2 Corinthians 4:7-12 (ESV)
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;
9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
When I first considered becoming a pastor, my late wife encouraged me to look into some common questions that people had about any job. How long would it take to become ordained? What sort of training would I need? How much could I expect to be paid? That last one gave us both a chuckle, because the answer from one source said a pastor was woefully underpaid, on a par with school teachers and social workers – and she was both a school teacher AND a social worker. In other words, we could look forward to being poor all our lives. Well, at least we would both be fulfilled by our callings!
Those who serve choose to do so not for fame or fortune – there are precious few who “make it big” in ministry. And they don’t do it for the recognition of their peers – often, pastors and ministers end up in far-off places without any of their peers nearby. And in many countries around the world, pastors actually proclaim the gospel at the risk of their own lives – and quite often at the risk of their congregations’ lives, too. Pastors serve for one reason, like the One they serve: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10b)
In today’s passage, Paul describes what he faces daily and WHY he faces it. His litany of troubles is just a summary of his life thus far, and yet he knows it is for the good of others.
* Afflicted in every way, but not crushed – because the power of the Holy Spirit sustains him.
* Perplexed, but not driven to despair – because the wisdom of the Word of God, the wisdom of the gospel itself brings hope.
* Persecuted, but not forsaken – for God will never leave nor forsake those whom He has chosen.
* Struck down, but not destroyed – because only God can utterly destroy someone, and those whom He has called He will protect and sustain.
Like our Savior, Paul faces these things and even faces death – which he knows is imminent – because his own life and death will reflect the power of Christ into otherwise empty lives. While persecuted pastors are being “poured out as a drink offering” (2 Timothy 4:6), they know that the death they die is for others, that those others might live. For pastors everywhere, what matters is not their own lives but the lives save through the gospel of Christ Jesus, our Savior and Lord. And for those persecuted right alongside their pastors in countries worldwide, the life of Jesus is manifested in their bodies.
Pray today for the persecuted churches worldwide. Pray that their lives manifest the life of the Son of the living God. Pray that they may find strength, wisdom, and protection through the Holy Spirit that indwells them. Pray that though they may be persecuted unto death, the death that is at work in them will be life in others.
Father God, I thank You for the safe life You have given me, here in the rear lines of the battle for Your will and Your way. I ask today that Your Spirit will hover over and protect Your church in all places, that whatever strength You might share with me will be given to them. I pray that whatever happens to those persecuted churches, that You alone may be glorified and that the life You promised will be manifested through the lives of those who serve and those who receive Your gospel. Amen.