“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. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you.” (2 Corinthians 4:10–12, KJV)
There is an expression used by athletes and those who exercise, “No Pain, No Gain.” Years ago, I was confronted with an issue one morning. It was a Sunday and as I got ready to go to church, I could not find a pair of dress trousers that fit. I tried on every pair that I had in the closet until I found one that by sucking in my gut, I could get on. It was an eye-opening experience. I do not know how it had happened, but I had gained some 40 pounds over my ideal weight. It was time for a change.
To combat this problem, rather than purchasing a new wardrobe, I decided to go on the South Beach Diet. It was miserable. I was hungry all the time. After losing about half the weight, I decided to exercise every day, speed walking on the treadmill. The weight continued to come off. Then, I decided to begin running and, after a while, trained for a half-marathon. The point here is that the pain in once sense resulted in the loss of weight, but a gain in better health.
Here, in the context of the struggles of ministry, Paul indicated that the pain of those struggles resulted in great gain. The Bible clearly documents the trials and tribulations that Paul experienced in the pursuit of preaching the gospel. He describes it as “bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus. Paul, in answering his calling, made a decision to take up his cross daily and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23). He gave up his fleshly wants and desires, the temporal, for the sake of something much more glorious, that which is eternal.
Along with the willingness to give up personal comfort and pleasure, he experienced the suffering at the hands of those who opposed him and his ministry (2 Cor 11:23-29). In fact, it is likely that those who opposed Paul pointed to the enormity of his struggles to discredit his ministry. They could have claimed that if his message was from God that he would not have struggled. In contrast, Paul uses the struggles as an affirming testimony that authenticated his ministry.
The Lord called Paul to battle in a spiritual dimension. There was a battle with the desires of the flesh, opposition of those who disagreed with him, and the underlying attacks from opposing spiritual forces of evil. Yet, Paul was not dissuaded in these struggles, but was emboldened by God’s grace.
Moreover, Paul indicated that these struggles highlighted the power of God’s grace that worked in his life. The result of which was the manifestation of Jesus in his “mortal flesh.” In other words, the struggles he endured actually made the power of God’s grace more visible to others. Thus, true life was imparted to others through the struggles he and his team endured.
Every believer who serves the Lord will endure struggles. Yet, God’s grace is sufficient to overcome these, and through His sustaining grace others will see Jesus manifested in the believer. Realize this. “No Pain No Gain.” Our struggle to display and preach Jesus is not in vain. We may not see the fruit in this life, but we will see it in glory.