Losing Heart

Life ebbs and flows doesn’t it.  Today’s joy quickly turns to tomorrows sorrows.  In one period we are financially “flush” and at another there is great want.  At times we think we could not possibly feel any better physically (given our age :)), and at other times we feel miserable.  Then, we have wonderful times of productivity followed by inexplicable periods when we can’t seem to get anything done.  In some eras our relationships are all in order, while at others they are quite challenging.  Hayden Fry, former longtime football coach at the university of Iowa, put it this way.  Coach Fry was an old Texas boy. One Saturday, after a particularly crushing defeat, a reporter asked him what happened that they lost a game they should have won.  I’ve never forgotten the coach’s response.  He said, “Well, the sun don’t shine on the same dogs rump ever Saturday afternoon.”

Even the great Apostle Paul did not always have the sun shining on him every day.  As a matter of fact, when we read the struggles of the Apostle throughout the New Testament, we pretty much realize that the sunshine of pleasant circumstances rarely shined on him.  And so it is encouraging to read what he wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:16 “So, we do not lose heart”.

What does it mean “to lose heart”?  It means to be terribly discouraged, to be at the point of surrender, to think that all is lost so what is the use of continuing to struggle. Many today lose heart in the battle of life:

  • Some lose heart in the struggle with sin. They have failed and failed in particular areas of temptation to the point that have surrendered to the idea that they are just always going to sin in this way, so what is the use
  • Some have lost heart in a relationship; a wife giving up on a husband or a person despairing of mending a broken relationship with an old friend
  • Some have lost heart in their struggle to rear their children
  • Some have lost heart in their struggle to get their weight under control
  • Others have lost heart at their jobs

It means they are at the point of giving up.  But Paul, in this text, says, “No, I will not lose heart. I will not give up.  I will not surrender.”  Well, what is the context of this statement? This is the text where Paul talks about how we hold the treasure of the gospel in “clay jars”; i.e. earthen, breakable vessels (4:7). He then makes that famous statement highlighting his trials; “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed (4:8, 9).  Okay! Great!  But how does Paul get to the point that even through all his afflictions he does not lose heart?

1) He does so by always remembering the resurrection (v. 10-13).  Paul never lost sight of the fact that these light afflictions could never outweigh the eternal weight of glory (v. 17) that was secured for him through the resurrection.

2) He does so also by the truth that as God’s grace works in him through these trials and that grace is being extended, through his trials, to “more and more” people who in turn will become Christ worshipers (v. 15).

3) Then, he does so through the knowledge that while his outer man is perishing, his inner man is growing more and more (v. 16).  All the persecution, all the pain, all the trials of the outer man is working to strengthen the inner man.  I’m so encouraged by this.  My 63-year-old body is now suffering the aches, pains, and physical deficiencies of my age.  Yet, I believe I am more capable today of ministering the gospel that I have ever been… because the inner man is flourishing.

4).  Finally, Paul did not lose heart because of his eternal perspective (5:1-5).  Here Paul’s attention is toward the new, glorified physical body that awaits him in glory.

Given all this, Paul restates his premise in 5:6, “So, we are always of good courage”. No, “the sun don’t shine on the same dog’s rump every Saturday afternoon”. Life is filled with disappointing and discouraging episodes or epochs. But we don’t have to lose heart.  We don’t have to lack good courage if we will keep in mind Paul’s perspective here.

Terry

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