2 Corinthians 4: 7-10, 16-18
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellence of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are hard pressed on every side yet not crushed: we are perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed, always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction which is but for a moment, is working in us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal
I have often heard preachers say that the epistles were originally written as long letters without chapters and verses. When we learn scriptures, we tend to narrow down to one portion without really bothering with the beautiful story that is unfolding. In the third chapter of 2 Corinthians, which precedes our verses today, Paul had been making a case for the ministry of life which Jesus Christ brought being superior to that of Moses. He talked about the veil that Moses had to wear to shield the Israelites from the glory of God which he had when he came down from the mountain. He talked of the veil in the temple that had been torn down when Jesus died giving us direct access to the glory of God. Then he concludes that we now behold this glory with unveiled faces like a mirror and are being transformed into His image from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord.
It is against this background, Paul talks about the ministry he has embarked on, to spread the news of this glory in the face of Jesus to anyone who would listen. I was so intrigued by the way the chapters unfolded into one another. Then he goes into our text, that the job of spreading the news of this glory is given to earthen vessels, ordinary men, so that the power of God in them may be obvious. He explains the workings of the power of God in action as he describes their experience in very strong but well thought out words. Hard pressed on every side but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed.
I had to check the dictionary for the precise meanings of these words. Hard pressed talks about an equipment that creates pressure by pressing hard on something to bring out the juice in it without destroying it, like the wine press. On the other hand crush means to press so hard that it is damaged, injured or loses its shape. The power of God at work ensured that though they were under a lot of pressure, it did not crush them.
To be perplexed means to be confused and anxious because you are unable to understand your circumstances, while despair means a feeling of having lost all hope. Though they could not quite explain or understand what was going on around them, they never lost hope because the power of God was at work. Not losing hope in a bad situation which you cannot explain can only be the power of God at work. He keeps your hope alive. To be persecuted is to be treated in a cruel or unfair way especially because of their belief while forsaken means to leave somebody when you have the responsibility to stay. They experienced persecution for their faith but they never felt God had left them. Somehow, by the power of God, they continued to feel His presence. To be struck down means to hit somebody hard with force while to destroy means to damage somebody that he or she no longer exists. Paul acknowledged, they were struck down but God’s power ensured they were not destroyed or annihilated. He protected and kept them through it all.
I was very comforted by these words. I am a child of God. But sometimes I feel just like Paul and his people did- pressure on every side, perplexed without answers. But I realize that the power of God is constantly at work in me so that I never get crushed, fall into despair, feel forsaken or get destroyed. Being able to get up and go despite our circumstances, is actually the power of God at work in us, because we are mere pots of clay. We cannot handle the pressures on our own because they are actually designed by an enemy whose mission is to kill, steal and destroy us.
In conclusion, like Paul we will not lose heart, because we understand, God’s power is at work in our inward man, which is being renewed day by day. It enables us understand that whatever pressures we experience is temporary and can be called light afflictions because we can see the glory that lies ahead. That glory is eternal. That becomes our motivation, inspiration and encouragement never to give up. The power of God is indeed always at work in us. Ck