By Tim Frank
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Carthage
The passage for this lesson reminds me of the character Rocky Balboa, played by Sylvester Stallone in the Rocky movies that were popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
If you remember, Rocky, the prizefighter, would be beaten, bruised and almost out. Then, all of a sudden, a strength from within him would finish the fight and gain the victory. That is the essence of any great story of strength and courage. We see that same resolve from Paul as he gives believers three challenges to honor and glorify God in their suffering.
First, God is honored in your suffering as you realize that the extraordinary power which is inside you is the Holy Spirit of God. Paul says in II Corinthians 4:7-11 that we are earthen vessels, just ordinary clay pots, but the power of God dwells inside.
Therefore, even though we are afflicted, perplexed, persecuted and struck down on the outside, we are not crushed, in despair, abandoned, nor destroyed on the inside. We are like that fighter who is badly beaten but does not quit. In fact, God’s strength and glory are clearly seen when compared to the weakness of the vessel. The power is not of us, but in us, Jesus’ power living in us. Paul reiterates this point through his own suffering in II Corinthians 12:7-10 where he learns to boast in his weakness so that the power of Christ may rest upon him.
Second, God is honored in your suffering as you live your life with evangelistic purpose. In II Corinthians 4:12-15, Paul shares that his motivation through suffering is ultimately the glory and honor of God as he shares his faith in Jesus with others.
He writes with assurance that the end of this life is not the end but that God will raise him up, along with all believers. This conviction then empowers him to endure suffering for the benefit of others that they may receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. The salvation of people’s souls honors and glorifies God.
God is honored in your suffering as you keep your focus on the eternal place He has prepared for believers. One of my favorite passages to share during the funeral of a believer in Jesus is II Corinthians 4:16-18. These verses reinforce what we clearly see in the frailty of our physical bodies.
They are perishing. They are afflicted. They are temporary and wearing out. However, our hope is in the daily renewing and strengthening of our soul as we live for Christ. Our hope is in the eternal glory of Heaven.
Our hope is in that which we cannot see with our eyes but we believe in our hearts. Paul continues in II Corinthians 5:1 with the blessed assurance that, at the destruction of our temporary tents, our bodies, we, as believers, have an eternal house, prepared for us by God Himself in heaven. We groan while we live in these bodies, but we will rejoice in that home in heaven. Verse 8 is one of the great promises in all of Scripture for the believer; “to be absent from the earthly body is to be present with the Lord.”
Toward the end of his life, the Apostle Paul reflects on his life and gives honor and glory to God as he says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (II Timothy 4:6-8). May this lesson give us determination to honor God throughout all our lives, even in our sufferings. Therefore, fight when it’s tough. Stay focused on the race. Keep looking toward heaven.