“THE ALL SURPASSING POWER” Pastor Yau
2 Corinthians 4:7-15
1) We all face challenges in life. We all have things that come against our nature, interests and well being. Adversity and setbacks are part of being human. Losing a job, a broken relationship, betrayed by people whom you trust, got involved in an accident, diagnosed of a serious disease, overlooked by your boss on a promotion, hurt by unfounded rumors, and many others could bring us to our knees if we allow them to get in our way.
2) Even the most faithful are not exempted: Those we all admired and respected are not exempted from going through adversities. It is not “if” we will have hard times in life, it is “how” we face them when they come that makes us different from the rest of the world. We all agree that Paul, the greatest Apostle, was the most faithful in serving the Lord. He was among the most effective in spreading the Gospel to the early Christian world. His life and his faith are worthy of our learning and admiration. Yet, he did not escape the trials of life. The Scripture reference quoted today recorded some of the more dramatic experiences in his life from which we may learn some important lessons on how to gain strength through adversity.
THE ALL-SURPASSING POWER OF GOD: (4:7) We may learn a few important lessons on life and our relationship with God from this simple sentence.
1) We are only earthly vessels: The choice of the word signifies the frailty, weakness, fragility and temporal nature of our life. The Apostle James said we are just like morning mist that appears for a while and then vanishes. (James 4:14) Moses said we are like “grass springs up new in the morning, by the evening it is dry and withered.” (Psalm 90:5-6) Too many people, including some believers, like to think they are invincible, tough, all knowing and all successful. They live like they are going to last forever. Through the pens of Paul, God wants us to know we all are earthly vessels: easy to crack, to break, of little value and may last only for a little while. This should give us a foundational perspective to look at many aspects of life and things surround it.
2) The presence of God is the treasure: Again, the choice of the word tells us the importance of God in our life. God is not just one of the things we possess or need, He is the most precious element we will ever have and need. He is the center of all our possessions and the most precious of all our desires to acquire. How wrong it is for people of the world to think that God is the last thing they need or want to have. Even some Christians would treat God as only one of the things they need and only on occasions. Paul compared God with all his precious possessions and he chose to have God over everything else. In fact he treated all things as “rubbish” compare to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:8)
3) God’s presence makes all the difference: From his many years of personal walk with God, Paul had been through many unbelievable heart breaking hardships, setbacks, betrayal and suffering. In all he had gone through, he had experienced the presence of God who gave him what he called the “all-surpassing power”. That all-surpassing power of God was more than sufficient to carry him through the unspeakable troubles described in vv. 8-10. Paul never denied the fact of suffering in Christian life. But he provided us a source where we may receive help in time of trouble and suffering. After we see how much he had suffered knock downs but not knocked out in the following verses, we will see how that all-surpassing power had protected him from harm.
LIFE IS NEVER AN EASY RIDE: (4:8-10) Life as in
1) Trouble seldom travels alone: Attacks from evil both from the Devil or its agents seldom come alone. They usually come in teams or groups. To Paul, he was often surrounded by multiple enemies at the same time. Some were more vicious than others but they all were aimed to destroy him, to bring him down or to put him out. Look at the list:
a) Hard pressed: to be surrounded or squeezed or hedged in.
b) Crushed: to be kept in a narrow, cramp space, can’t wiggle.
c) Perplexed: can’t see clearly any way out, have doubt in self and the circumstance, don’t know what to do.
d) Despair: have no sense of security or confidence, feeling hopeless and helpless.
e) Persecuted: ridiculed, mocked, abused, slandered, criticized, threaten even imprisoned.
f) Abandoned: ignored, isolated, despised or boycotted.
g) Cast down: Smitten, stricken or knocked down.
h) Destroyed: to put to death, to render useless or to eliminate.
2) You may be down but not out: Paul used the counter attack “but not” phrase to deflect all the arrows hurled at him. He was knocked down a few times, but he was never knocked out. Each time he was knocked down, he got up again and continued to fight all the way to the end. That’s why he could say that he had “finished the good fight.” (2 Timothy 4:7) That is the mentality we need to learn and stay put. The problem of some is not if they will be knocked down we all will. The problem of these people is they just stay down and never get up and continue to fight. Being knocked down is not the end of the game but stay down as knocked out is. Too many people give up too easily when things don’t go their way or they face some kind of adversity. Instead of persevering, they got bent out of shape, discouraged and surrendered.
3) The secret of victory: God’s all-surpassing power: Paul made a comparison between the power of God and the power of man. To win the battle of life, we can never depend on our own power but the “all-surpassing power” of God. If we believe that God has the power to create the universe and everything in it, to raise the dead to life, to part the Red Sea, to heal the blind, to make the lame to walk again, to give eternal life to us and many other miracles, why in the world we can’t believe He has the power to solve our little problem, that minute setback or to heal our hurt feelings? “All-surpassing” means un-surmountable, undefeatable, all-winning and invincible. This has to do with our knowledge about and faith in God. Paul testifies that “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) You want to win the battle of challenges, hurts and hopelessness? Ask for His power.
ADVERSITY: DISGUISED BLESSING: (-15) Driving through empty streets before dawn is not the same as driving through rushing hours. You really learn how to control your car in heavy traffics. Same is in the learning of necessary skills in real life. If we handle adversities properly, patiently and wisely, we will grow much better, stronger and more useful in the eyes of the Lord.
1) We need to die before we may live: (-12) If Jesus never died on the cross, there won’t resurrection, won’t be victory over death, won’t be shading of blood for the forgiveness of sin. Then no one will have eternal life. It is through death, Jesus won the victory, inherited all the power, given the seat at the right hand of God. It is through death of our old life, the old nature we are given the new life, the new hope, new direction and value and future. Adversities help us to crucify our old nature: self reliance, pride, independence of God, self serving, etc. that we may be transformed into the image of Jesus. It is through the squeezing, we are molded to be more like Him. We need to die before we can live. (Romans 6:4)
2) We need adversities to strengthen our faith: (-14) Adversity strengthens our faith just as fire purifies gold. Easy life usually weaken the spirit just a rocking chairs weaken our bodies. Just as we need vigorous exercise to strengthen our muscles, we need bad times to improve our faith. It is at the end of our human ropes, we cry out to God. It is when we are exhausted of our own so call wisdom and power we are forced to rely on Him. These are all necessary steps draw us closer to the source of strength, God. If you never fall down, you never learn to get up.
3) Adversity molds us to be channels of blessing: () When Paul said that “all this is for your benefit,” he referred to the ultimate purpose of training through hard times: to benefit those who come after us. God trained Paul though hardships so he was able to benefit new believers. When Jesus predicted that Peter would deny Him three times, He asked that Peter will able to strengthen others after he came back. (Luke 22:32) Through the blues and scratches we learn how to ride a bicycle. Then we are able to help others to learn the same skill. Paul used the comfort he received in hardship to comfort brothers who were under stress. (2 Corinth. 1:4)
1) Be prepared to fall: Life is never an easy ride. It is not if you will fall but when you will fall. Being naïve never exempt anyone from falling. You may be better off if you are well prepared for the fall of life.
2) God will help you to get up: Falling is never the end of life unless you stay flat and never get up and get going again. Being knocked down a few times should not make you a failure for life. God has provided the all-surpassing power by which you will get up and fight again until you win.
3) Ask God to enter your heart: His power is available to all who ask. Don’t sit there and mourn the unfair situation. Go to God and ask Him to enter your life so you will be able to stand up again.