Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:7-18
Have you ever felt that the pressure is too much for you, and wanted to give up. Despite all that God has done for us there are still times when we come under tremendous pressure and feel like giving up. Even church life can be a pressure. After listing all the trials and struggles he had gone through Paul added, “Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches” [2 Corinthians 11:28 NASB]. The word “pressure” is the Greek word episustasis that derives from another Greek word meaning to stand against, and in this context refers to all that apostle Paul had to encounter which was in opposition to him! Inspite of all the pressure, perplexity and persecution that he experienced he was not crushed, in despair or destroyed [verses 8-9]. How was it that Paul did not lose heart?
Firstly, he regarded suffering for Christ as a privilege. He recognised that suffering for Jesus was a part of the package of salvation. Writing to Timothy Paul said, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” [2 Timothy 3:12]. It almost seemed like a badge of honour to suffer for Jesus!
When Jesus said that a disciple is not above his teacher or a servant above his master [Matthew 10:24], he was strongly implying that if He suffered His disciples would also suffer!
Secondly, God has a purpose even in our suffering. He will never abandon us. Everything that we suffer for Christ is an opportunity to demonstrate His power and presence in us, and He will use it for our good. This morning I had a long chat with a young man who runs his own business. Because of jealousy someone has slandered him and tried to destroy him. He faces immense battles and this morning said to me, “Why is Satan attacking me in such way – it is such battle. God must have something very special for me.” It is a battle and it is tough, but I have seen this young man grow in stature as a person. He has become godly in his decisions and mature in his attitudes. It is in the difficult times that we grow in Christ. There is no school of maturity like the school of hard knocks.
Thirdly, It is so easy to concentrate on present struggles rather than the ultimate goal. One day we will experience the resurrection and receive the reward for our faith. It is so easy to lose heart and quit, but we must not let fatigue, pain or criticism force us out of God’s plan for our lives. Don’t forsake your eternal reward because of the intensity of today’s pain!
What are some of the blessings that we can experience when times are tough for us?
Why do you think it is that we grow most into Christian maturity when we experience trials and struggles?
Why should we regard it as privilege when we suffer for Christ’s sake?