No marketing strategies required:
The thing that immediately hit me at the beginning of this passage is that Paul says that our message doesn’t need ‘bigging up’ or changed. I think sometimes it can be tempting to try and make the Gospel sound a bit more appealing to our friends, you know miss out the bits that might offend people, twist the truth slightly so it doesn’t sound like we can’t just do what we want. Because that’s what the world is about – satisfying your own desires no matter what the consequences. But that’s not what our Gospel is about and so we’re never going to win people over by pretending it is. Unsurprisingly God knows what we need better than we do and so we don’t need to dress the gospel up at all…it sells itself because it’s the truth! John 8:32 says:
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
You don’t have to convince people with clever strategies that gravity is real because we experience it every day. We don’t have to use clever strategies to persuade people that the Gospel is true, we should just be inviting them into it and when they experience it they will also know that it is true. We don’t have to trick and deceive to sell the Gospel and if we did I don’t think that is a gospel that I would want to be a part of. The Gospel of Jesus sells itself because it is true and the truth sets people free.
God is God no matter how we feel:
In 2 Cor. 4:13 Paul quotes Psalm 116. This Psalm is a psalm of praise; it starts with ‘I love the Lord’ and ends with ‘praise the Lord’. What’s interesting is that a lot of the rest of the Psalm is about affliction and the psalmist isn’t only praising God because He saved him from it…he was already praising God in the midst of his suffering (verse 10)
I believed, even when I spoke:
“I am greatly afflicted”
This is the verse that Paul is quoting in 2 Corinthians 4:13. The verse says we believe and therefore speak about what Christ has done. But in the context of this Psalm I think Paul is saying more than that…we don’t just speak when we feel like everything is going okay. God’s glory is not diminished by our circumstances and so our praise of him, our desire to share him with others should also not be diminished. It reminds me of the Casting Crowns song ‘praise you in this storm’ The chorus goes:
And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm
God is always God and is always worthy…maybe we need to learn to worship him beyond the hype and emotions of a 7pm gathering when life feels good. Worship is not about the song and how much we like it, it’s not about what people are doing around us, it’s not about how good we feel…it’s completely and utterly about God.
Beyond the mountains:
Paul is encouraging us to keep going, to keep focusing on Jesus instead of our present circumstances.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:16-18)
God’s perspective is so much bigger than ours. We’ve just got back from a weekend away with the Defined Youth Church and Dan has been speaking to us about the mountains of our life and being able to see past those mountains. It was so encouraging to see many of our young people start to let go of the circumstances that were stealing all of their energy and attention, the things that are causing them to worry, and to grasp hold of God’s perspective for their life and the freedom that he brings – to learn to trust God. Paul is encouraging the church in Corinth along the same lines – although things seem rough God is good. God never stops being good. And God can be trusted…He has what’s best for us (Jer. 29:11). If we believe that Jesus is the truth (John 14:6) then we can trust that his plans are good, we can live a life that is not in the shadows of our mountains, but a life of freedom from those worries.
And God is with us! We are never alone and he never gives us more than we can handle (1 Cor. 10:13)
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2 Cor. 4:8-10)
Nowhere does it say that following Jesus is going to be easy, in fact pretty much everywhere I’ve seen promises that it will be hard. But when we see life with God’s eternal perspective it is so worth it. Our transformed lives are a testimony…the fact that we are compelled to tell others (5:14) is because we believe it is worth it. When you fall in love you can’t help but talking about that person, when you find something amazing that has impacted your life you can’t help but share it with others. When you find Jesus you share it because it is so unbelievably worth any discomfort in this world. Are we this in love with Jesus? Our praise and love of God should just flow out of us to those around us. We have found a great treasure…is your desire to share that treasure with others?