Summary: Stress and Disappointment come into every life. Christians are provided a powerful response to such stressors, and this powerful response is revealed in Paul's review of his own life.

“We have this treasure in clay jars to show that its extraordinary power comes from God and not from us. In every way we’re troubled but not crushed, frustrated but not in despair, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed. We are always carrying around the death of Jesus in our bodies, so that the life of Jesus may be clearly shown in our bodies. While we are alive, we are constantly being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be clearly shown in our mortal bodies. And so death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

“Now since we have the same spirit of faith in keeping with this Scripture: ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe and therefore speak. We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus and present us to God together with you. All this is for your sake so that, as his grace spreads, more and more people will give thanks and glorify God.

“That’s why we are not discouraged. No, even if outwardly we are wearing out, inwardly we are being renewed each and every day. This light, temporary nature of our suffering is producing for us an everlasting weight of glory, far beyond any comparison, because we do not look for things that can be seen but for things that cannot be seen. For things that can be seen are temporary, but things that cannot be seen are eternal.” [1]

Do you ever get discouraged? Okay, that’s a silly question. Of course you get discouraged. It is inevitable that each of us will experience a measure of discouragement from time-to-time. Our discouragement may at times become so severe that we become despondent! At times, we may want to quit, give up because of some emotional malaise that drags us down or because we are physically worn to the point of exhaustion. Discouragement can be debilitating, and it is certainly contagious. If we permit ourselves to be discouraged, we know that others will become discouraged.

You try to be a positive person, but a phone call telling you that your children are failing their courses and not completing their homework throws your day into disarray. You know you will have to take time with your children to help get them back on track; and you really don’t have the time that will be required. Moreover, because they are children, you will experience the inevitable push-back as they argue that they are really, really trying. They are trying, alright, just not in the way they would like you to think. What is a parent to do? How can you be positive when your children are struggling?

You are rushed for time because you promised to complete a major project that is due for work this morning. Just as you are rushing out the door, your son phones to remind you that you promised to be at his school that afternoon to see him receive an award for his academic achievement. You suddenly remember that he told you two weeks ago; but how can you juggle two assignments at once? Something has to give; someone will be disappointed, and more than likely it will be you. How are you to avoid being discouraged when you try to succeed, but life keeps on intruding?

Your brother is squabbling with your sister, and though you try to remain aloof from the festering internecine battles, you are being inexorably drawn into the conflict. You see the validity of the argument presented by either side, but when you try to counsel your siblings to be considerate to one another, both turn on you, accusing you of taking the other’s side. You are exhausted just trying to continue loving those to whom you are closest. It is hard not to be discouraged when things are turning out this way.

You haven’t worked in over eight weeks, and now the province announces that businesses must open only according to a process outlined by people who have never worked in the business world. They have a guaranteed paycheque paid with taxes that have been taken from you and the millions of other workers. You don’t know when you’ll be able to begin living normally again, or what normal will be!

Just as you are beginning to cope with problems that leave you drained, the preacher brings a message pointing us to what the Apostle has written in this Second Letter to the Saints in Corinth. Or you stumble onto the passage in your Bible reading one day, and as you read those words that affirm our lack of disappointment you question what you just read. How can a follower of the Master stay positive when her world is crumbling? What can the saint of God do when the demands on his energies and resources are constant and incessant? How shall we stand when our strength is gone?

WHY A SAINT COULD BECOME DISCOURAGED — “We have this treasure in jars of clay” [2 CORINTHIANS 4:7a]. Soon after writing these words, the Apostle confessed, “Our outer self is wasting away” [2 CORINTHIANS 4:16b]. Paul definitely had some physical deficits. We really need to hear that, especially when we imagine that our deficits are such that no one could understand what we endure. The Apostle spoke of vision problems, problems that were so severe that he indicated that the saints among the Galatian churches would have “gouged out [their] eyes and given them to [him]” [see GALATIANS 4:15b], if such was possible. Clearly, there was some deficit, a severe one at that.

Don’t overlook the fact that the Apostle first preached to the Galatians because of some unnamed illness. Paul writes, “You know that it was physical illness which was the cause of my first preaching the gospel to you. You didn’t despise me or let yourself be revolted by my disease. No, you welcomed me as though I were an angel of God, or even as though I were Christ Jesus Himself” [GALATIANS 4:13-14 PHILLIPS].

What is written in these verses leaves the impression that Paul was not necessarily intent on preaching in Galatia, but when illness intervened, he seized the opportunity to continue declaring the message of Christ. Moreover, as he reminds the Galatians of how he came to be among them, he speaks of the illness that compelled him to be with them as though it could make him loathsome in their estimate. Could it be that his body was wracked with cholera? Is it possible that the disease was so violent that a foul miasma constantly wafted about him, that he struggled not to befoul himself? Paul was forthright, if nothing else, in admitting that he had been quite ill, and that the illness was unpleasant not only for himself, but for those who attended him at that time.

Paul has written, of course, about his “thorn in the flesh.” What it might have been is not revealed, which is probably a good thing. If we don’t know what he suffered, then we can imagine that our own problems could have been what he experienced. Let me speculate, nevertheless. Paul wrote of multiple attacks that must have left him quite battered. Listen as the Apostle writes of what happened to him.

“Are [those false apostles] servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” It seems probable that the attacks would have surely left lingering problems in his body.

Then, as if beatings, imprisonments, shipwrecks, and the constant dangers experienced were somehow insufficient to qualify as causing extreme anxiety, Paul writes, “Apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant” [2 CORINTHIANS 11:23-29]. So, in addition to the physical trials that marked his life, the Apostle to the Gentiles experienced emotional trauma that surely exacted a toll. I’m not suggesting that Paul was paralysed by fear, but I am pointing out that he knew something about pressures that attend a life under constant assault by the enemy. Therefore, when I speak of Paul as someone who might understand deficits—physical or emotional, any statements he might have expressed would not have been merely theoretical—Paul lived with extreme pressures. Whatever the Apostle may have had to say, we can be certain that he was speaking from experience and not from mere theory.

Studies reveal that the stresses common to this life take a real toll on our health. As an example, people who are widowed or divorced are twenty percent more likely to have heart disease, diabetes, cancer or other chronic disease. They are twenty-three percent more likely to have mobility problems, such as difficulty climbing stairs or walking short distances. Here’s a surprising finding: those who were divorced or widowed but then remarried still had twelve percent more chronic health conditions and nineteen percent more mobility problems than married people who never experienced divorce or the death of a spouse. [2]

We know that psychosocial stress is connected with early deaths. [3] Chronic stress destroys important portions of DNA, leading to premature ageing, ultimately shortening the lifespan. [4] Stress is a part of every life, and for some of us, the stressors can be extreme. Combined with the sense that the stressor comes in great measure because of our Faith, and we are facing discouragement—extreme discouragement.

This body is fragile, composed as it is of rather common elements of this earth. Six elements comprise ninety-nine percent of the human body—oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. To be certain, were the parts of the body to be parcelled out, each body would be worth up to forty-five million US dollars! However, that valuation is dependent upon the input of the Designer creating corneas, skeletal systems, ligaments, kidneys, and other organs. Reduced to constituent elements, not body parts, the human body is valued at less than one hundred sixty US dollars.

Here’s the point of that exercise—the worth of one person is infinite; it is beyond compare to anything in human experience. The evidence for that statement is that the Lord of Glory surrendered His life as a sacrifice for you! You are of infinite worth. If you are a follower of the Christ, your worth far exceeds the value of this broken world. And yet, though you are valued as being of infinite worth, you are nevertheless housed in a vessel that is worth less than you might spend for an evening of entertainment at an Oilers hockey game.

I understand that the things that come into any life can prove discouraging. Financial reversals, betrayal by friends—even betrayal by family members, demands at work on the limited time you have available, disappointment in life itself. And any one of these events can leave the child of God feeling disoriented, crushed, exhausted, alone. When we are disoriented, it is but a brief step to discouragement. Now, atop these somewhat common disappointments, should one experience a chronic illness, or a serious health setback, slanderous assault launched by people intent on destroying your reputation, or dismissal from a favoured position in your career, and anyone suddenly faces discouragement. When the reversal is the result of your faith in Christ the Lord, not even the most dedicated child of God will be spared from discouragement.

Let’s admit that we are not exempted from discouragement just because we are twice-born and called by the Name of Christ the Lord. Servants of the Living God have been terribly disappointed at times. Perhaps they had unrealistic expectations of what would happen after they obeyed God’s command, or perhaps they were simply beat down by life. Elijah fled to a cave far out into the wilderness. There, he pleaded with God to take his life. He was so discouraged that he didn’t want to live any longer. This great man of God hit the wall, and he was ready to throw in the towel.

Jeremiah was discouraged on several occasions according to the biblical account. In the twelfth chapter of his prophecy, he pours out his disappointment to the LORD. He accused God of ignoring the wicked while holding him to account. Thus, he was wearied with the work that God had assigned. The LORD wasn’t particularly sympathetic, simply asking the wearied prophet, “If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses” [JEREMIAH 12:5a]. In effect, God said, “Jeremiah, you’ve been engaged in the preliminaries. What will you do when the action starts?”

While Moses was on the mountain receiving the Ten Words from the Lord, Aaron crafted a golden calf and the people created a new worship centred around a community orgy. God judged the nation harshly and many of the people died. When the killing stopped and Moses again went up the mountain, he was chagrined at what the people had done. He pleaded with the LORD, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written” [EXODUS 32:31-32]. His disappointment was so great that he was prepared to die!

The Apostle Paul writes of extreme pressures that led him, and those who journeyed with him, to question whether they would live through the experience. They were obeying God, and the cost of obedience took an incredible toll on their health. We read in the opening verses of this Second Corinthian Letter, “We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death” [2 CORINTHIANS 1:8-9a].

Walking with God is demanding, and it can leave the child of God exhausted! Exhausted saints are saints susceptible to discouragement. And discouraged saints can reach a point where they are ready to give up because their strength is spent. However, we who follow the Master have been warned what to expect, and we have been equipped to face the troubles that will come into our lives. Each Christian must be encouraged to recognise what is happening and equip herself or himself to respond in a godly manner.

THE SECRET TO STANDING WHEN DISAPPOINTED — If anyone ever had reason to be discouraged, it must surely have been Paul. Listen to the litany of destruction that was launched against him. “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you” [2 CORINTHIANS 4:8-12].

Afflicted in every way? Surely, that would qualify as discouraging for anyone. Perplexed? Didn’t know which way to turn because he was disoriented by the precipitous nature of the attack he experienced. Persecuted? Attacked for what he believed! Held to an impossible standard! Expected to jettison his faith in God to satisfy others who were apparently enamoured of the world! Struck down? Ridiculed and scoffed at for whatever position he had taken. Always carrying in the body the death of Jesus? That would definitely serve as a source of discouragement. Remember, the Apostle Paul was a marked man, as were those who served with him. When Paul writes, “We who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake,” shouldn’t that qualify as a source of discouragement? People attempted to kill him just because of His faith. That hasn’t happened in your life, has it? “Death is at work in us!” You haven’t faced the grim spectre on an ongoing basis, have you? Reading his synopsis of life as a follower of the Christ certainly gives a new perspective on our own situation, doesn’t it?

Paul’s life left not even an illusion that he would be spared from attack because he was a follower of the Master. In fact, his life fairly screamed that because he was a follower of the Christ, he would experience attack. Even when he was set aside for the work that the Lord had assigned, he was told that he could expect suffering. The Risen Saviour sent Ananias to baptise the erstwhile persecutor armed with this message, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” [ACTS 9:15-16]. This man was chosen, but his choosing meant he would suffer. The word which the Lord employed is rather common in the New Testament, occurring forty-two times. It had come to speak of experiencing difficulties, enduring something evil, or physical suffering at the time the New Testament was written.

Contemporary Christians are realists, just as the Apostle was a realist. The world may charge that we Christians live in a fairy-tale world, but because we are followers of the Risen Christ, we don’t hide from problems. We see the challenges of this life for what they are, and we respond in a godly manner. We don’t whine or complain that life is unfair when we are facing the trials that are sure to come. Of course life is unfair. God never promised that we would never have a problem! The child of God knows that trials and trouble will mark the path that follower of the Risen Saviour must trod.

Hasn’t the Master Himself warned us of what we may expect? Jesus warned, “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you do not belong to the world, but I chose you out of the world, for this reason the world hates you. Remember what I told you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they obeyed my word, they will obey yours too. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. But they no longer have any excuse for their sin. The one who hates me hates my Father too. If I had not performed among them the miraculous deeds that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen the deeds and have hated both me and my Father. Now this happened to fulfill the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without reason’” [JOHN 15:18-25 NET BIBLE].

Peter wrote to early saints who were experiencing severe persecution because of their faith. He encouraged them by teaching them, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And

‘If the righteous is scarcely saved,

what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?’

“Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” [1 PETER 4:12-19]. Suffering is sure to come. Make sure that what is suffered is undeserved.

In the context of experiencing hardship because of the Faith, John writes in his first epistle, “This is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” [1 JOHN 3:11-15]. Here it is again—trials, suffering will come. However, we Christians love rather than hate because we are alive.

As the missionaries revisited the churches established during the first missionary journey, Paul encouraged those who had become followers of the Christ by saying, “We must enter the Kingdom of God through many persecutions” [ACTS 14:22b NET BIBLE].

The Master was honest in cautioning any who imagined they might wish to follow Him. Jesus bluntly said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” [MATTHEW 10:34-39]. Imagine that! Your own family will oppose you!

That is real! Brutally real! It certainly doesn’t fit with the call found in much of contemporary preaching. We don’t want to frighten off those who come to hear us speak, so we attempt to soften the message by avoiding the unpleasant aspects that might attend coming to faith. We want to leave the impression that salvation is a painless transaction that demands little of those delivered from death. Candidly, becoming a Christian may be the most devastating act you will ever make. You will be called to serve with radical abandon, and those who are in the world—even beloved family members—will find your newfound commitment offensive.

The persecutions, the opposition from unbelievers and the heartache that attends broken relationships is only part of the pressures we might face. Earlier in the message we saw the Apostle’s apologia for his service as he neared the end of this particular letter. In 2 CORINTHIANS 11 he spoke of the trials he faced; and among those trials were not only the abuse at the hands of unbelieving people, but the stress of danger arising from multiple directions, the stress of constant travel, the stress of deprivation demanded by his service, and the daily anxiety that attended concern for others. The Christian life is not an easy life—not if it is real!

Chronic illness seems to have plagued Paul throughout much of his life as an Apostle. Earlier, I spoke of Paul’s plea to the Galatians as he reminded them of the reason he remained with them at one period. He wrote, “You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus” [GALATIANS 4:13-14]. Whatever the condition was, it appears to have been chronic. And the condition appears to have rendered Paul somewhat repulsive. Perhaps it was cholera, which causes extreme diarrhoea and vomiting. Certainly, cleaning up after a patient infected with cholera will prove difficult. There are other diseases that might be equally repulsive to those required to provide nursing care. And yet, the Galatians received Paul as he really was, an emissary of the Risen Lord of Glory.

At one point, he reminded the Galatian Christians of some undefined vision problems that plagued his life. The Apostle wrote, “I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me” [GALATIANS 4:15b]. As he drew this particular letter to a conclusion, Paul certified that he was the one who had put pen to paper to write those churches, writing, “See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand” [GALATIANS 6:11]. Those reading the letter would understand that the Apostle had difficulty seeing, and that his deficit required him to pen exaggerated letters.

Indeed, the one who follows Christ must be a realist. In fact, it is the Christian who is more realistic than those who live in the world. The earth dwellers may be stoic, they may be epicurean, they may be heroic, but they can only live for the moment. They are incapable of looking beyond this moment called “Now.”

The secret to standing when we are hammered is to adopt a realistic view of life. I’m not suggesting that we somehow need to anaesthetise ourselves to the difficulties we will face. It is a tragic reality that some who profess faith in the Risen Son deny reality by attributing all pain and all suffering and all trials to “God’s will.” They do this, anticipating, I suppose that airy phantasm, “pie in the sky by-and-by.” We recognise the trials we face, and we understand that the source of those trials is ultimately sin. Yet, we have our eyes fixed on what lies beyond. We are confident that nothing has come into our life that has caught our Father unaware. We know that our Father is too good to needlessly allow us to suffer and too wise to make a mistake. So, we look beyond the moment to what lies beyond, knowing that this moment does not define what is.

The text presents a secret accounting for the ability of one following the Master to be realistic. It may be a secret, but it is an open secret that should be obvious to anyone. The secret in question is revealed when Paul says that we who follow Christ are “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” [2 CORINTHIANS 4:10-11]. We who follow the Master are appointed—no, we are privileged—to be called to identify with the risks that accompany faith in the Living Saviour. We see our sufferings for His sake as a privilege because we are sharing in His suffering, sharing in His trials. And just as we share in the pain He bore for us, so we are very much aware of the power that raised Jesus from the dead. We know that the same power is at work in our own lives, always leading us toward the life that is to come.

The God who raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us, assuring us that we shall be raised from the dead by that same power. Thus, as was true for the Apostle, so we also are able to assert that “We do not lose heart” [see 2 CORINTHIANS 4:16a]. In fact, because we have this eternal optimism born of knowledge of Christ’s resurrection and life, with the Apostle we assert, “we are always of good courage” [2 CORINTHIANS 5:6a].

A RIGHTEOUS VIEW OF LIFE — “This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” [2 CORINTHIANS 4:17-18].

One truth of which I am positively convinced is this—whenever we are focused on our difficulty, then we must take our eye off the goal. And when we are no longer looking at what is coming, we will shortly become discouraged in our Christian walk. The people of God know this truth instinctively. However, it is distressingly easy to take our eye off the goal when we feel overwhelmed by the problems of the moment.

When financial demands pile up, whether they pile up as result of the normal events of life or through our own foolish acquisition of things on credit, it becomes impossible to think of much else than paying the mountain of debt that looms before us. The children need shoes, special dietary needs cost more than we budgeted, tax increases drive up the cost of operating our automobile, and we are driven to our knees.

Increasingly our world has witnessed the rise of diseases that were unknown to our parents. During my childhood, the world had never heard of SARS, or COVID-19, or HIV for that matter. The thought of something as debilitating as Lyme disease, or the life-altering condition known as chronic fatigue syndrome was something our parents never had to face. Perhaps those diseases existed, but they were assuredly not common. Old diseases we thought had been eradicated are cropping up in our modern urban environments, diseases such as diphtheria, bubonic plague, and typhus. Parents now have to worry that their children will be sickened by contact with classmates or friends who have never been vaccinated for common childhood diseases such as measles, mumps, and whooping cough. Faced with these very real dangers, modern parents may begin to focus on the dangers faced, forgetting almost everything of eternal worth.

The uncertainty arising from strained international relations as hostile states foment hatred for the west can grab our focus, turning our attention from walking with the Risen Saviour. Supply interruptions arising because manufacturing has been transferred overseas ensures wild fluctuations in the markets, threatening retirement plans for many today. Because so much of production of essential materials is entrusted to plants that cannot be inspected, it is inevitable that shoddy medications produced in what are essentially third-world conditions often render us vulnerable. If we focus on the dangers we face in this present bizarre world, we will be consumed with the moment rather than serving the cause of Christ as we know we should.

Let’s admit an uncomfortable truth—it is not the financial distress that terrifies us, it is the uncertainty of grappling with the financial reversal that terrifies us. It is not the chronic state of illness, the progressive loss of vigour that frightens us, it is not knowing how we will care for ourselves that terrifies us. It is not the prospect of conflict and turmoil that unsettles us, it is the unknown. And this is the promise we have from God Himself, the God who created time and in Whose hands our times reside. “I will never leave you nor forsake you” [HEBREWS 13:5b]. The promise of our Saviour remains unchanged: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” [MATTHEW 28:20b].

I do not know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future. Will financial reversal threaten my comfort? I have “a friend who sticks closer than a brother” [PROVERBS 18:24]. Will the debilitation of old age at last sideline my life and make me a burden to those who love me? I have been promised,

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,

and the flame shall not consume you.”

[ISAIAH 43:2]

When the world crumbles and it seems there is no refuge left, I still hear a voice saying,

“Fear not, for I am with you;

be not dismayed, for I am your God;

I will strengthen you, I will help you,

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

[ISAIAH 41:10]

The voice also promises,

“I, the LORD your God,

hold your right hand;

it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not,

I am the one who helps you.’”

[ISAIAH 41:13]

And when the terrors of old age seem to disquiet my soul, I hear the voice of One saying,

“Even to your old age I am he,

and to gray hairs I will carry you.

I have made, and I will bear;

I will carry and will save.”

[ISAIAH 46:4]

The Apostle realised these truths and sought to encourage all who follow Christ when he wrote, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” [ROMANS 8:28-39].

Oswald Chambers, in the devotional booklet titled “My Utmost for His Highest,” the August 31st entry, “The full flood of my life is not in bodily health, not in external happenings, not in seeing God’s work succeed, but in the perfect understanding of God, and in the communion with Him that Jesus Himself had. The first thing that will hinder this joy is the captious irritation of thinking out circumstances. The cares of this world, said Jesus, will choke God’s word. Before we know where we are, we are caught up in the shows of things. All that God has done for us is the mere threshold; He wants to get us to the place where we will be His witnesses and proclaim Who Jesus is.

“Be rightly related to God, find your joy there, and out of you will flow rivers of living water. Be a centre for Jesus Christ to pour living water through. Stop being self-conscious, stop being a sanctified prig, and live the life hid with Christ. The life that is rightly related to God is as natural as breathing wherever it goes. The lives that have been of most blessing to you are those who were unconscious of it.” [5]

I urge the people of God to focus on what is essential, what is eternal. We are realists about the pain we experience now; but we are equally certain of what is promised. And because we are promised something better, we are assured of the glory that is to be revealed. Our gaze is fixed on what is coming, and not on this transient moment we call “now.”

One must be thrilled at the prospect of what is coming. We read, “We are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him” [2 CORINTHIANS 5:6-9].

Elsewhere we see the promise of God, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” [PHILIPPIANS 3:20-21].

We can continue to live for this moment, and we will always be discouraged. The opposition will not cease because we live for this dying world, but our response will be enervated. Or we can live as those who are looking for something better. Then, we will live as victors, which we truly are.

The Letter to Hebrew Christians spoke of the saints of an earlier era. Listen again to what is written in that missive. “Time would fail me to tell of … the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”

Then, in words that encourage the saints to this day, the ancient writer states, “All these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect” [HEBREWS 11:32-40]. Amen!

[1] International Standard Version (ISV Foundation, Yorba Linda, CA 2011). Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers, 2016. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[2] Salynn Boyles, “Divorce Has Lasting Toll on Health, WebMD,, accessed 15 February 2020

[3] Maria Razzoli, Kewir Nyuyki-Dufe, Allison Gurney, Connor Erickson, Jacob McCallum, Nicholas Spielman, Marta Marzullo, Jessica Patricelli, Morito Kurata, Emily A. Pope, Chadi Touma, Rupert Palme, David A. Largaespada, David B. Allison, Alessandro Bartolomucci, “Social stress shortens lifespan in mice,” 28 May 2018,, accessed 15 February 2020

[4] Shivani Dixit, “How is stress shortening your life span,” Sep ;12, 2017,, accessed 15 February 2020; see also Charlotte Hilton Andersen, “Chronic Stress Can Shorten Your Lifespan,”, accessed 15 February 2020

[5] Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for the Year, (Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering, Grand Rapids, MI 1986), August 31 selection