Sufferings for Christ
2 Cor. 4:7-12
We serve a risen Saviour and we have an assurance that our labours will not be vain. We have the assurance that the Holy Spirit will there to guide us, help us, lead us, comfort us, even save us from all evils both seen and unseen. However, we still have to suffer as part of our life in serving the Lord and in ministering to the needs of others.
Illustration 1: We Are Chosen
On a wall in his bedroom Charles Spurgeon had a plaque with Isaiah 48:10 on it: “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” “It is no mean thing to be chosen of God,” he wrote. “God’s choice makes chosen men choice men. We are chosen, not in the palace, but in the furnace. In the furnace, beauty is marred, fashion is destroyed, strength is melted, glory is consumed; yet here eternal love reveals its secrets, and declares its choice.”
Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching & Preachers,
I. Vessel and the Treasure (2 Cor. 4:7)
A. “But we have this treasure”. The treasure here is the good news of salvation. The gospel truth which we were called to share or preach to others
B. “In earthen vessels.” In common usage it is “clay pot” where we store valuables such as jewelleries, money, even important documents. This refers to the human body. This is how Paul viewed himself as well as Christians, weak and feeble; as having bodies decaying and dying; replaceable and expendable, and as being altogether unworthy yet used by the Lord to bring the most important message which all man need most, salvation.
C. “The excellency of the power may be of God”. He chose to use us, His “earthen vessel” because He wants to show His power and His glory through our weaknesses and brokenness. If you are faithful to Christ and the gospel, Christ can greatly use you no matter what your handicaps may be (Matt. 25:19-30). The very frailty of the minister or vessel enhances the glory of God
Illustration 2: All God’s Giants Have Been Weak Men
Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission, knew the secret of strength through weakness. Complimented once by a friend on the impact of the mission, Hudson answered, “It seemed to me that God looked over the whole world to find a man who was weak enough to do His work, and when He at last found me, He said, ‘He is weak enough—he’ll do.’ All God’s giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on His being with them.” Our Daily Bread, May 13, 1996
II. Victory in Suffering (2 Cor. 4:8-11)
A. In his earlier letter Paul had compared himself and his fellow apostles to “men condemned to die in the arena” (1 Cor. 4:9). The metaphors employed here evoked the same imagery to describe the demands of the ministry, contrasting human helplessness on one hand with divine enablement on the other. The contrasts include physical (2 Cor 1:8-9; 6:5,9) as well as psychological affliction (2 Cor. 6:4, 8; 7:5-6)
- “Troubled… not distressed”: He was “pressed”, from “thlibo,” to press as grapes, to squeeze. He was not “distressed” or hemmed in by the pressure.
- “Perplexed, but not in despair”; Paul was in many a narrow, tight place. Paul was never vanquished by any of his adversaries. Circumstances often brought him to wit’s end, but never to “despair,” At times he was bewildered, but he never gave up hope or surrendered the fight.
- “Persecuted, but not forsaken” (II Cor. 4:9): Jesus said tribulations would come (Jn. 6:31). Man’s persecution means God’s presence; thus, our adversary brings a new advantage.
- “Cast down, but not destroyed”: This means struck down and beaten to the earth, yet never eliminated or driven from the field of conflict. Victory is not what we experience, but how we experience it
B. Paul assures us in verses 8 and 9 that no matter what our affliction may be, and no matter how severe, God will not allow us to be destroyed by it. When we have reached the limits of our own capacity then we cast our-selves on God. God uses our suffering and adversity to take us beyond our own capacities, so that we will turn to Him for strength and survival. Thus, it is His power which sustains us, and it is He who must receive the praise and glory
C. Suffering for Christ sake generally will include:
- Persecution – Mat. 5:11
- Hatred – Mat. 10:22
- Loss of life – Mt. 10:39
- Renunciation of worldly treasures – Mat. 19:29
- Suffering – Acts 9:16
- Loss of Reputation -1 Cor. 4:10
- Death – 2 Cor. 4:11
Illustration 3: He Becomes the Light in the Darkness
Patricia St. John, who has been described as an ordinary woman with an extraordinary faith, poured out her life ministering to people in the neediest places on our planet. She was in Sudan when war refugees flooded that country. They had suffered terribly and had lost everything, yet those among them who were Christians still gave thanks to God.
Patricia said that she stood one night in a crowded little Sudanese church listening to those uprooted believers singing joyfully. Suddenly a life-changing insight burned its way into her mind. “We would have changed their circumstances,” she said, “but we would not have changed them.” She realized that God “does not always lift people out of the situation. He Himself comes into the situation. . . He does not pluck them out of the darkness. He becomes the light in the darkness.”
Our Daily Bread, August 19, 1997
Illustration 4: Fearing His Scars
Adoniram Judson, the renowned missionary to Burma, endured untold hardships trying to reach the lost for Christ. For 7 heart-breaking years he suffered hunger and privation. During this time, he was thrown into Ava Prison, and for 17 months was subjected to almost incredible mistreatment. As a result, for the rest of his life he carried the ugly marks made by the chains and iron shackles which had cruelly bound him.
Undaunted, upon his release he asked for permission to enter another province where he might resume preaching the Gospel. The godless ruler indignantly denied his request, saying, “My people are not fools enough to listen to anything a missionary might SAY, but I fear they might be impressed by your SCARS and turn to your religion!” —Henry G. Bosch Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations: Signs of the Times.
III. Dying for Christ (2 Cor. 4:10-12)
A. “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus”. Always indicates that the suffering Paul experienced was regular or routine, and never ending. In his own body he carried around the death of Jesus, that is, he suffered intensely for Jesus and bore physical scars resulting from wounds inflicted by beatings and a stoning because of his testimony for Jesus’ sake (1 Cor 4:11; 2 Cor 6:5,9; 11:23-25; Gal 6:17).
B. “that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body”. Through Paul’s weakness, Christ was put on the display (Gal. 2:20). His suffering, the false apostles said, was evidence that God is not with him, and he was a fraud. On the contrary Paul affirmed that his suffering was the evidence of his loyalty to Christ and the source of his power (12:9,10).
B. “For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake”. (2 Cor. 4:11) Paul constantly faced death (2 Cor 1:9)
C. Paul’s willingness to suffer for Christ is one of the greatest proofs of his sincerity as a servant of God. Paul faced death every day, yet he was willing to pay the price if it meant salvation for those whom he preached the gospel (Phil. 2:17, Col. 1:24, 2 Tim. 2:10).
Illustration 5: What Became of the Twelve Disciples?
- John died of extreme old age in Ephesus.
- Judas Iscariot, after betraying his Lord, hanged himself.
- Peter was crucified, head downward, during the persecution of Nero.
- Andrew died on a cross at Patrae, in Achaia, a Grecian Colony.
- James, the younger brother of the Savior, was thrown from a pinnacle of the Temple, and then beaten to death with a club.
- Bartholomew was flayed alive in Albanapolis, Armenia.
- James, the elder son of Zebedee, was beheaded at Jerusalem.
- Thomas, the doubter, was run through the body with a lance at Coromandel, in the east Indies.
- Philip was hanged against a pillar at Heropolis (Abyssinia).
- Thaddeus was shot to death with arrows.
- Simon died on a cross in Persia (now Iran). Source unknown
The Lord uses us weak, replaceable, expendable, unworthy human beings to bring the good news of salvation to all man. In doing so we will suffer beyond our capacity. However, Christ will not allow suffering to destroy us but will deliver us and sustain us. The end for us will always be victory even if we lost our lives. The question is, will you suffer for Christ?