Sermon by Daniel L. Sonnenberg | June 21, 2015
7 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.
8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12 So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. (2 Co. 4:7-12 NLT)
As some of you know, I’m in the Pastor of Residence program here at Grace Chapel. I left the church I was serving in January, and Beth and I have been attending here as often as possible since then. We’ve also been participating in the music ministry and meeting regularly with the Webber’s small group who have been trained to work with Pastors in Residence. This church has been a safe place for us these past 5 months. That’s why it’s called a Refuge Church in PIR parlance. In any case, this is the first sermon I’ve done in 5 months. Before that I preached on a weekly basis for 3 1/2 years at a church in the Toledo area where we currently live. But I honestly never reached a place where I felt totally comfortable as a preacher. But that’s my goal, for preaching to become what some call a “soft place.” I served as a church music minister for 20 years prior to going to seminary, and because I’m more of an introvert than an extrovert, it took me quite a few years to become comfortable speaking in front of the congregation. It was easy for me to sing, but it took awhile before I could speak comfortably. However, preaching is a much bigger challenge than introducing a song! But there was a small group of people in the previous church who had strong opinions about my preaching – they wanted it to be a certain way. And try as I might, I never seemed to be able to please them. At a certain point I realized that I could not overcome nor outlast this group. So for better or worse, I chose to leave and begin to look for something else.
All that is to say that Pastor Doug has encouraged me to be myself and to find that comfortable place while preaching like I did years ago in music ministry. That’s why I began with singing and playing the offertory with Beth’s help today. That’s the comfortable place I want to reach in my preaching. Don’t get me wrong. I love to preach, I’m just learning to get comfortable there. After leaving the previous church when I asked myself what I want to continue to do, my answer was that I definitely want to continue to preach and I want to continue to do music ministry in some form.
So why did I choose this passage? It’s because I’ve kept going back there these past several months for encouragement. 2 Cor is perhaps the most personal of Paul’s letters. And in it he explains how he has dealt with those who challenged his integrity as a leader, or his authority as an apostle and his preaching!
There were those in Corinth by this time who considered themselves more accomplished than Paul, and some in the congregation were being turned against him. In this letter, Paul affirms that he is not a great preacher, but he preaches in sincerity and by the power of the Spirit. He admits his weaknesses, but he tells them there’s a reason for such weakness. God has ordained that those who belong to him by faith, who minister the gospel in the name of Christ in humility, experience suffering so that the power and glory manifested in their ministries, might be seen to come from God and not themselves.
Does this passage apply to us or only to the first apostles like Paul? It applies to Paul and to us for two reasons:
- Bc these verses serve as foundation for what he says about the death and judgment of all Christians in following passage, 4:16 – 5:10.
- Bc he refers to his own apostolic sufferings as representative of the sufferings of all Christians in other passages – Rom 8:35-9; Phil 3:4-11.
What I learned from this passage
- That God has ordained that people involved in the ministry of the gospel, those who live by faith in Jesus Christ, will suffer in various ways, just like Paul did, just like Jesus did. And that God’s purpose in allowing us to suffer is so that we will discover, and demonstrate to others that any power or glory or working of the Spirit in us comes from God and not ourselves.
See v. 7, v. 1, v. 6.
2:14 We are captives in Christ’s triumphal procession
Stories of Job – Peter – Elijah – Reid & Erik
- That though we will suffer, God will always deliver us out of those sufferings.
See vv. 8/9.
God has delivered us, and he will deliver us.
No matter how intense our suffering becomes, God will deliver us through it. We will never be finally forsaken or lost.
- That the purpose of our suffering and deliverance is to point us to Christ’s unique manner of salvation. It’s an extension of and continuation of Christ’s vicarious suffering and resurrection for his church.
See vv. 10-11.
Those who serve in the ministry of the gospel often experience more suffering than those they serve.
Our sufferings and God’s deliverance in this life (see 8/9) points us back to the “dying” and “life” of Jesus which accomplished our salvation.
Our suffering and deliverance in this life points us forward to the final deliverance that Christ will accomplish when he comes again.
This flies in the face of the prosperity, health and wealth gospel preachers of our day and the false apostles of Jesus’ day who claim that by the power of their own words or their own faith to be able to overcome such sufferings. In doing so, they deny the necessity of the death and resurrection of Christ himself.
- That our suffering gives life to others.
See v. 12.
Here “death” still represents our sufferings, but here “life” is not representative of God’s deliverance from our sufferings, but the grace of God extended to others through us.
Our suffering is on a different order than the suffering of Jesus and for a different purpose. X was “made sin” that sinners might be given righteousness (5:21), and as a result, reconciled to God (5:18-21).
Paul suffered as a messenger of the good news, SO THAT those to whom he came might have the “life” that X’s death accomplished for them.
Likewise God’s purpose for our suffering and deliverance is for the sake of others. Thru our testimony of God’s deliverance from the sufferings in our lives, we bear witness to the unique manner in which God delivered his Son and continues to deliver his people, and will one day deliver all of creation from death and decay through the final resurrection.
Story of the news reporter in Charleston, SC
Someone has said, “ONLY BY DYING SEED-LIKE IS THERE ‘MUCH FRUIT’, A PRINCIPLE THAT APPLIES NOT ONLY TO J BUT ALSO TO ALL WHO FOLLOW HIM AS SERVANTS IN HIS GREAT MISSIONARY ENDEAVOR.: (John 12:24:26)
So in our own sufferings – “when the oceans rise and thunders roar” – hear again and take comfort in the words of Jesus to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is perfected in weakness.” And say with Paul, “When I am weak then I am strong.”
Next time, we’ll see what motivates those who minister the gospel to keep going in spite of such trials.