Struck Down But Not Destroyed

Posted: October 17, 2016 in Uncategorized

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed   2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Paul wrote these words telling the church at Corinth what preaching and teaching the Gospel is costing them.  The apostles were afflicted, crushed, perplexed, persecuted and struck down, but not destroyed. They truly risked their lives and ultimately died just to tell the simple story of the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ.  We have access to the Bible and know the Gospel, but we have been so desensitized in America that it doesn’t seem to carry as much weight in our lives as it did to the men and women back then. We have lost track of the Gospel and we need to rediscover the joy and even the weight of the Gospel as well as a desire to make disciples.

In Acts chapter 5 there is an amazing story of the apostles and their seriousness for the Gospel and the command to make disciples.  Starting in verse 12 of Acts chapter 5 we see the apostles doing many signs and wonders, people were being healed and people were being saved.  Verse 14 says more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.  The Apostles were creating an uproar in the name of Jesus and the high priest and all that were with him didn’t like it, so they put the apostles in public prison (v. 17,18).

The apostles are in prison for preaching the Gospel and during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out. He told them to go and stand in the temple and preach the Gospel (v. 19-20)! What did they do? They were already in prison for preaching and proclaiming the name of Christ, now they find themselves free. What would they do? Verse 21 tells us they entered the temple and began to teach.  There is no talk of fleeing the scene and seeking their freedom, there is no talk of turning back. The apostles were obedient to what they were told and began to teach.  What would the modern Christian in America do at this point? What would I do? Would I stay and teach? Would I run? What would I do?

As we see the story progress, the high priest sends for the apostles.  When the officers approached the jail cell they found it locked with guards standing at the entrance.  When they opened the doors the cell was empty! They were gone! Someone would eventually tell them that the apostles were in the temple teaching the people again! The same thing they were put in prison for in the first place, they are now doing again! In fear of the people causing an uproar, the officers gently brought the apostles before the high priest.  The high priest said “we strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. “(v. 28) Now what? What would you do now? Your standing before the high priest and he’s got you again! What do you do? What would I do? Verse 29 says “But Peter and the apostles answered, we must obey God rather than men.”

The apostles know that this life is meant to obey God, not man, please God and not man.  Somehow in America we have gotten it backwards.  We tend to please man and not God, or to obey man and not God.  We tend to exalt man’s opinions, thoughts, actions and look up to these people and model our lives after them, instead of modeling our lives after scripture and the God of the Bible.  I have lived this way before. I have sought to please man and not God and it always ended in destruction, because as a Christian I know that my life isn’t built on man, or this world or the things of this world.  My life is built on the solid rock of Jesus Christ and any attempt to please or obey man and not God is the perfect opportunity to jump off the rock and build a small shack on the sand that ends in total devastation and loss.  Why? Because I’m not designed to live for man, I’m designed to live for God, give Him glory and enjoy him always.  The apostles got it right.  They knew that God was exalted and they lived their life proving that to everyone around them.  Even when imprisoned, they lived to please God and share the Gospel.

The story goes on to tell us that after they preached the Gospel again to the high priests and all of the officers and officials, the high priest wanted to kill them.  Here they are fresh out of prison, continuing to do what they were told not to and now they are all threatened to be killed for simply preaching the Gospel.  The apostles were willing to die for this Gospel.  Why? They knew the importance of making disciples and seeing men and women come to faith in Jesus Christ and cross over from death to life.  How is that working in our lives? We live in such a fast paced world that we go throughout most of our day not even thinking about where the people we come across stand with Jesus.  Do they know him? Does He know them? Are they saved, do they even know? We don’t think these things, we simply think about what we need, where we are going, what we are going to do when we get there, what we are going to eat for lunch, etc… For many of us the command to make disciples is not at the forefront of our mind on a daily basis like I believe it was for the apostles.

The apostles are about to die for preaching the Gospel until one man stands up and says “be careful how you deal with these men.” He gives them examples of people that have come along before and claimed to be something only to result in failure or something that never came to fruition.  He tells the people that if their plan or their undertaking is of man, it will fail; if it is of God, they will not be able to overthrow them. They might even be found opposing God! (V. 38-39). This man stood up and said be careful, this will either die out or you will be found opposing God.  How often do we see this in our culture? We are found at time opposing God by our lifestyle and the choices we make, we seek to live our lives by doing what makes us happy, what makes others happy and not what makes God happy.  How many times have we seen in our own lives, a moment of living for self or others die out and fail? And anytime we live for God and seek Him there is no failure, only a satisfying joy deep within our souls that only comes from God himself because we did what was right, regardless of the outcome.  Much like the apostles in the story, they did what was right, regardless of the outcome.

As the story goes, we see they high priest take this man’s advice.  However, the apostles were beaten and charged not to speak in the name of Jesus anymore! (V. 40). The apostle’s lives were spared, but they were beaten for their faith! They were beaten for sharing the Gospel and threatened even further.  Verse 41 to me is a key verse in the story and one that convicts me to the core.  “Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.” The apostles didn’t leave trembling, fearing for their lives.  They left rejoicing! Rejoicing at the fact that they were considered worthy to suffer!

Many of us want the benefits of serving and following Jesus. We want the forgiveness, the healings, the redemption of our life from the pit, the love and mercy we receive and the renewal we receive from God himself.  His benefits are great! We want the benefits, but we don’t want to suffer like Jesus did. Romans 8:16-17 says this. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.  As Christians, to be glorified like Christ means we must suffer like Christ.  In other words, we want the benefits, but we don’t want to suffer the persecution. The apostles rejoiced in the fact that they were counted worthy yet we are scared to say the name Jesus in fear of being laughed at!

We have a priority problem in America that we need to rediscover.  Our first priority much like the apostles is giving God glory in all that we do.  From there we must build each other up and evangelize the world, teach the Gospel without fear, without shame, with all boldness and dedication to the Word of God that commands us to make disciples, even if it means we suffer for it, even if it means we will lose our life.  As we suffer, we should rejoice knowing that we are counted worthy to suffer for the name of Christ.

This brings me to the end of the story in Acts chapter 5.  What did the apostles do after they rejoiced? They kept teaching the Gospel.  They went from house to house teaching and preaching the name of Jesus Christ. (V. 42). No man was going to keep them from proclaiming the name of Jesus, teaching the Gospel and making disciples.  They took their calling serious.  So should we, regardless of what it costs us.  Paul says in Philippians 1:21 “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” No matter what it cost us to follow Jesus and proclaim the Gospel, it pales in comparison to what God has in store for us in eternity.

I want to encourage you to die too self and live for Christ. We may be afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

 

In Christ,

Steven Dew

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