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Devotions from Second Corinthians

OUR TRIUMPH IN UNION WITH CHRIST
2 CORINTHIANS 1-7

A Buoyant Spirit of Faith (13)

2 Corinthians  4:13-18 ( NKJV)

Dr. Gordon E. Johnson

Rio Grande Bible Institute

Introduction

If there has been anything that has characterized Paul in our epistle, it is a spiritual buoyancy, a resiliency in the face of the widest range of suffering for the Gospel's sake. This is not a product of sheer will power or human determination. It is the presence of an indwelling Christ. Paul sees his life and circumstances as extensions of the Cross which lead always to resurrection life.  He related first the sentence of death in himself in Asia (2 Corinthians 1:9); then this treasure in earthen jars in the midst of being hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed (4:7,8).

He has found the secret of the Christ life being wrought in others to be through his "carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus."  The cross actively operating in Paul is the dynamic of the work of the Spirit in others--a profound principle of the Cross. As I allow Christ to take me to the Cross, he does the corresponding work in others to whom I may minister. In this way God receives all the glory.  I share in his sufferings and the praise redounds to his glory.

Paul Echoes the Old Testament Psalmist -- From Near Death to New Life   Psalm 116. 8-10

I have long contended that we have grossly underestimated the depth and value of the Old Testament, nothing less that our Lord's Scriptures.  Indeed the Old Testament is in the New revealed, the New in the Old concealed. The psalmist exclaims: "I love the LORD, because He has heard My voice  . . . The pains of death encompassed me . . . Then I called on the name of the Lord: ‘O LORD, I implore You, deliver my soul'" (Psalm 116.1, 3, 4).

The Psalmist continues: "For You have delivered my soul from death . . . I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living. I believed, therefore I spoke" (vs.8-10). So close was the parallel of the Psalmist to Paul that he echoes the same confidence. There is nothing like suffering and divine deliverance that can bring forth the exquisite nature of the joys of faith.

Our Lord illustrates the same confidence as he faced the cross: "Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour'?  But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name" (John 12:27, 28).

Again we find in Paul no self pity or secret complaint. His spirit of faith is in part the ministry of the Holy Spirit and in part his attitude assumed in the presence of the will of God. We believe and therefore speak. There is a closest connection between heart and mouth.  

The more fully we affirm our faith, the deeper it becomes. On the contrary the more we question and complain, the weaker our faith becomes. Paul states the principle: "That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness and with the mouth confession is made to salvation" (Romans 10: 9, 10).

Paul's Projection of Faith to our Ultimate Hope    His Return   2 Corinthians 4:15

Just as no storm can sink the buoy on which the seafaring captain depends, so Paul sees such a faith as issuing in the believer's glorious future. This now becomes another motivation for service. "Knowing this that he who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus and will present us with you" (4:14).  Paul senses God's grand design that issues in grace's triumph in many to the multiplied thanksgiving of many to "abound to the glory of God."

Faith's Buoyant Motivation in the Face of Trial   2 Corinthians 4: 16-18

How well do I remember in my youth the challenge: Live with Eternity's Values in View!  How sound the advice!  Paul now returns us to the beginning of chapter 4: "Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart." Every Christian has faced, and especially one involved in ministry, that paralyzing discouragement when we fail to see with the eyes of faith what God is doing. The enemy presses us hard to question and doubt his purposes.  Paul reminds us that there may be the debit side to life, but the asset of a buoyant faith will not yield to the pressure of the trials from without or from within.

We face now a series of sharp contrasts which Paul does not minimize for a moment, but rather he challenges us to put the debit and credit side in eternal perspective. In such a comparison there can be no question of which is of far greater value.  Eternity looms large in Paul's perspective and also now in mine. 

Age does something for the believer that youth and even middle age cannot.  I remember hearing my mentor, Dr. F. J. Huegel, comment on the challenges of age when the body does not respond as readily as expected.  He was in his seventies and I was in my early thirties. I had no point of reference to what he said. Now I am in my early eighties and can say: Christ is more than sufficient. Proverbs reminds us: "But the path of the just is like the shining sun that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18).

How true is the buoyancy of the life of Christ, ours through our union with the crucified Lord!  "Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day" (4: 16).There is an inner source of strength, not ours by virtual of learning or even Christian service.  Paul states it in Ephesians 4:22, 23: ". .  . put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness."

Now Paul's divine reasoning takes shape -- by our putting into God's heavenly balances the relative value of trial and tribulation in the light of eternity.  There is NO comparison: take note of the sharp polarization: a "lite" suffering versus an eternal weight; a transient moment versus an eternal weight; an affliction now versus the glory of eternity then. To put it in more colloquial language: "this is not in the same ball park."  What a reminder to us to see life and Christian service from God's perspective!

But there is an ongoing condition that enables us so to svalue today in the light of eternity: "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" (4:18). It is interesting to note that the word "look" in the original has the idea to spy out, to give attention to and to contemplate.  It is not a causal glance but rather a purposeful inquiring look.  I return to my mother's favorite verse: "But seek you first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33). This is God's gold plated guarantee that our look of faith will anticipate and enjoy his present presence and future joys.

Yours in the Message of the Cross

Gordon E. Johnson

   www.kneillfoster.com  I welcome comments and questions.