One of the great paradoxes of the gospel in the life of the believer is that while he is always dying, yet he is also ever-living (2 Cor. 4:10). So Paul says the believer is (vv. 8-9) —
- afflicted, BUT not crushed
- perplexed, BUT not despairing
- persecuted, BUT not forsaken
- struck down, BUT not destroyed
All these various attacks and troubles are the attacks of death. They come about because of Christ (v. 10) — we are “always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus.” We are not dying because Christ’s death wasn’t adequate to keep us from dying, but we are dying through persecution and affliction and attack because the world hated Christ and because they hated Him, they hate us (Jn. 15:18-20). They tried to kill Him, so they try to kill us, His followers.
Yet it is in these death attacks that the life of Christ is manifested — “so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in your body” (v. 10). For the believer, no matter what deadly thing is done to him, the power of the gospel is manifested in and through him, transforming him into the likeness of Christ (v. 16).
In fact, there may be no better means for the life and power of the gospel to be manifested in us than through these attacks and troubles. How else will the world see the difference the power of Christ and His gospel makes in our life than when we suffer joyfully and well?
This truth provokes some questions for me today:
- Do I joyfully accept the sufferings of Christ that I endure in this world, or am I perpetually bent to escape suffering because I believe suffering is always bad?
- Do I rest in and appropriate gospel power when I am suffering? (If I am perpetually crushed, despairing, feeling forsaken and lonely, and destroyed, it is likely an indicator that I am living in the power of the flesh and not the Spirit and the gospel.)
- Do I seek to be transformed and renewed inwardly by my outward afflictions? Or do I value outward tranquility more than inward change?