a society idolize strength – strength physically, strength socially, strength emotionally. The stronger you appear, then the better you are. I want to suggest another opinion about these two ideals – one found in the forth chapter of 2nd Corinthians.
In chapter 1 Paul said that they despaired even of life itself. Paul experienced opposition and discouragement from all sides. He didn’t give up, but neither did he shrink away from the despair – no, in fact he embraced it.
For us this is a powerful lesson as we face obstacles in ministry and in life.
4:1 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.
Paul says “therefore” referring back to chapter 3 verse 12 – to the hope that is in us thanks to the work of Jesus Christ. Because of that – through the mercy of God, Paul says, we have been equipped and called to this ministry – and look what he says: “we do not lose heart.”
To “lose heart” can mean to “become discouraged” or “become fearful.” How many times have you become discouraged when you stepped out for the Lord. Maybe other people made fun of you – maybe even your own family. Maybe you experienced persecution – even threats of violence.
What’s the tendency – to back off. “Oh, I didn’t really mean that you will burn for eternity in hell if you reject Jesus Christ – I meant it’s getting quite warm these days, isn’t it?” Paul says: God’s mercy on us who were perishing is what leads us to not lose our determination to live for Him – and to speak honestly for Him.
2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God.
We don’t back off, Paul says, nor do we resort to scamming the church. He’s speaking about those who were attacking his motives and preaching. Their ways are “secret” because if the true intentions of ripping off the people spiritually and monetarily were known, they’d be rejected.
Don’t be fooled – there are a lot of scammers out there in the church. That’s why you can’t simply believe everything you hear from a guy holding a Bible and talking to a large audience.
What they do is deceive and “distort” which means to “water down.” You won’t make near as much money telling people there is a punishment for sin and the only way to avoid it is through belief and trust in Jesus Christ and repentance from those sins.
It’s much more popular to talk about guaranteed health, wealth, and happiness. Its easier to spout a doctrine that God loves you too much to condemn you to hell, even if you don’t buy this “Jesus” thing.
We’re honest, Paul says – no fake fronts, no ulterior motives.
On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
There really is ultimate truth. There are things that are true whether or not you believe them. I could believe with all my heart that if I jump off a building I will go up instead of down – but the truth is I will come crashing down and die. And here Paul says his preaching is done before God – and in the honesty of ultimate truth – everyone knows it – no matter how hard you try to hide.
Now we can sear our conscious – Paul told us that in his letter to the Romans. But deep down everyone knows the truth about sin and about God. It doesn’t matter if people try to hide it with falsity or hide from it.