The Apostle Paul had his fair share of problems throughout his ministry. When he talks about being troubled on every side, he wasn’t figurative, he wasn’t waxing poetic, nor was he exaggerating.
He had it rough throughout his ministry. However, every time things appeared to be at their worst, the Lord provided a way to escape. Here are the verses that we’ll be having a look at:
2 Corinthians 4:
8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; 10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
Persecution from the World and God’s Saving Grace
Man’s (and Satan’s) attempts to foil the will of the Lord will, in one way or the other, end in persecution against the children of the Lord. It’s nothing new and has been going on since the beginning.
That isn’t to say that the Lord is sleeping or ignoring the plight of his children when these things happen. After all, when Saul, before his conversion, was faced with the glory of Christ Jesus, Jesus didn’t say, “Saul, why are you persecuting these people?” What he did say in Acts 9:4 was, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”
Jesus took it personally as an assault against him, not against different members of the church at that time. We, as the Body of Christ, should take solace in that simple sentence. Why? Well, if he’s taking our being persecuted for who we are in him personally, then he’s there personally with us as it is happening.
If the world hates you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
If he’s there with us, he will stay close and lend aid- which brings us to what Paul is talking about above.
Nothing Will be Impossible to You
Christ in us, the Hope of Glory, has created an abode within us through the Spirit of the Lord. We benefit from this for several different reasons, but when we are living by the Spirit of the Lord, we can fully grasp the gravity of his presence.
Among the many benefits is the assurance that we will meet a determined end. What that means is, when you’re number’s up, it’s time to go home and be with the Lord. When we’re living by the lead of the Spirit, it won’t happen a second sooner or later.
So how is that a benefit? Peace of mind, and encouragement that no matter what you might face, or what kind of persecution heads your way; if it’s the Lord’s will to take you home, then so be it. If not, then he will provide a means of escape for you- even if there doesn’t appear to be one. Again, the Apostle Paul is an example of this.
A Determined End
In Acts 21:11, Paul was given a warning by the Holy Ghost about being imprisoned by the Jews in Jerusalem, and being handed over to Gentiles. After this came to pass, he was also told by the Lord that he’d be testifying of him in Rome.
11 And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.
11 And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.
With Paul knowing what his destination is, do you think that he believed anything that man or beast could throw his way would change what the Lord told him? Attempts on his life, shipwreck, poisonous snake bites, you name it, he survived it. No matter what happened, he made it through until his time came.
The Lord’s will assured his survival, and whether he looked at it this way or not, nothing on the face of this earth was about to remove him from it. Even before the prophecies, anytime Paul was persecuted (even unto death in one circumstance), there was a way of escape. If there wasn’t a natural or physical means of escape, there was a supernatural means of escape.
However, he had to go through things that many of us never will. When the Lord provides a way of escape, it’s to escape from a fatal premature end, if we’ve not yet completed our race.
Now that we’ve entered these ideas into the equation let’s go back to what Paul had to say in 2 Corinthians 4 with these things in mind.
In Christ- Down is Never Out
In 2 Corinthians 4:8-10, Paul compares two different realities that he dealt with throughout his ministry. One reality is what was being suffered, and the other being the truth regardless of the suffering.
(Following definitions are from Lexico.com)
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed.
Troubled: Beset by problems or conflict.
Distressed: Suffering from anxiety, sorrow, or pain; impoverished
Being beset on every side reminds me of “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:” Psalm 23:5.
Have you ever been in a place where you were beset with trouble on every side? I have, and one thing I can confess is that I didn’t lack in anxiety, sorrow, or pain, from the troubles that figuratively surrounded me. Perhaps I’m not alone in that?
It’s easy to forget the Lord, or even blame the Lord when troubles come. When folks feel like life is spiraling out of control, nothing is going the way that they think it should, and there seems to be no way of escape, people will either turn to or against the Lord. Or they remove anything that they might know of the Word of the Lord and just assume God hates them for some reason.
There are so many different situations that I’ve been through over the years that seemed like a permanent problem that would never get fixed- or that there’d be no hope in sight. Most of the time, that perception was due to me being blinded to the plan of the Father. Anytime you can look back at a situation or trouble, it means that you’ve been brought through it successfully.
Having faith in the Father, and knowing full well that you are indeed going to get through the troubles that come and hem around you, removes all of the heaviness of heart that troubles can cause. Paul’s faith in the Lord to either see him through or take him (and being perfectly comfortable with either option) erased any possibility of falling into distress.
We are perplexed, but not in despair.
Perplexed: Completely baffled; very puzzled
Despair: The complete loss or absence of hope.
Just because we can’t figure a thing out, doesn’t mean that we should ever be without hope. So long as we have Christ Jesus, we have a solid foundation for hope.
Before Paul was given insight into his end by the Lord, he didn’t have any idea of what would come next. With every jarring situation he found himself in, he didn’t foreknow the solutions, nor the end result. But he did know who he served, to whom he belonged.
Nowhere in the Bible does it say that we must have all the answers to every situation. But it does say to rely on the one who does. Neither does it say that we must be strong enough to tackle everything that Satan throws our way. But it does say that the strength of the Lord is made perfect through our weakness.
2 Corinthians 12:
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
The power of God comes into play when we are beyond our physical, emotional, or mental capabilities. Some believers make the mistake of waiting on the Lord to do something that they could readily do themselves. The Father is in the business of making the impossible possible. He’ll help us to get through things, but he won’t do what he’s equipped us to do ourselves.
But when we’ve hit that wall of weakness, where possible begins to erode away, his strength bridges that gap. It’s the Lord’s strength that Paul relied on so readily when he became perplexed. The lack of disparity was evident through his faith- which is the evidence of things hoped for. If there’s faith, then there’s no lack of hope, no despair.
Persecuted, but not forsaken
Persecuted: Subject (someone) to hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of their race, political or religious beliefs. Harass or annoy (someone) persistently.
Forsaken: Abandoned or deserted.
Because this world hates the Lord, followers of the Lord will suffer persecution. In fact, we’re promised persecution from the world, because the world only loves its own. But despite this, Jesus promised us that he would neither leave us nor forsake us, and nobody knew that better than the early disciples.
5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
Either during or after persecution, faith and feelings begin to get into an argument. Faith tells us that we will never be forsaken by the Lord, while at the same time, feelings say, “well, I feel pretty forsaken right now!”
Feelings and emotions are best when used and kept in check by the Word of God. If your feelings are telling you that you’ve been forsaken, there’s a good chance that you’re being lied to spiritually by something wicked that only your spirit or soul can hear. Or, you make the mistake of being ruled by your feelings rather than ruling your feelings.
Either way, the Word of the Lord remains true despite how we feel, and if the Lord says that he’ll not forsake us, then he won’t. Yes, we may have to go through some things, but that doesn’t mean that we’ve been abandoned or ditched by the Lord.
When Paul suffered shipwreck, was he railing to the Lord saying things like, “How could you let this happen? Where are you in this? Why is this happening to me?” No.
He rolled with every punch knowing full well that God was with him. It’s easy for us with things like this in the Bible because we can read on and see that Paul was fine, and had to spend a little time on an island until they could leave.
We know that Paul is going to be okay when we read about him being beaten nearly to death earlier on in his ministry. Paul didn’t have that luxury at the time, just as we don’t have that luxury about our own immediate future.
But if we can lean on the Lord to the extent that we know without a shadow of a doubt that he is right there with us no matter what is going on, we can get through persecution with a different and better state of mind. Dare I say, the mind of Christ.
Cast down, but not destroyed
It’s not over till it’s over. The strength of the Lord prevents us from being destroyed, no matter how hard we’re cast down. And regardless of how far down we’ve been cast, the Lord will lift us back up.
3 But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.
10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
This reminds me of King David. If anyone could have been destroyed after having been cast down, it could have been him. His own son led a rebellion against him, and to make short of it, drove David from everything he had. He went from being King of a prosperous nation to being driven away, to be insulted and shamed.
But- he wasn’t destroyed. He had to fight and scrape, but he was elevated once again into prominence, guided by the hand of the Lord the whole time. Lifted up to the point where we’re still reading and talking about him today in the Word of the Lord, thousands of years later.
The Lord preserves us until it’s time to go. Up until that point, we’re down but never out. And even in the end, we’re not destroyed.
For believers, we don’t get destroyed; we move from glory to glory. We go from being born again Spirit-filled children of God, to passing from the flesh and brought to the homeland- Heaven itself to be with the Father.
Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
Every moment that passed, Jesus was in danger of being killed, or imprisoned and put to death, through the many things that he said and did. The same is true for the disciples as well. Not that anyone was breaking any laws, but because of what they preached.
Jesus preached that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, and provoked the religious authority of the day due to their waywardness from God’s Word, and multiple hypocrisies. He did everything to the letter of the law and by the mouth of the Father, which infuriated many who sought to kill him. Throughout the entirety of his ministry- even throughout his life, he knew that he was going to die as a lamb to the slaughter.
In fact, knowledge of what he had to do drove Jesus to sweat blood due to the duress of what he knew was coming.
44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
When persecution, perplexity, trouble, or being cast down takes place in our lives while we walk in the Lord, we are experiencing just a small minute fraction of a taste of what Jesus went through before his crucifixion.
But as we might always bear in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, at least as is our portion, the life of Jesus is made manifest in us. Life, in this case, is a post-crucifixion kind of life. The type of life that is only possible through being born again and having the Spirit of the Lord dwelling within us at all times.
Are we guilty of counting ourselves out before the Lord does?
Do we fall prey to feelings rather than reliance on the Word of God?
Do we not trust the Word of God enough to believe it when it looks like we shouldn’t?
Our Father is a loving and caring Father, that uses everything that happens to us for our own spiritual growth, and to bring us further along in his plan for our lives. We may not understand it at the time and might begin to feel that the Lord isn’t with us anymore. But if we’re on the right track according to his Word, then he is indeed with us and has not forsaken us.
If anything, we’re the ones guilty of forsaking him! We are the ones who stray from his will and all the warnings of what not to do, yet do them anyway. Then we wonder where the Lord is and why he seems so separated from your situation. Then we wonder, “Why us?”
If we’re the ones who stray from him and trouble comes, that isn’t persecution or anything else we’ve talked about in this article. That would either be the wages of sin, or consequences of following after the flesh rather than the Father.
But praise the Lord, he’s just a prayer away in those circumstances and will lend aid to a repentant heart.
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- Supernatural Truth about Persecution
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- Daily Inspiration from Proverbs 17 P. 237 – A Broken Spirit
- Daily Inspiration from Proverbs 11 P.111 – Hope in the Lord