Summary: By his resurrection, Jesus has turned the tables. Rather than be consumed with the present and the temporary, we are able to turn our attention to the hope and eternity. The change in perspective can tyurn our lives up-side-down, or right-side-up.
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 “Turning the Tables”
I heard a story recently about a young man who had trouble one Sunday getting up for worship. His mother knocked on his bedroom door and called to him that it was time to get up. The young man rolled over and pulled the pillow over his head. Five minutes later the mother opened the door and called to her son to get up. He didn’t move. A few minutes later the mother threw open the bed covers and told him to get up. The young man moaned, “I don’t want to get up and go to church.” The mother insisted that he get up. “But the people don’t like me, the service and the sermon are boring. I don’t want to go to church.” Finally the mother had had enough. She started to pull the young man out of bed. “Get up! You’re the pastor! You have to go to church!”
Paul addresses this question of what motivates us to get up and carry on when we don’t want to do so.
Paul has not had an easy time of ministry. Not only has he gone through several hardships, he has also witness the conflict and struggles that have erupted in some of the congregations that he started. Still he says, “He does not lose heart.”
The first thing that Paul says enables him to persevere is the inner strength of God’s presence. A little earlier in verse 8 Paul writes, We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”
The inner strength that Paul relies upon is the presence of the Holy Spirit in his life. Paul understands that he is “in Christ,” and Christ is “in him. This union enables him to face insurmountable circumstances and overcome them, endless struggles and still persevere.
We often merely survive and endure rather than live victoriously. We muddle through instead of march through. There’s a big difference! We also wait to be rescued and pray do be delivered
Knowing that he had been infused with the Spirit Paul lived life abundantly and faced life victoriously. He placed his life in God’s hands and trusted that God would deliver him or give him the victory in due time. The one who raised Jesus from the dead was living and working in Paul’s life!
In verse 15, Paul writes to the Corinthians and says that everything that he did and he endured was for their sake. Paul saw himself first and foremost as a missionary—a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He could have identified himself by his trade—he was a tentmaker, or his education, but Paul insisted on identifying himself as an apostle and missionary.
There are times when work becomes an almost unbearable burden. We don’t like what we do. We don’t like the people with whom we work. We have the worst boss imaginable, and the job is a dead end job.
Throughout the centuries Christians have understood their lives and their jobs as more than existing and putting food on the table. They are ministers—members of the body of Jesus Christ, and God’s presence in the world.
• We are more than what we do, we are who we are—and our words and actions are reflections of that reality. Our purpose is greater than making widgets—it is proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.
• The people that we work with are not pains in the butt. Rather, they are the people to whom we have been called to minister. We have the opportunity to share the love and grace of God with them in word and deed.
• We have a boss who is greater than our earthly boss. The Lord often places us in situations where we grow and are molded into the image of our Lord. Sometimes it is a painful process. But we endure to God’s glory.
Paul understood that this life was not all there was. Christians understand themselves at living eternal lives—lives that start not at their physical deaths, but at their baptisms.
We view of present circumstances from an eternal perspective. When we do this, loss of a job, tragedies of life, sickness—even death—is not as life shattering as they once were. They are all survivable, and they are not the “end of the world.”
Make no mistake. Paul was not writing about some self-improvement course to become successful and secure. Paul was teaching his readers how to experience the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. It is a life that leads to hope, love, thankfulness and celebration. It is the type of life we were created to live.