Much earlier, in 9/17 Ruminations I: God of some or God of all? I tried to articulate the first of two thoughts that came upon my heart and mind today. In honouring my promise to speak to the second, I hereby write.
The “culprit”, the thought provoker is 2 Corinthian 4: 8 – 9…
In my devotion this morning the passage above was the text for consideration and meditation
I used The Kenneth Taylor’s Living Bible version this morning. It renders it this way:
“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed and broken. We are perplexed because we don’t know why things happen as they do, but we don’t give up and quit.
We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going“
This is the apostle Paul reporting of the harsh conditions that have befallen himself and his team as they soldier on for the cause of the Gospel. He begins by saying that troubles “pressed” them on “every” side. And from his analysis, this attack was aimed at crushing them and breaking them. I learn from this that as is usual with troubles, they do not come one by one, often they come in company – “on every side”. And the aim is to crush us. It is to take life out of us or to break us; the aim of which is to make life itself not worth living. A broken spirit is not one to sustain a man.
Secondly, Paul speaks of being “perplexed”. Things happened to him and his team that all their earthly wisdom and spiritual discernment couldn’t interpret. They were just at a loss on some critical occasions. And although, they couldn’t understand the specific situation, they smelt the rat aright. They saw that this was to make them give up their agenda. It was so that they quit. And how so often lack of clarity makes us quit! We can’t make heads or tails of the prevailing condition so we back out. But what are we supposed to do in this case, especially so when time and resources are fast depleting? Paul and his team would stay on keeping the larger picture before them.
They were also “hunted down”. Now, this is more than pressures and perplexities; we have here raw persecution. They were hounded in the most literal sense of the word. They were the target of marksmen. And I find it instructive that unlike the first two cases were he goes “but we…”, this case called for the very hands of Divinity, “but God”; God was with them – “God never abandons us”. This tells me we have our responsibilities and limits. It is ours to refuse to be crushed and broken. It is ours to refuse giving up and quitting, but it is beyond us to guarantee our safety when hunted. It takes God Himself to handle that. Paul and his band learnt this from hindsight – more likely – but we have the privilege of an insight.
The last bit of exhortation was well-preserved for the last, “We get knocked down…” They touched the canvas on a few occasions. The blows were landed heavily and pummeling went beyond their power to stay sturdy or erect. They came down. Amazingly, they refused to be out though down. They refused to rule themselves out of the contest. For them, it was NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER. It was a fight to finish. They either conquer or be conquered. Reminds me of a pithy quote I read on a friend’s Facebook Timeline post, “The easier part is knocking me down. To keep me down, you’d need backup”. They didn’t come into the arena with a towel to throw in – “we get up again and keep going on”! Phew!
As I contemplated these verses I couldn’t but notice the word “but” occurring just as many times as the events. And this tells me of the resoluteness in the spirits of the men on the team. No matter the problem, they had a reason, a resolve to keep on. They were pressed on all sides, but…perplexed, but…hunted down, but…even knocked down, but… They were just indomitable! Like Roman soldiers of old, who burnt their ships upon arriving on enemy shores, the apostles didn’t give themselves a retreat option. They have shown me a secret to success in career, business, love relationships, and life. See it?
Lord, help us with such wisdom and grace!