Inner Power (2 Cor 4:8-12)

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:8–10, KJV)

While serving in the military I went through the Army Ranger school. The first phase included instruction in hand-to-hand combat. At the end of the final day’s instruction, the entire unit went into a circular area called the pit and were to battle it out with the prize going to the last man standing. We were instructed to hold back and not inflict any blows that would result in bodily injury. We were told to use the techniques learned and throw our opponents down. When one was thrown, he was out of the contest and needed to leave the pit. In that hand-to-hand pit, it was very congested. You were nearly bumping into others in the midst of the melee. The problem in this contest was that everyone else in the pit was your enemy. Often two or three would gang up on one. At the end of the match, those who were once allies had to fight each other. It was almost like gladiators fighting in a coliseum.

Paul in this section of the letter, appears to have used gladiator terms to describe the struggles of ministry. He used interesting terms to describe this battle. Yet with each combative term, he presents a contrast of power to overcome. What is this power? It is the power of God’s manifested grace of the gospel to sustain believers in the midst of the intense work of the ministry.

Paul indicated, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed.” The verb “distressed,” stenochoreo, has the idea of being hemmed in closely, that is cramped (Strong G4729). The ESV translated this word as “crushed.” The pressures of ministry for Paul and his team were extreme and yet they were not ever crushed. The power of the Lord sustained them.

He went on to write, “we are perplexed, but not in despair.” I imagine that they experienced very perplexing times in their ministry. Why would the Jews remove them from the synagogues when they were accurately proclaiming the Old Testament writings that Jesus was the Messiah. Why would the ministry be so difficult? Why the persecution? Why were they not financially wealthy in serving the Lord? Yet, God’s grace was sufficient to keep them from a state of despair.

They were, “Persecuted, but not forsaken.” Oh, the persecution was real. Paul in particular stands out in the book of Acts as having endured much persecution, through imprisonment, beatings, being stoned and left for dead, etc. Yet in all of this, the Lord never abandoned him and sustained him and his team to carry on in the work.

Furthermore, he wrote that they were “cast down, but not destroyed.” Sometimes those in ministry might feel like they have been body-slammed in their struggles. The opposition can be fierce and strong. People can say things that really hurt. Young ministers in churches have even been emotionally injured by those who should be mentoring and supporting. Yet, the abuse does not dissuade the one who is called to minister the gospel.

The point of this picture is that of a servant of the Most High, who in spite of the severity of the conflict keeps on serving. Every believer is a soldier of the cross called into such a battle. Regardless of the struggle you are enduring in your work, the grace of God will sustain you. Draw near to the Lord and He will lift you up.

Published by Steve Hankins, Th.D.

Steve has had extensive military, business and ministry experience. He has served for over 16 years in full time vocational ministry and many years of part time ministry in churches. He has led churches through start-up and recasting of vision. Now He resides on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where he is working to help smaller churches and believers to renew their hearts and regain the joy of the Lord.

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