Get Back On Your Feet and Walk On Into God's Plans!
2Corinthians 4: 8-9 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
The Christian walk is not without its dark hours. To be fair, if everything in our life was one mountaintop experience after another, we would eventually cease to think we need God. We also would start to think that we had something to do with the successes in our lives. We would become a god unto ourselves; as is the case with so many in the world through new age philosophies. It is only be the grace of Almighty God that we have all that we enjoy in this life to begin with. That is anathema to worldly thinking of course which celebrates man as the sole source for everything. It is hard to finally come to the realization that we are not all that we thought we were. To accept that what we achieve is actually blessing from the creator of the universe. But there is always freedom in surrender.
When writing to the Church at Corinth, Paul is exhorting the congregation to realize that while the trials of life may seem overwhelming, they are not as bad as it would be without God at the center of their lives. These lessons are just as important if not more so for us today. The enemy still seeks to devour whom he will. The enemy waits until we are most vulnerable and then attacks where we are weakest. But we do not hope as the world does in empty promises and powerless oaths:
Now when people take an oath, they call on someone greater than themselves to hold them to it. And without any question that oath is binding. God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God's inner sanctuary. Hebrews 6: 16-19
When the enemy comes against us like a flood we can always find refuge in God. That is the point the Apostle Paul is trying to impress upon us in our key verses today. He gives four distinct experiences we can expect in our walks. Four different ways we can feel in the valley and four differences we have from the world because our hope is in God.
First of all, we can be hard pressed. The dictionary defines this as being heavy burdened. How many of us feel that way some times? Maybe a lot of the time? Look, the world is a heavy place. This life is a heavy life. The negativity in life is constantly reinforced. It dominates the news. Wars, disease, famine, natural disasters, corruption, greed. The list of evil which the devil wreaks in this world doesn't end. Is it any wonder then that Jesus Himself referred to the burden we carry when He sought to call us out of darkness:
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11: 28-30
Weary and burdened. That was how we were before taking off the yoke of the world and embracing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives. And we can still fall victim to the yoke of the world. We can still start to believe the lies of the enemy when we are facing our trials. We can start to doubt instead of increasing our faith. We can strap ourselves in to the yoke that burdens so easily. We can become hard pressed on every side. That yoke only allows us to look at the problems we face instead of the problem solver we serve. It is designed to have us only focus on ourselves instead of the grand design of the Master. Just as He said to us on the day we came forward into salvation He says to us throughout our walk when we feel the heavy burdens the enemy seeks to weigh us down with "Come to me, I will give you rest." The world? The world will crush you under the weight of that yoke. The solutions it will offer you will crush your spirit and your hope. The woman with the issue of blood in the Gospel of Mark had suffered for 12 years and here is how the Bible describes how the world helped her:
She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. Mark 5: 26
She was crushed by this yoke until she reached out and touched Jesus. I am sure that there were other times in her life where she felt hard pressed but she was never crushed again. You may be feeling hard pressed today but God is saying to take His yoke on again. You are not crushed.
The second comparison Paul makes deals with the battles we all face in our minds. We live in a confusing world to say the least. Even within the church there is a great deal of confusion. Faulty doctrines and false prophets. The end times we live in however were prophesied:
For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 2Timothy 4: 3-4
That time has come indeed. We face confusion on all sides. In our lives, in our homes and families, in our workplace and in our walks. We can become perplexed as Paul says. The enemy has become adept at confusing things just enough to still make some sense while at the same time leading people astray. He will use our pride when we are wounded, our lust when we are distracted, or our anger when we feel we have been wronged. He will use whatever we give him. The resulting uncertainty is not the spirit God has given us however:
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2Timothy 1: 7 (NKJV)
God did not give us a mind that is perplexed but rather a sound mind. A sound mind understands that the will of God is all that matters in any situation. Paul uses an interesting contrast to perplexed, in despair. The dictionary defines despair as the loss of hope. That may seem far away from perplexed but it really is not if you think about it. That is how insidious the mind games the devil plays on us are. It may start as just some confusion. That may lead to doubt as the enemy starts to expand the foothold he has in your mind. As that foothold grows into a stronghold we see the progression take place. Fear becomes anxiety and discouragement leads to despair (depression). The enemy wields these weapons quite well in the world. The National Institute of Mental Health states that 35 million Americans (16% of population) suffer from depression at some point in their life, severe enough to warrant treatment. Keep in mind this is only those who warranted treatment and admitted to the problem. Another 19 million have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders. Those are staggering statistics that affect the church just as much as the world. Yet Paul is reminding us here that while we may have the symptoms of being perplexed it should never reach the point of despair, where we give up hope. The hope we have in God: