Don’t lose heart.
Stories of perseverance and endurance strike a cord with me. Overcoming odds, rising up from the ashes, enduring through loss, all of these types of narratives and stories do something to our hearts. It’s why we click on the Facebook articles about three-legged dogs, geek out when the Avengers save the day, and watch videos where underprivileged students rise above their station and get accepted into Ivy League schools.
It’s why the movie Miracle brings me to shed a tear or two.
Now, my life story will never be catalogued in film or novel, but I know that it’s one of perseverance and endurance.
I know this, because I am a follower of Jesus.
To actively and intentionally follow Jesus in our world, one must have perseverance and endurance. It is not an easy task to follow the Crucified King.
This semester was bookended by a couple difficult weeks. Back in January, I wrote down a prayer request in my journal that God would simply give me the strength to keep moving forward. While I applied it to my role as a vocational minister, it is a prayer I believe that we could all relate to.
As I continue to read through 2 Corinthians, I’m struck by the raw feelings of affliction that Paul and Timothy were experiencing. I’m obviously not stating that my trials have been to the degree of what these first century missionaries experienced on account of Jesus, but I find their transparency refreshing. The Bible never sugarcoats the difficulty of following Jesus,.
Look at this passage from 2 Corinthians 4.
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; – 2 Corinthians 4:8-9
Is that relatable to you?
Have you ever felt afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, or struck down?
Maybe you’re living paycheck to paycheck, waiting for your house to be sold so you can stop paying two mortgages.
Maybe you’ve strived your whole life to follow Jesus faithfully, but your teens or adult children or spouse want nothing to do with that way of life.
Maybe you or a family member are facing an unexpected illness that is debilitating you and stripping you of hope.
Maybe you have asked God for healing and He hasn’t answered.
Maybe you have tried to be a godly influence in your workplace, but you still aren’t any closer to seeing your friends come to give their allegiance to Jesus.
Take heart, my brother or sister in Christ.
God allows affliction, confusion, and persecution to come into our lives. But we are not totally crushed, we are not forsaken, we are not destroyed.
Keep moving forward.
Look with me at verses fourteen and sixteen.
…knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. . . So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. – 2 Corinthians 4:14, 16
Now I must say, if your ultimate hope is in this world and what this world can provide for you, this verse isn’t going to do much for you.
This passage from Paul is proclaiming that we will be raised up with Christ and brought into the Presence of God. That is our hope. Sure, our bodies will ache and continue to fall apart as we age, but our inner self is being renewed day by day by the Spirit at work in our hearts and lives.
So we do not lose heart.
That phrase showed up in the first verse of this chapter as well.
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. – 2 Corinthians 4:1
What kept Paul and Timothy going in the midst of tremendous affliction was two-fold: the promise that God would raise them up upon their last day, and that they had a ministry from God to fulfill.
Don’t check out yet.
You may be thinking, I’m not a missionary, I’m not a pastor, I’m not on staff at a church.
Regardless, God has given you a ministry to perform and fulfill. You are called to love God and neighbor.
As a pastor, I want to lovingly remind you that it is not my job to be the hands and feet of Christ to your neighbor, co-worker, family member, or friend. It’s not my job. It’s your job. Now, I hope that I can empower and equip and encourage and mobilize, but it is your role to spread the light of Christ that I talked about in my last blog (Searchlights). I love you, but it’s on you.
You have been given a ministry.
Now, I would be misleading if I claimed that I do this perfectly. Those of you who attend the church I serve at here in Vernon, TX, certainly know that. I have a predisposition towards wit and laughter and fun (I call it joy, but to each their own), but there are assuredly days where I show up on a Sunday morning and you wouldn’t see joy on my face or in my attitude.
Earlier today I was journaling about this very thing. If I’m being honest, there are plenty of moments where my motivation to keep going in the midst of affliction is not based on my ministry at all. But it’s my prayer that God would keep those in my path at the forefront of my mind, to give me the strength to keep going.
Following Jesus is hard.
That’s why not many choose to do so.
But if you’re with me on the narrow path, it’s my prayer that you would remember that God is at work, and that He hasn’t forsaken you.
This year I’ve been trying to memorize Colossians 1:29.
It says this.
To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me. – Colossians 1:29
I persevere and I endure.
By the power of Christ in me.
By daily reliance on Him.
Don’t lose heart.
You have an eternal hope and an earthly ministry.
In His Name,