March 8, 2011 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by Grace Kim, Gracepoint Berkeley

2 Corinthians 4:6-12

For the second time in this chapter, Apostle Paul asserts that he “does not lose heart.” (vss. 1, 16). Why does Apostle Paul “not lose heart” according to this passage? According to this passage, Apostle Paul does not lose heart because the ministry that he has is given through God’s mercy. It’s not because Apostle Paul was so capable and competent in ministry skills and personality that he was given the role to minister. God just did, by choosing him, and the ministry is not dependent upon what Paul can do.  Also, Apostle Paul does not lose heart because although he is experiencing outward wasting away due to the difficult circumstances in his life, he is inwardly being renewed day by day. He also has the perspective that his life on earth is short, and that there is the “eternal glory that far outweighs” the troubles of this earthly life. So he is able to press on.

Things that would make me feel hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted, struck down are the very things that would waken me up to the reality that I am frail and powerless, without any control, that I am but a jar of clay.

The relationship between my frailty and God’s surpassing power is that these things would drive me to turn to a power source outside of myself – which is God. If my life was without any problems, any pressure, detached from the reality of life’s frailty protected by wealth and fame (& whatever else that will keep me protected from life’s difficulties), then I would not have any need to go to God.

How will I need to respond to these things? – When I am hard-pressed by different demands of ministry, to meeting the needs of people all around me, working out relational conflicts, wondering about what would be the best direction to take for effective praxis ministry, needing wisdom needed to minister & lead element & interhigh, at the same time fighting the voice of my own sinful nature, with its demands and emotions, and when persecutions come and when all my efforts to live according to God’s truths is responded with being “struck down”- one lesson that I can take away from this is that I need not to fear any difficulties and being in this kind of a situation and state where I am feeling my frailty and powerlessness. That is the place that I need to be in, that I need to even seek them out, so that God’s power within me and my life is not without effect as I persevere through them.

2 Corinthians 4:13-18

Outward vs Inward
Wasting away vs being Renewed
Light & momentary vs Eternal
Troubles vs Glory
Seen vs Unseen
Temporary vs Eternal

One’s life focus can shift from one column to another, as one invests living a life that believes in the second reality and pushing through the difficulties and challenges until what is promised is achieved.

I am reminded of my mom, who’s currently battling terminal lung cancer. There was a period last year when she turned for the worst and was given 1 month to live. Cancer had grown rapidly since the first diagnosis a few months prior, and her body was “wasting away”. The outward diagnosis of her future was grim, as she daily struggled to breathe, eat, and move around. But I remember how she clung to God – through word and prayer. This was in the middle of a period where she made a commitment to pray and meditate on His word daily in the early morning.  I remember the days that I stayed overnight at the hospital, taking turns with my sister, and every morning around 5am, seeing my mom sitting up on her hospital bed and praying, with her Bible open. Because my mom pushed through, refused to despair, and persevere in looking to God through Word and prayer, what my mom experienced even during this time was inward renewal, and her heart full of hope in the unseen presence of God and the eternal promises written in the Bible. Although her body & her very life were literally wasting away, she later testified that she couldn’t be any happier, with this unexplainable peace & love with Jesus that kept her from fear and despair. She continues to daily mediate on God’s word and I can see her moving deeper into the experience of renewal, seeing God’s glory, and longing for heaven.

From this example of my mom, I realized that I need not to fear wasting away, facing troubles that are but temporary and light, nor to run away or protect myself from them, but rather to face them, to push through these difficulties, looking to God, following his ways, then I will eventually move towards experiencing that which is eternal and glorious.

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Submitted by David Tung, Gracepoint Berkeley.

2 Corinthians 4:13-18

For the second time in this chapter, Apostle Paul asserts that he “does not lose heart.” (vss. 1, 16). Why does Apostle Paul “not lose heart” according to this passage?

The reason why Apostle Paul does not lose heart is because, through God’s grace, he has this ministry – this ministry that that is causing the grace of God to reach more and more people.  That makes sense.  He does find himself in difficult circumstances – he is hard pressed, persecuted, and struck down; he carries the death of Jesus in his body and he is always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake; his life is outwardly wasting away and full of troubles.  He lives a life that is characterized by setback, suffering and troubles – being persecuted, experiencing imprisonment, getting shipwrecked, being misunderstood by those that he is trying to minister to, getting rejected by the Jews again and again, etc.  However, in the midst of this Apostle Paul says that he does not lose heart – and the reason why is because of the ministry that they have been given and the ministry that they are a part of.  Through their ministry, the grace of God is reaching more and more people that cause thanksgiving to fill their lives.  Through their ministry, people are being saved for eternity.  In the end there is an eternal glory that far outweighs all of the troubles that they are presently experiencing.

Reflect on the two contrasting themes in vv. 16-18, and arrange in two columns the contrasting pairs of words.

· outwardly 

· wasting away

· light and momentary

· troubles

· seen

· temporary

· inwardly 

· renewed day by day

· eternal, outweighs

· glory

· unseen

· eternal

The reason why Apostle Paul does not lose heart is because he knows that through experiencing the things in the left column, he will achieve the things in the right column.  And this is something that is true to life.  I know that many of the things that I experience as trouble are actually light, momentary, and temporary.  But, in the moment of struggle, it is difficult to see this clearly.  When I need to die to myself, or swallow my pride, or deny my body, or push through fatigue, it does feel like a big drama – but if I do, oftentimes my experience is that the drama of that moment of trouble passes very quickly.  And what is able to happen through enduring that momentary trouble?  Oftentimes work that contributes to the kingdom of God is done – some outreach event becomes that much more excellent, someone in the church is loved and strengthened, or someone outside of the church is drawn in.  The momentary trouble leads to an eternal impact.  And even the troubles that do not seem so light and momentary are still temporary – like chronic sins that I am always struggling with to one degree or another.  It is because, at max, they are only going to last for this lifetime – and we have all of eternity ahead of us.

How does one’s life focus shift from one column to the other?  What does that process look like?

So these two columns characterize the experience of Christian life – we will experience both the things in the left column and the things in the right column.  And it just makes a whole lot of sense to focus on the things in the right column over the things in the left because those are the eternal and weighty things that are actually going to last.  At the same time, it is easier to notice the things in the left column because they are “seen” while the things in the right column are often “unseen.”  In reality, the things on the left just feel closer, and thus they feel more real – it is very easy to notice them and then to focus on them.  That is the reality that I experience – it is easier to get upset that things are not going well, or to feel slighted about some perceived offense, or to get down about my chronic sins, or to just think that this work is hard and to want to go home and indulge myself.  To notice the glory and eternal work is going to take more work.  So, one thing that I have to become good at is reflection and thanksgiving – taking time out to think about what is going on and to think a little deeper about what I actually experience during this week.  And there is probably not going to be a huge victory every week, but I can appreciate the small victories as something that can potentially have a greater impact down the road.  As C.S. Lewis says, “Good and evil both increase at compound interest.  That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance.  The smallest good act of today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of.”  Another thing that I must do is to just increase in love for other people – and I can do this by arranging my life so that I am maximizing my opportunities to serve and encourage other people.  This can help move the focus from the left column to the right column because these are all things that can have eternal impact – and if I arrange my life around such things, then it is going to bring me back again and again to the things in the right column.

 

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