By Peeter Lukas
“You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”
~ 2 Cor. 1:11
As a child I didn’t have or read stories of Biblical heroes like David, Samson, or Paul. But I do remember reading and loving Greek mythology, with characters like Zeus, Hermes, Titan, and Antaeus. Who needed Marvel or D.C. comics? Antaeus was the son of the sea god Poseidon and the earth goddess Gaea. He was a combative god and vanquished everyone who dared cross his path. His secret weapon was that when struck to the ground, Gaea, his “mother earth”, would renew his strength. Hercules discovered this and finally killed him by holding Antaeus in the air.
In the opening chapters of 2 Corinthians Paul is transparent with his labors as an evangelist, teacher, pastor, and church planter. In chapter 1, he says “For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.” (v8,9)
In chapter 4 he says, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus,…” (v8-10) And later in the same chapter he says this: “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.” (v16-18)
I’m sure we can see the upward trend in Paul’s experience within these three passages. He realistically called Christians “jars of clay.” He first despaired of life itself; then he says that he was afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down, though not crushed or driven to despair or forsaken or destroyed; and he finally sees it all as being light and passing when compared to the eternal weight of glory to come.
Overwhelmed? A “ying” of overwhelmed with a “yang” of not so bad? It’s all good? Paul, which is it for you (and for us)? Are these things good or bad? And the answer, of course, would be “Yes.”
All his trials produced the same result: “But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead (1:9)…always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies (4:10)… is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. (4:17)”
“Death” for Jesus’ sake brought life to the Apostle. Or as Jonathan Edwards once said, “Thus there is a difference between having an opinion that God is holy and gracious, and having a sense of the loveliness and beauty of that holiness and grace. There is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet, and having a sense of its sweetness.”
The trials of a pastor’s life are many (and yes, “especially in these days” should be added to that). Dear Brethren, continue to pray for our pastors. Antaeus drew his strength from “Mother Earth”, but his life was a myth. What is true is that every “death” our pastors live is one that can renew their souls. Pray that they can better have a sense of the sweetness of the loveliness of Christ, that they would be able to say with the apostle “we have set our hope that he will deliver us again…so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh…and we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.” And with George Whitfield, “We are immortal until our work on earth is done.”
And as we pray may we be drawn into the bigger story of 2 Cor.4:12 – “So death is at work in us, but life in you.” And of 2 Cor.1:11 – “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”
Pray for God’s blessing upon their lives and ministries, and your own lives will be blessed.