Therefore, seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not. — 2 Corinthians 4:1
A while back, my sister decided to remove the aging wallpaper on the second-floor walls of her home. However, when she began to strip the paper from one of the walls, it was obvious that the bare sheetrock had not been properly prepared. Chunks of wall came off with the paper, leaving rough patches and divots in the wall. Several rooms were involved, so this was clearly no quick and easy fix.
Seeing the volume of work ahead of her did not seem to deter my sister in the least — she chose to repair the walls herself. Over the ensuing weeks, whenever she had a little spare time, she would remove a strip of wallpaper, patch the damaged wall underneath, and then prime the newly-repaired section. This was an intimidating task, so to stay encouraged she would challenge herself to work just an hour or two at a time. After all, moving her project ahead ever so slowly still counted as forward motion! Eventually one room, and then two, were done and painted a new hue. In the end, what a difference her steady efforts made! The walls were beautifully transformed. Although the work was tedious, the results proved to be well worth the effort.
My sister’s remodeling process is similar to the way we grow as Christians. After we have received our foundational Christian experiences, we will continue to make spiritual progress if we “faint not.” While we may desire to grow by leaps and bounds, perhaps baby steps are more realistic. That way, each step of new spiritual territory is thoroughly understood, and future precepts will be based on previous understanding.
When we ask God what He would like us to do personally, He may point us in any of numerous directions that feel like new territory. Some people will be used in the music ministry, where lessons and practice help develop their talents. Others will have opportunities to minister one-on-one with individuals: children, the sick, or those who have lost a loved one. The Lord may suggest, “Why don’t you go speak a friendly word to this lonely person?” Or, “Go pray with the Sunday school child at the altar.” Still others keep the Gospel moving forward by cleaning the church, assembling printed material for distribution, or doing yard maintenance, where the challenge could be the endless and invisible nature of the job.
The enemy of your soul will attempt to discourage you and make you think your efforts count for little. But remember: faint not! The Lord will honor your faithfulness as you labor in His strength. Hudson Taylor, the famous missionary to China, once said, “All God’s giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on Him being with them.”
In any avenue we are pointed toward, a measure of persistence is required. There are always new lessons to learn and abilities to develop. Asking the Lord to teach us what to say and when to say it is the key to success. We want the Lord to guide in each undertaking so that our contribution is directed of Him and meets a real need, whether it is food, comfort, encouragement, or a helping hand.
The challenges may seem difficult at times, but remember, “. . . as we have received mercy, we faint not.” Let us not allow the immensity of needs to overwhelm us. We can make our own contribution to the Gospel, even if it seems insignificant. After all, any motion forward is moving in the right direction.
This chapter speaks of keeping on; not giving up. The author, Paul the Apostle, was not discouraged when he ran into difficulties. Maintaining the perspective that we all are recipients of God’s grace kept him full of courage when faced with troubles. He spoke of his challenges without self-pity, and his example of living Christianity was more powerful than mere words would have been. Paul spoke the truth clearly, with no craftiness or dishonesty, discharging his responsibility to the souls of his listeners.
“The god of this world” (verse 4), refers to Satan, the deceiver, whose work is to keep people from understanding the truth.
When Saul of Tarsus encountered the light on the road to Damascus, the resulting change in him was profound — so profound that even his name was changed. After that event, he never wavered from his mission of preaching the truth of the Gospel; he was forever committed. Paul encountered the “light of the knowledge of the glory of God,” which provided what he called in verse 7 as a “treasure in earthen vessels.”
The earthen vessel was symbolic of the outward man (verse 16), and referred to the frailty of the physical body. Human frames are fragile, easily broken, prone to weakness, and not always very lovely. The “inward man” referred to the spiritual person. Christians are “renewed day by day” because they bear a priceless, heavenly treasure within — God’s power and presence.
Paul used contrasts to emphasize his points to the Corinthians: death/life; hidden/manifested; earthen vessels/treasure; darkness/shining light; and fainting/renewed. His colorful writing was infused with word pictures, bringing spiritual concepts to life for the reader.
In spite of the numerous tribulations Paul faced, he maintained a positive outlook. He suffered inner stresses, persecutions, dangers, physical injuries, and trials, helping him to comprehend the suffering Jesus endured for each person. He considered these as a “light affliction,” when compared to the weighty and eternal reward which awaited him in Heaven.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The apology of the Apostle
B. The calling of Paul
3. The theme of the ministry: the new covenant
e. The ministry of the new covenant (4:1-6)
4. The sacrifice for the ministry (4:7-12)
5. The prospect of the ministry
a. Present distress (4:13-15)
b. Future reward
(1) Present encouragement (4:16-18)
This wonderful Gospel — a priceless treasure — has been entrusted to us. Let us continue to move forward, sharing the message, and the tribulations that assail us will not sway us from our goal: Heaven!