(You don't Have What it Takes)
2 Cor 4 Pastor Stan Lubeck
The LIFEhouse Church 1/10/10
Today we finish our series of messages entitled "unstoppable."
What would cause you to be stopped in your tracks? Have you known people who have given up on God or gave up on the church? Have you known people who gave up on their marriage or their children or career because they got frustrated?
You might be a school teacher and you are struggling with whether your efforts are really making a difference, or if the students even care at all, or if your job will be replaced at the next round of budget cuts. You are tempted to quit trying and do the minimal effort.
You might be un-employed and you have sent out so many resumes, yet you still don't have a job and you feel like giving up trying. Maybe you have been burned in a relationship, so you have given up ever allowing anyone to get close again. Maybe you have children who have gone off the deep end, and you have given up hope that they will ever return.
Some of you might have quit and no one knows… but you know that you are only going through the motions. You heart isn't in it anymore.
If you have ever felt like quitting, or are facing obstacles that are insurmountable, I have good news for you, you are in the right place.
We are going to learn about an unstoppable faith that is available to us, not matter what obstacles and outward circumstances stand in our way, God is greater and his all surpassing power is available to stand strong, not lose heart and not give up.
We are going to learn from a man who had every reason to give up, quit and take the easy route, but he didn't give in and Christians around the world are better off today because he didn't.
This world is a warzone. Have you noticed? We shouldn't be surprised when life gets hard. There is a roaring lion on the loose and there are mangled bodies all around.
Jesus himself faced persecution, beatings and crucifixion on a cross… that he did not deserve.
We are living in a battleground and battle fatigue is real! But we are not victim, we are victors in this battle because Jesus won the ultimate victory on the cross.
Are we surprised to know that there is a real enemy who wants to discourage and defeat God's people?
Today we are going to walk through 2 Cor 4 as we take a behind the scenes look at a Christian, by the name of Paul who faced all kinds of opposition and remained unstoppable.
Paul had people who were saying that his teaching was weak and fading. They accused him of being dishonest and of corrupting God's word. People were hurtful and unappreciative and accusing Paul of lacking integrity. They even beat him with sticks, threw rocks at him and left him for dead. Who could blame him if he concluded, this career track isn't for me…?
What made Paul unstoppable? Let's learn together from God's word as we read 2 Cor 4.
2 Corinthians 4:1 (NIV) " 1Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart."
God's mercy! – unmerited favor! Paul saw himself as "undeserving." He is saying, "I am unworthy to do what God has called me to do.! When a person begins to think that they deserve a position or status or a ministry, that will lead to conflict and the temptation to say, "I quit! "I quit, because I deserve to be treated better than this. I quit because I am unappreciated. I quit because I'm not getting the credit I deserve, or the pay I deserve.
Paul is saying, "I know I deserve nothing!" Why does he feel this way?
1 Timothy 1:12-13 (NIV) " 12I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 13Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief."
"We do not lose heart", Paul is saying, we are unstoppable, we don't quit because we know that we don’t deserve to be part of God's ministry! It is the opposite of entitlement that things the world owes us something.
"I cannot help but serve God and love God and do whatever He wants me to do… including going through tough challenges where people oppose and criticize and attack and don't understand."
Why was Paul unstoppable? Because he had a humble, unstoppable heart for God. This allowed him to continue to preach and carry out his assignment in the face of brutal opposition.
God gave him his ministry and he was going to do it, no matter how sinful man responded.
Unstoppable faith means that we have unstoppable determination, so we don't lose heart! Then we must have…
2 Corinthians 4:2-4 (NIV) "2Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."
Paul performed his job God's way! He carried out his ministry with integrity as unto God… in God's sight! His job was the deliver God's word, accurately and clearly… and people didn't like it. His unstoppable integrity meant that his work ethic included…
Paul refused to use any underhanded or deceitful tricks to gain followers.
New Living Translation, "we don't try to trick anyone"
There were false teachers in that day who would do anything to get a following.
Paul wasn't one to tickle people's ears to make a name for himself.
He had an honest ministry where he preached the pure Word of God that changes lives.
"in the sight of God" – means that his ultimate audience was God.
Have you ever worked for a deceitful person who wants you to deceive the customer? Why are you surprised when that boss cheats you out of your proper wages?
There were false teachers who would lie and deceive and say what people wanted to hear, just to get a following.
Honesty is still the best policy, so Paul refused to trick or deceive anyone and secondly he was committed to…
Setting forth the truth plainly – Paul presented God's truth with clarity. He taught young Timothy to do the same…
2 Timothy 2:15 (NIV) "15Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth."
Paul cut God's word straight and trusted that God would remove the veil of unbelief.
Our job is to clearly communicate God's word. It is God's job to remove the blinders and change the heart.
There are two reasons that God's good news is misunderstood:
v Confusing teachers!
Ever had a class where you couldn't understand the teacher? The confusion should not come from the Christian teacher…
v Confused students
Some people don't understand spiritual truths because they are spiritually blind.
It is a spiritual issue.
Paul was once spiritually blind, thinking he was serving God when He was actually persecuting Jesus and opposing everything that God was doing. Then he was dazzled by the bright light of God's truth on the road to Damascus.
All believers were once blind! Only God opens our eyes to see!
Vs. 4 is saying that Satan, the god of this world blinds those who choose not to believe.
So Paul is unstoppable because he has unstoppable determination, and unstoppable integrity and now we see his …
2 Corinthians 4:5-7 (NIV) "5For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 7But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."
If Paul was full of himself and pride, looking to build a following for himself, then he would have preached about himself instead of Christ.
"Jesus Christ as Lord" – that is the gospel in a nutshell.
v Jesus – the Lord saves.
v Christ – The Anointed, the Messiah
v Lord – exalted by God
Ultimately, everyone will have to say that Jesus is Lord, willingly or unwillingly…
Philippians 2:10-11 (NIV) "10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Vs 6 – refers to Gen. 1:1–5 when God brought light into creation.
Before God changes us, we are like that original earth, without form, dark and lifeless.
When the light of the glorious message that Jesus is Lord, shines on a life, that person becomes a new creation, and starts to bring forth fruit for the glory of God.
Vs. 7 Jars of clay – these are humble, ordinary jars of clay. 2 Corinthians 4:7 (NIV) "7But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."
Clay jars were the "fast food containers" of the day. They were cheap and ordinary and easy to replace. Clay jars lasted only a few years at most and were used to store water, olive oil, grain and even family treasures. You could even find leftovers stored in clay jars.
No one paid any attention to clay jars because they were everywhere.
Clay jars are frail, weak and easily broken! Just like us!
The treasure inside of the jar is the knowledge of the glory of God! It is a treasure of great price. But it is stored in ordinary jars of clay!
Why? One reason, to show God's power! That it is clear that the power comes from God and not us.
We are never powerful in ourselves! Some get confused here. Some think that when they get God's power that somehow they are now powerful in and of themselves!
This is why you see some Christians who are full of themselves and preaching, "I shall arise."
They don't understand that they are still just a jar of clay!
This is why Paul says later in this letter… 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV) "9But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me."
Some think, "my weakness plus God's power equals my power." Wrong, we are still weak. We do not grow in power, we grow in weakness.
Someone once asked St. Francis how he was able to accomplish so much. He replied, “This may be why: The Lord looked down from heaven and said, ‘Where can I find the weakest, littlest man on earth?’ Then he saw me and said, ‘I’ve found him, and he won’t be proud of it. He’ll see that I am only using him because of his insignificance.’
Illustration: little jar of clay – a reminder – you don't have what it takes! Ever! You are not that impressive!! You can paint that little jar and put perfume on it, but it is still just a clay jar.
What's in your clay jar? Put it in your car… on your desk… in your kitchen.
Every time you see this little jar… it is a reminder that you don't have what it takes, but you are a container that shows that the all-surpassing power is from God and not you!
So Paul is unstoppable because he has unstoppable determination (not losing heart), and has unstoppable integrity (there is no deception in his ministry) and unstoppable humility (he is just an ordinary clay jar…
And now we see his…
2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (NIV) "8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body."
Jesus went through the cross to get to the resurrection. Jesus died and went into the grave, but came out in resurrection power!
Paul is a realist! He is not sugarcoating life. He is being honest to say, I have been pressed hard! I have been perplexed to where I don't quite understand why things are happening and I know what it means to be unfairly persecuted. Being a Christian can be hard!
But look at the unstoppable quality of Paul's life… I've been…
v Squeezed but not squashed
v Bewildered but not befuddled.
v Despondent, but not despairing
v Hunted down but not forgotten
v Knocked down but not knocked out.
Why? So that the life of Jesus might be revealed.
Paul’s willingness to suffer for Christ is one of the greatest proofs of his sincerity as a servant of God.
Paul is unstoppable because he has unstoppable determination (not losing heart), and has unstoppable integrity (there is no deception in his ministry) and unstoppable humility (he is just an ordinary clay jar, and an unstoppable life and an…
2 Corinthians 4:11-15 (NIV) "11For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 13It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, 14because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. 15All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God."
Vs 12 – Christ died that we might live. This is the great exchange. Jesus gave up his life for our sakes so that we might come alive. He became poor that we might become rich.
George Muller, who provided for thousands of orphans was asked how he was able to pull it off with all the challenges. He hung his head and said, "There was a day when I died." Then he hung it lower and said, "Died to George Muller."
Jesus said – John 12:24-25 (NIV) "24I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life."
What good is faith unless it is tested?
Paul is unstoppable because he has unstoppable determination (not losing heart), and has unstoppable integrity (there is no deception in his ministry) and unstoppable humility (he is just an ordinary clay jar, and an unstoppable life and an unstoppable faith and an…
2 Corinthians 4:16-19 (NIV) "16Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
Often people quit because they lose hope that the future will be any better.
People can live 6 weeks without food, 6 days without water, 6 minutes without air, but not one second without hope.
People who quit, often lose perspective! All they see if the problem in front of them at the time.
Paul, as in verse 1 says, "we do not lose heart," even though we are facing light and momentary troubles, they are nothing compared to the reality of eternal glory that is far more important!
Yeah, we are outwardly wasting away, but spiritually we are being renewed over and over! The old man, given to sin is fading! The spiritual man, the real, inward man is being renewed!
Paul sees his troubles as "light and momentary." That is perspective! These problems are just speed bumps on the road to glory!
Life takes on new meaning when we see things through God’s eyes from the heavenlies.
Verse 18 is a paradox to the unbeliever, but a precious truth to the Christian. We live by faith, not by sight.
What is real is the spiritual that we cannot see and lasts forever. Our visible world is only temporary.
So Paul was
v Squeezed but not squashed
v Bewildered but not befuddled.
v Despondent, but not despairing
v Hunted down but not forgotten
v Knocked down but not knocked out.
How about you? Are you unstoppable through the all surpassing power of God? Is His strength being perfected in your weakness?
q I need prayer – I've have feelings of wanting to quit
q I want my clay jar of my life to be filled with Jesus.
q I ask Jesus to give me an unstoppable faith
1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV) "58Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."