The Christian Journey
2nd Corinthians 4:8-5:8
In this passage of Scripture. We see some truths about our Christian journey which are often forgotten in our day. Presently, the world wants us to believe that if you’re a Christian the whole world will love you. We would be led to believe that if we were good Christians, we would be accepted by anyone, loved by everyone and mistreated by no one. Such a concept could not be farther from the truth. And even those who say this type of thing don’t really believe it. The world hates the true Christian. Our lord told us that if the world hates us it hated him 1st. He also told us that in the world, we will have tribulation. And Paul wrote Timothy in 2nd Timothy 3:12, that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution, but evil men and seducers will wax worse and worse.
We have never been promised an easy life here in this world. We’re never promise that we won’t have to suffer, but we’ll be warned that we shall have tribulations, and we shall suffer persecution.
We are also warned in Matthew 7:15-16, that some of these troubles and persecutions will arise from the very ranks of Christianity. False prophets in sheep’s clothing; that means that by all appearances they will be as we are: Only God can see them on site for only he can look on the heart. We will not know them until the fruits of their testimonies are borne out. Yet we are warned of this of type of attack. That is, religion. The religious crowd is the crowd that would give us the most trouble. Organized religion, so-called, will not like the true Christian. It was the religious crowd that rejected and crucified our Lord. Today, if Jesus came back as he did then, and preached exactly as he did the end, the religious crowd would nail him to the cross again. Let there be no doubt, organized religion as we know it does not want Jesus anywhere around. Because of this, and the fact that a servant is not above his master, we know that we also shall be hated, despised, and persecuted.
Paul was an apostle, a great man of God. He was a humble man who was willing to sacrifice in every possible way in order to reach the lost. No peril of life or limb could sway his determination to win the lost her Christ. He obviously had a great love for the souls of men, especially his brethren, the Jews. He also must’ve had such love and compassion that his motives and actions were transparent to all about him. Because of this clearness of his character in his attitude and his actions toward others, he was loved in return. By multitudes. Paul was an example of a believer who truly sought to be Christ-like. He 1st won the hearts of men and was then able to win their souls for Christ.
Knowing these things about this great man of God. Now let us examine the text before us in light of the man who was doing the writing.
“We are troubled on every side,”
Boy, that blows Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, right off the TV screen. Why doesn’t that health and wealth crowd buy a Bible to read and see just what the word of God has to say? Because they’re getting rich off of organized religion, and they wouldn’t trade all they have for the true riches.
Look again at what Paul said, “we are troubled on every side,” Are you a greater man than Paul? Are you more righteous than Paul, are you smarter than Paul? Are you used of God more than Paul or as much as Paul? I think not. Paul did not even allow himself to consider any righteousness of his own, but rejoiced in the righteousness wherewith he had been clothed upon with by the grace of God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Yet Paul professes that he is troubled in this verse. Through study, you will find that the word troubled here means to be crowded, rubbed, in a rut, on the worn track.
We see in these next few lines some things which cannot be avoided. We also see some things which can be avoided, and some which can be confidently expected.
Some things which cannot be avoided are troubles. We are troubled on every side. He said, there is no way to avoid troubles. They will come. They are coming; they are already assuredly guaranteed us by the word of God. We shall have tribulation, persecution, troubles. As before stated, the word troubled in this verse has more than one application. It means to be crowded or in tight quarters. It means to be so tightly surrounded that you find movement to be very difficult. The illustration has been often used of a crowd of people walking off a cliff; and one person in the midst of the crowd, changing direction and fighting to travel against the tide. And with great difficulty. Can one travel the other way? That is, being a Christian in the true sense of the word. The majority of all mankind is marching head-long into hell and a Christian finds that his path is straight and narrow, and it leads us right through the middle of a crowded world. Many will say to you that we all are going the same direction. So we should go together. Well, I say that we are not going to the same place, or we would not have bumped into each other. Sometimes there are things in our lives and the crowd tries to close in on us to prevent our turning away. It gets hard sometimes.
It also means to be rubbed. It never fails that when things get tight and travel becomes difficult that there is some friction. Pushing through life in this world crowded with men who love their sin, there will be friction. We will be subject to heated responses by those about us who don’t like our lifestyle. Many will not like our soft speech in some situations. And many will not like our sweet dispositions. If you’re trying to live right in this infected, loathsome world, will be the subject of some heated discussions, as well as the victim of some heated attacks. Friction cannot be avoided when there’s movement in a tight situation.
Sometimes we feel were in a rut. Sometimes that is exactly where we find ourselves: in a rut. Sometimes we wind up in a rut of our own making. We load ourselves down with too much to do, try to take on too much responsibility for ourselves and wind up in a rut so deep that we can’t see any way out. Then we must look upward to the light at the top. While, at other times would find ourselves in a rut, or pit that someone else has dug for us. These however are not at all hard to come out of. While those that we dig for ourselves usually hurt someone else who is following close behind us, only to be deserted when we climb out and go on again, alone. God help us not to be digging pits for ourselves because they will without doubt trap some other poor soul along the way.
Sometimes we feel that we are on a worn track. Boy! isn’t that almost paradoxical? A worn track! Isn’t it amazing that a person who is living for God feels that he is on a rough road? If you’re saved, and living for God. You are leaving, or walking on the road less traveled. While broad is the way and wide is the gate that leads to destruction, straight is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life everlasting. And the Bible says, (our Lord says)”few there be that find it.” But as for the broad way, “Many there be which go in there at.” Knowing this, why is the narrow way so rough? I don’t know; but this road that is traveled by few is a rough road. Bridges are washed away by the raging waters of humanity, forcing us to wade through many a flood. The road is pitted and potholed by times of tremendous heartache and pain caused us by those who travel the other way; and it is crowded closely on either side. So many are so close to this way that they need move only a bit to make an about-face and begin going the other way. Instead, however, they throw things into the path before us to hinder us make our lives harder.
People want to follow the narrow way, but dodge the rough places. You can’t do that, you will travel through the rough places for the way is narrow, there is no way around; unless you’re going the wrong direction. This way, this narrow way is not worn from use, but from a lack of it. That is why it a worn track, worn by time and lack of use.
Troubles are some of those things that cannot be avoided. We will be troubled.
Perplexity is another thing that can not be avoided. There are sometimes things which arise in our lives which we find to be perplexing. What is perplexity? Perplexity means to be uncertain; there are definitely times in our lives that God leads us in some direction which perplexes us. We want to say “God, are you sure about this? You know, it might work out better if I do this.” Oh, perplexity! It is true that God sometimes leads us into some perplexing situations. Now, certainly, we know that God will not lead us into sin. He will not lead us into error, but sometimes we are uncertain. God told Moses to speak to a rock, and Moses was perplexed. He said that surely the people would think he was crazy if he started talking to a rock. They were already wondering about him, “this man brought us out here into the wilderness to die of thirst and now he’s over yonder talking to a rock!” Why, Moses thought they would have had him commited. So in his moment of perplexity, Moses disobeyed God and smote the rock. Perplexity! There was another man in acts 9:13, 14 who was perplexed by God’s command. God told Ananias to go to Saul of Tarsus, for he was praying. Ananias was perplexed. He wanted to let God know, just in case God didn’t know who this, Saul of Tarsus was. Can’t you imagine what Ananias would have thought? No doubt he was perplexed, “Lord, I know you know everything; but Lord, just in case you may have forgotten, this man is a known murderer, just looking for another chance. I’m afraid maybe you just haven’t thought this thing through, you sure about this, Lord?” We would have been the same way; “Lord, you sure about this?” Oh, yes, we are sometimes perplexed. Sometimes we fail as Moses did in smiting the rock, yet sometimes we are faithful, in that we follow-through as God leads us, and look what a blessing for Ananias. Perplexity: to be puzzled. Very often I’m exactly that. Puzzled! Why would God leave heaven and go to the cross for someone like me? Why would God continue to give me direction? The way I fail him, time after time? My failures far outweigh my successes if the tale is told. But still, God guides me patiently along through the dark times, through the times of confusion in which I don’t know which way to go. He has never led anyone to the darkness and kicked them off alone, saying, “you’re on your own honey, see you on the other side.” No, God never does that, but patiently goes before and calls to us, “This way.”
Sometimes, we are perplexed as David was when he said, “Why doeth the wicked prosper?” It is a poser to see how some wicked men can be so successful and so, seemingly, blessed. It is puzzling to see how things seem to work in favor of evil men. Upon close examination, you may not think them prosperous at all. Abraham told a rich man that he’d had his good things in this life, but now Abraham said, “thou art tormented.” (Luke 15), but Lazarus, who was a poor beggar was comforted: And when David went to the house of God. He saw the end of the wicked he was then able to rejoice again.
Something else which cannot be avoided is persecution. We will, contrary to so much of the popular teaching in our day, suffer persecution. The true Christian suffers persecution that often is not seen as such. In being kind to the world-lings who cross our path, we often draw persecution from religious people for being so easy to get along with. We are accused of being liberal, weak and afraid. And that same crowd will accuse you of being legalistic and obnoxious if you confront them about sin. Common sense tells us that you can’t condemn a lost man for being lost. It doesn’t make sense to expect a non-Christian to act like a Christian. It would make about as much sense as spanking my six-year-old son for not being able to drive. It can not scold the ignorance of one who has never learned.
Persecution also comes at us from our families who may not understand some of the things that we do; From strangers whom we witness to, From those whose doors we not knock on to invite them to church. We do suffer persecutions and we will suffer persecution. I’ve been cursed and mocked, made fun of and heckled while trying to preach. This is nothing less than the fulfillment of scripture. “Yea, and all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
We do have to face some things in our lives which cannot be avoided. Upon examination, you’ll find that these things are all outward. We will suffer, we will be buffeted and we will be persecuted from without. These things can not be avoided. There are some things in our lives, however, which many Christians could avoid if they simply would. Many suffer in ways that they need not to.
One of the things which can be avoided is distress. To be distressed means to be in mental pain or anguish. Of course, many of the things we must face are painful. Our feelings are hurt and our lives may be forever thronged by trials, perplexity, and persecution. Distress as it is here spoken of in the text before us is much more than hurt feelings. It is much more than a few tears or shouts. This is a wound to the heart from which we may never recover. I have seen men who seemed to be of the strongest sort succumb to their own sympathy and allow a wound which would’ve healed, given time and the grace of God, destroy them. [Such a wound is the loss of a precious child], which can develop into deep depression and an individual can slowly sink away into a pit from which they see no way out. The result in such a situation is often the taking of one’s own life. I’ve seen it happen to some precious people. Christian people are not free from this danger. It plagues God’s people. We must remember that we can cast all our cares upon him for he careth for us. There is no trial that God cannot help us through. There is no pain that God cannot cure. There is no wound that God cannot heal. We have no need of being distressed. We need not become engrossed in mental anguish and mental pain. The God of heaven is waiting to hear the wounded cry of his children and he will see us through. Another thing which can be avoided is despair. Distress is a problem which develops and grows as a result of our own unwillingness to face our troubles and bring them before God for help. Distress is a situation that we have to allow ourselves to slowly sink into. Despair. On the other hand, as a result of realizing that you were in a situation in which there seems to be no hope at all for your escape. You’ve tried every means at your disposal to escape the situation, done all that, you know to do. And all to no avail. Paul and a companion had reached the place at which they despaired even of their very lives. It is at times like these, would we have finally quit trying in our own selves, by our own craftiness to deliver ourselves from our troubles that God works his greatest miracles. When we can do nothing, nothing is too hard for God.
It would be a great blessing for us if we could learn this one thing. To despair of yourself or your own power are good to do, but we who are born again need never despair of God.
To despair, means to give up, or to lose hope; That we need never do. The battle is the Lord’s, so let him fight and despair not, for God will make a way. Yes, I often despair of my own self, but I need never despair the outcome. A wonderful illustration of this fact is Paul’s shipwreck. On the journey to Rome, after doing all they could do and finally despairing of self, the men on board look toward the one who believed that it would be just as God had said. Loosing the rudder bands, hoisting the main sail, they were giving up on their own efforts. Yet Paul had not despaired of God; He had not despaired the outcome, only his own power.
In a sense, “I am tired of trying, God, I’m giving up, but only to you. I am hoping only in you and yeild myself to your will.”
We need not lose hope for, “the Lord is my shepherd.” Because of this we know that we will never be forsaken.