Friday, March 7, 2008

DOWN—BUT NOT OUT!

We have launched into our study of Second Corinthians for our Spring Quarter Bible Class. Our first lesson is from 2 Corinthians 1:1-11.

"You seem to imagine that I have no ups and downs, but just a level and lofty stretch of spiritual attainment with unbroken joy and equanimity. By no means! I am often perfectly wretched and everything appears most murky.”

So wrote the man who was called in his day “The Greatest Preacher in the English-speaking World”—Dr. John Henry Jowett. He pastored leading churches, preached to huge congregations, and wrote books that were bestsellers.

“I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to.”

Those words were spoken in a sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon whose marvelous ministry in London made him perhaps the greatest preacher England ever produced.

Discouragement is no respecter of persons. In fact, discouragement seems to attack the successful far more than the unsuccessful; for the higher we climb, the farther down we can fall. We are not surprised then when we read that the great Apostle Paul was “pressed out of measure” and “despaired even of life” (2 Cor. 1:8). Great as he was in character and ministry, Paul was human just like the rest of us.

What was Paul’s secret of victory when he was experiencing pressures and trials? His secret was God. When you find yourself discouraged and ready to quit, get your attention off of yourself and focus it on God. Out of his own difficult experience, Paul tells us how we can find encouragement in God.

God has to work in us before He can work through us. It is much easier for us to grow in knowledge than to grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18). Learning God’s truth and getting it into our heads is one thing, but living God’s truth and getting it into our character is quite something else.

God in His grace gives us what we do not deserve, and in His mercy He does not give us what we do deserve.


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