2 Corinthians 4:1-7 (NIV)
Why we should not lost heart?
The Apostle Paul had established the Corinthian church on his second missionary journey in AD 49. This church was very important to him. But the church struggled in their faith.
Corinth was a sprawling seaport and stopover between Asia and Europe. The area, like Red Lake was very wealthy. But like Red Lake, immorality was rampant. They did not have the Internet and bad movies like we do but the temple of Aphrodite once boasted a thousand prostitutes. As a result of these temple slaves the city was crowded and grew rich.
It was at Corinth that Paul established one of his church plants.
So this was a difficult place for Paul to plant a church. There are times when Paul was ready to lose heart. There are times when he felt he made two steps forward and then things went backwards. This was a place where Paul felt like he was losing heart.
INTRO. - ILL. - The New York City Transit Company was missing a bus and a driver some years ago. For over a week, authorities searched for the man but couldn’t find him. Finally, ten days later after the man had disappeared, he was found, bus included. IN MIAMI, FLORIDA!
The driver said, "I’d had it with the cold weather, the passengers, and my family! One day after I got off work, I thought, ‘I WONDER WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF I JUST TOOK OFF FROM DRIVING!’"
So, that’s what he did! He took off for Florida where he enjoyed the sun and surf for over a week, ALL BY HIMSELF!
HAVE YOU EVER FELT LIKE THAT? Haven’t we all felt like that bus driver at times? We get so frustrated and/or aggravated about life that we either want to pull our hair out or run away!
Maybe your marriage hasn’t gone the way you thought it would. It’s not like you dreamed it would be. The truth is you have no joy at all.
You’d tried many things to spark your marriage, but nothing seems to work. So you may have thought, "I wonder what would happen if I just took off for a few days and told no one where I was going?"
I am sure the Apostle Paul felt that way. But God met him at Corinth. He sent Aquila and Priscilla, two Christian preachers who were forced to go there after the Emperor Claudius issued a decree that all Jews had to leave their capital city. They would preach the gospel alongside Paul and eventually risk their lives for the gospel.
And although they were an encouragement to Paul it was still a tough place. Are you in a tough spot?
God wants to tell you this morning not to lose heart.
We need to learn God’s secret. I want to give you five reasons why Paul said the Corinthians should not lose heart. Let’s apply them directly to our lives:
1. God is merciful
The Apostle has not forgotten where he came from. Have you forgotten? By his own admission he said (1 Timothy 1:13-14 NIV).
The Apostle recognized the mercy and grace of God in his life. He called himself the chief of sinners. He said he was the lowest of the Apostles.
He did not grow up believing. I wonder how a church board would receive his resume today.
Paul, applying for the Lead Pastor at XYZ church, a church of 20,000. Life experiences include:
o An Israelite, a Benjamite
o A Pharisee
o A Roman citizen
o Grew up in Tarsus
o A tentmaker
o Studied under Gamaliel
o Approved of Stephen’s murder
o Arrested Christians and sentenced them
o Persecuted Christians to the death
o Through a miracle met Jesus
o Arrested in Jerusalem and accused of inciting a mob
o Refused to work with John Mark – who later wrote the gospel of Mark
But his roadblocks, which were many, mattered little to Paul. He met the risen Christ and he was never the same. He told his story everywhere he went. And he gave God all the credit. God was merciful in his life. God forgave his sins (Acts 26:15-17)
The Apostle had a difficult life. He had told the Corinthians he despaired even to the point of death. He had been shipwrecked, beaten and flogged. He was at the end of his ropes. Have you ever felt that way? What sustained him during these brutal times in his life?
One husband, at the end of his ropes said, "Some people ask the secret of our long marriage. We take time to go to a restaurant two times a week. A little candlelight dinner, soft music and a slow walk home. SHE GOES TUESDAYS AND I GO FRIDAYS."
Brothers and sisters, life is full of pain and disappointment! We think things are going to be peaceful, and find out they are not what we expected at all! Bills pile up, health fails, marriages crumble, people hurt you or disappoint you, your energy is deplete, people are out to get you, criticize you, your job turns out to be difficult, as do some people in your life
And who knows? Perhaps there have been times when you have even thought about quitting the Christian life. You started out with high hopes of a better life, a happier life, a richer life and found it to be a lot tougher than you expected.
You may have thought all your problems would go away and they didn’t! Temptations were stronger than you expected. People were not always as helpful or as nice as you thought they would be. And you began to think after a period of time, "What’s the use in coming to church? Why not just drop out and do what everybody else in the world is doing?"
The worst defeat in a college football game came on October 7, 1916, when Georgia Tech played Cumberland college of Kentucky and beat them 222 to 0! Wow! It’s on record! It’s a fact! It was said that Cumberland never made a first down. The much smaller Cumberland players were mauled. Halfway through the first half one of the Cumberland backs fumbled the ball.
As the ball rolled toward his teammate, he yelled out, "PICK IT UP! PICK IT UP!" The other player yelled back, "YOU PICK IT UP! YOU DROPPED IT."
Sometimes our situation in life seems so hopeless. We’ve dropped the ball and we don’t’ feel like picking it up again and running with it! We been knocked down time and time again, and we just want to quit the game!
Who did Paul look to when the chips were down - Our merciful God.
Look to Jesus to sustain you? When your marriage is in tough – look to Jesus. When you’re ill – look to Jesus. When the kids won’t listen – look to Jesus. When the relatives belittle you for being a Christian – look to Jesus. Who are you going to look to? Look to Jesus, like Paul remember God’s mercy. Remember God’s grace. Like Paul, remember where you came from.
Paul not only looked to Jesus, he thanked God for his ministry he encouraged millions to persevere Gal. 6:9.
ILL. - Someone put it this way:
I slept and dreamed that life was beauty.
I woke and found that life was duty.
ILL. - Bernard L. Brown, Jr., president of the Kennestone Regional Health Care System in the state of Georgia told this story. Brown once worked in a hospital where a patient knocked over a cup of water, which spilled on the floor beside the patient’s bed. The patient was afraid he might slip on the water if he got out of the bed, so he asked a nurse’s aide to mop it up.
The patient didn’t know it, but the hospital policy said that small spills were the responsibility of the nurse’s aides while large spills were to be mopped up by the hospital’s housekeeping group.
The nurse’s aide decided the spill was a large one and she called the housekeeping department. A housekeeper arrived and declared the spill a small one. An argument followed. "It’s not my responsibility," said the nurse’s aide, "because it’s a large puddle." The housekeeper did not agree. "Well, it’s not mine," she said, "the puddle is too small."
The exasperated patient listened for a time, then took a pitcher of water from his night table and poured the whole thing on the floor. "Is that a big enough puddle now for you two to decide?"
Brothers and sisters, all of us are faced with certain responsibilities in life. Some of them are large puddle responsibilities and some of them are small puddle responsibilities. Naturally, we prefer the small responsibilities but we know it doesn’t work that way all the time.
People in the church say ‘why do so many sit back and let a few do the ministry and carry the church?
Paul felt that too. Regardless he had a ministry. He had a job to do and I am sure there are times when he did not feel like preaching. There are times when he felt ‘what’s the use, because life can be hard.’
Christians who do well in life and ministry are not particularly the most flashy, talented or materially blessed. They are the people who just don’t give up! They don’t quit doing good! They are dependable. They just keep on, keeping on! They are people who see the puddle on the floor and act. The apostle Paul was that kind of person. Twice in this chapter he says ‘do not lose heart.’
I have news for you this morning. The Apostle Paul did not lose heart. He knew God and not men had called him to the ministry. His direction came from God. His strength and competency came from God (2nd Co. 3:5).” God was merciful to save Him and to give Him a ministry, so he did not lose heart.
2. God’s word is true
Now the Apostle Paul knew the word of God was true. He had written to Timothy that all scripture was God breathed. But he was dealing with a church plant of people who were immature in the faith. Most did not know the word of God. Why do I say that? Paul had to write to them and tell them that sensuality was inappropriate. He wrote to them to stop lawsuits against one another. He had to tell them to stop arguing over secondary matters, stop choosing sides. He has started off his first book in a feisty mood. He wrote (1 Corinthians 1:10 NIV).
Paul knew that preachers are not called to be popular. They are not called to please everyone. They are not called to maintain the status quo. They are called to lead and preach the word of God. They are called to preach the truth.
There is no indication that Paul was even easy to work with. But he preached the truth. And he urged people to follow him (Phil. 4:9).
That is what Paul did and some did not like it. Some did not like him. There were false teachers in the church. They led the people astray and criticized Paul behind his back. And Paul said ‘I am not going to enter into their games. God called me here to preach the word. I am not ashamed of the gospel.’
Someone said to me you need to be tolerant of everyone else’s beliefs and needs. They said be careful Randy that you don’t offend anyone. Really? Was Jesus tolerant? Was Paul tolerant? Did they offend people with the message? Of course they did. They were called to preach the truth. They were called to lead (Romans 1:16).
At Calvary were not ashamed of the gospel. We went right into Norseman Park and preached to 210 people, anyone who wanted to hear. We will do many of those things again; resources keep us from doing much of that. We have a vision to be used by God to grow a solid church. Were making progress. Setbacks will not throw us off.
We preach the gospel every week. I know I am not popular in this area simply because of that.
We got youth all over this area that we need to reach with the gospel. They sit on the porch behind me and smoke all kinds of stuff; in the park across the street. But if our attitude is oh well, then we do not have the heart of the gospel.
But we are not ashamed of God’s word. Jesus and the Bible is the only hope for Red Lake. Lord God may this place not be known for gold, materialism, adultery, deceit, may this place be known for Jesus Christ.
What are you known for? Are you known as a Jesus follower? When is the last time you shared Jesus? When is the last time you invited someone to church? Isn’t it time for you to step up to the plate? If you believe God’s word is true, do you read it? Do you pray for those who give you a bad time?
Paul was determined to do one thing. He wanted to preach the simple truth of the gospel. His false teachers wanted to please the crowds. He would not distort the message to draw a crowd. He proclaimed the truth of God’s word.
They judged him. They called Him down. Paul defended himself. He defended himself because he knew the gospel he preached was true.
Paul knew that Jesus called him to preach, not men (Gal. 1:10).
What Paul experienced was true of every preacher. You say Jesus is the only way to heaven your considered a bigot. When you ask people for their time and money they give you a bad time.
Why is that? We live in a world that goes against the grain of commitment. We preach Christ and we preach commitment to the local church. Belonging and serving Jesus is about eternal principles.
What are we going to say before the king of kings, Jesus? Well I didn’t like the music. Church interferes with my golf game. I don’t like the preacher. I’d rather watch movies that read the Bible, pray, get involved in the church. So I have comments like:
o It will never happen, you’re a dreamer
o Traveling is more important than giving to save souls? Really now!
o I do not need to belong. I am part of the invisible church. OK we will have the invisible deacon or pastor visit you when your ill or in difficulty
o I do not need the Bible, that is an old book
o I will just sit back in the trenches
I know that is not God speaking because all of those are the opposite of what the Bible teaches
Jesus church and God’s word is the hope of the world. I want to be fully committed; put the past behind; give my all to Jesus. I want to go out on fire for Jesus. Let me ask you this.
Do you believe Jesus is the hope of the world? Do you believe God’s word is true? Well if you say yes, what is it in your life that is holding you back from being fully committed to Jesus and this work right here at Calvary?
The apostle Paul was a man who understood and fulfilled his responsibility in life. He said, "We have this ministry." As in "I have this ministry."
Rom. 1:14-15 "I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and to the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel..."
Because I know him, I know Jesus gave his life for the church, and he calls me to it; and I will stay committed to it. God’s word is true and Paul gave his life because of the ministry God called him to.
3. God’s gospel is glorious
Thirdly Paul not only said the God is merciful, the gospel is true, he said it is glorious. Now what did Paul mean by that?
Didn’t Paul say some negative things? Didn’t he say some hard things? For sure he did. He said that Satan, who is the god of this age, has blinded the eyes of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel. That doesn’t sound so glorious, does it?
So then is there any hope? Of course there is. None of us fully understand God’s ways. None of us know when and how each person will come to faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul was dealing with his fellow Jews. They refused to believe. But he refused to change the gospel so that they would believe. In other words the false apostles were into deception and Paul would have nothing to do with it.
You see when someone disbelieves there are several strongholds in their lives. First there is the stronghold of their flesh. Secondly Satan the god of this world helps them in their unbelief.
Does that sound like an impossible mountain to cover? Not for our God. So do not give up hope (2nd Co. 10:4).
God through his grace and power saves people. Every time he does it is a miracle from God. That is why the gospel is so glorious.
There is discouragement of the ministry. Just this week I stood outside the building. I talked to an elderly man. I was grieved when I saw him. I shuddered to think of that man spending an eternity without Jesus, in a place called hell. It shook me.
I invited him to church. He said I do not need the church. I said what are you going to say to Jesus when you stand in front of him. He said ‘I will talk to Him but I am not coming to church.’ Hardness of heart; spiritual blindness. I was grieved. When was the last time you were grieved to lost people? If were not as a church then our hearts are in the wrong place.
ILL. - A golfer who had been playing badly went to a psychiatrist who told him to relax by playing a round of golf without a ball. "Do everything you would normally do, but use an imaginary ball," advised the psychiatrist.
The golfer tried it the next day. He stepped up on the first tee, imagined he got a 260-yard drive, made a fine approach shot to the green, and then putted for a par. The round went splendidly and as he approached the 18th hole, he met another golfer playing the same way--no ball. The other golfer had seen the same psychiatrist.
They decided to play the last hole together and bet $10 on the outcome. The first golfer swung at his imaginary ball and announced that it had gone 280 yards right down the middle of the fairway. The second golfer matched his drive.
The first fellow then took out his 5-iron and after swinging at his imaginary ball, he exclaimed, "Look at that shot! It went right over the pin and the reverse spin on it brought it right back into the hole! I win." "No you don’t," said the second golfer. "You hit my ball."
Brothers and sisters, I think both of those golfers were mixed up and that’s because they’d been listening to the wrong person. In their particular case it was their psychiatrist.
Many people, like that old man I met, are messed up because they’ve been listening to the devil!
I Pet. 5:8-9 "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist Him, standing firm in the faith...."
If we are going to make it in life we must alert to what is going on and be aware of our enemy!
Don’t let the enemy lull you to sleep. Pray your heart out! Serve your heart out! Give your time and resources! Because it is not about you, it is about eternity.
Be resilient. Don’t let the circumstances in life keep you from what is most glorious and most important.
ILL. – A little girl who lost her mother in death and the preacher asked her what she was going to do. She replied, “Brother Smith, I guess I’ll just keep going to Sunday school.” That’s bouncing back. That’s resiliency. That is glorious. Like the little girl do not give up. Paul said the gospel is glorious; keep on pressing ahead (1 Co 15:58).
4. God’s gospel is luminous, full of light
I recall going to see a friend of mine, Fred about an issue in my life. Fred was a graduate of Colorado Christian University. Fred completed the Masters Program in Counseling with Dr. Larry Crabb. At that time only 80 students worldwide were accepted into this program. Fred was one of them. Fred had one huge obstacle to overcome – Fred was totally blind from birth.
I can recall sitting there talking to Fred. I recall thinking – I wish Fred could see. I wished he could see the expressions on my face.
Fred was in the dark through no fault of his own. But Fred could see spiritually – he had a tremendous faith and I liked hanging out with him.
Now what are the chances that Fred, who grew up in a home with no gospel, would become a Christian, get married, have three sons, complete his master’s degree in counseling, and start a practice where hundreds of people a year seek him out for help?
Although Fred could not see, he came to know Jesus, the light of the world. That is because the gospel is light to all who find it. Jesus said ‘I am the light of the world.’ Paul wrote ‘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.’
What was Paul referring to? He refers to two things. The Bible says ‘Genesis 1:2-4 (NIV)
Paul is making a contrast to his own life. He is saying – hey I was like that. That is a picture of my life. He says the purpose of the gospel is to bring light into your dark life.
Paul’s experience on the Damascus Road, when “a light from heaven flashed around him” (Acts 9:3). Confronted with the risen Lord, he became a new creation (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17). The light in believers’ lives is the knowledge of God’s salvation, a glory issuing from and seen in the face of Christ. Paul’s life reflected the glory of Jesus (cf. 3:18).
When people are in the darkness of sin, they have no knowledge of God, no experience of His life and salvation (Eph. 4:18).
The need the gospel. They need Jesus, the light of the world.
5. God’s gospel is a treasure
Jesus and the gospel of Jesus is a treasure. Paul wrote we have this great treasure in clay pots. Clay pots crack and leak. Paul knew that Jesus was the greatest treasure in the world. It radically changed his life.
The Apostle Paul is still ministering to people today because he put the right treasure in his clay pot.
I want to give you some examples of people who put their worldly treasures in their clay pots. You see the Bible says ‘do not be deceived. God is not mocked. We will reap what we sow. Listen to the deception of these people, who mocked God.
John Lennon (Singer with the Beatles):
Some years before, during his interview with an American Magazine, he said: ’Christianity will end, it will disappear. I do not have to argue about that. I am certain. Jesus was ok, but his subjects were too simple, today we are more famous than Him’ (1966).
Lennon, after saying that the Beatles were more famous than Jesus Christ, was shot six times.
Tancredo Neves (President of Brazil ):
During the Presidential campaign, he said if he got 500,000 votes from his party, not even God would remove him from Presidency. Sure he got the votes, but he got sick in 1985, a day before being made President, then he died.
Cazuza (Bi-sexual Brazilian composer, singer and poet):
During A show in Rio de Janeiro, while smoking his cigarette, he puffed out some smoke into the air and said: ’God, that’s for you.’ He died at the age of 32 of LUNG CANCER in a horrible manner.
The man who built the Titanic
After the construction of Titanic, a reporter asked him how safe the Titanic would be. With an ironic tone he said: ’Not even God can sink it.’ I think you know the rest of the story.
Marilyn Monroe (Actress – like Madonna of today)
She was visited by Billy Graham during a presentation of a show. He said the Spirit of God had sent him to preach to her. After hearing what the Preacher had to say, she said: ’I don’t need your Jesus’. A week later, she was found dead in her apartment
What are you going to do with the trials and circumstances you run into in life?
What is that old saying? When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade out of it. YOU JUST HAVE TO ADMIRE PEOPLE LIKE THE APOSTLE PAUL WHO MADE THE BEST OF A BAD SITUATION.
In 1852 many California vineyard owners were going bankrupt because of a drought. All the grapes had just shriveled up on the vines. One vineyard owner picked them anyway, took them to the market, and advertised them as Peruvian delicacies and we’ve been eating raisins ever since!
Life doesn’t always turn out the way we expect it to. We have to make the best of what we have been given.
Everybody is going to experience trouble in life, but what we do with that trouble is another matter. Some people hide. Some people run. And some people run to the Lord!
Run to Jesus, and when you do remember the treasure that you have. 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 Corinthians 4:7 NIV).