Devotions for 2 Corinthians 4:1-15
May 30-June 5, 2016
Monday, May 30, 2016
“We do not lose hear” (2 Corinthians 4:1).
A portrait of courage, tenacity and determination was painted for all to see at the recent Invictus Games that were played in Orlando, Florida May 8th-12th. Wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women demonstrated their achievements in competition. It was a sight to behold. Prince Harry reflected, “These Games have shone a spotlight on the ‘unconquerable’ character of service men and women, their families and their ‘Invictus’ spirit. These Games have been about seeing guys sprinting for the finish line and then turning round to clap the last man in. They have been about teammates choosing to cross the line together, not wanting to come second, but not wanting the other guys to either. These Games have shown the very best of the human spirit.”
Paul discovered that proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ and planting Christian fellowship in Asia and Greece were not easy tasks. Paul was mocked, rejected and attacked. The cold, hunger and physical exertion from travel were constants in his life. Results were meager and slow to appear. Conflicts erupted in established fellowships and threatened to undo Paul’s hard work. Still, Paul continued his mission. He had been called to be an apostle. Paul threw himself into his calling and he did not lose heart.
Our tasks as disciples of Jesus are no less daunting than Paul’s. We too are called to proclaim the gospel and share God’s love and grace through our words and actions. We do this in a society that is enslaved to materialism and technology. The church is embattled—people are upset by it, bored with it or antagonistic toward it. As disciples of Jesus, though, we do not throw our hands up in despair and give up. We do not lose heart trusting that the Holy Spirit will use us to make a difference in people’s lives and in the world.
God of Steadfast Love, we confess that we are tired and tempted to give up. Inspire within us the spirit of Invictus that we see in the wounded warriors and Paul. Amen.
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
“We refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word” (2 Corinthians 4:2).
Congregations and denominations are worried about the declining worship attendance. Fewer and fewer people are identifying themselves as “Christian.” Conferences, seminars and workshops have been scheduled in order to address the situation. Some congregations have decided to tackle the problem with rock bands and PowerPoint Presentations. Others have sought to increase the liturgical experience with incense, gaudy vestments and bigger pipe organs. Several pastors have attracted large crowds with the theme, “follow Jesus and be Prosperous.” Paul wrote that he would not practice cunning or falsify God’s word. What would Paul say about our modern day religious practices?
It might be good to pause and ask ourselves why we are disciples of Jesus. Is it because of the drums and guitars? Is it the pastor’s sermons or the beautiful paraments and banners? Of course our faith is the work of the Holy Spirit. Could our discipleship be a response to a loving God and a desire to live in a relationship with such a God? Perhaps we identify ourselves as Christians because Jesus’ call to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow him rings true to us as the path to a meaningful and abundant life. God’s presence, strength and comfort in the midst of tough times may have drawn us closer to God, also.
The gospel message remains the same, “For God so loved the world ….” This truth when conveyed through our words and actions is still powerful and has the ability to transform lives.
Mighty Savior, empower us to share your good news creatively, lovingly, boldly with the people around us. Amen.
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
“The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 4:4b).
Millennia may have past but some things don’t change. The glitz and glamor of the world still blinds people from seeing the gospel and the noise deafens them to the gospel message. False gods are still worshiped in the vain hope that they will give us control, security and comfort. We are discontent with whatever we have; we always want more. We work hard to serve the gods of this world and to obtain what they have to offer—so hard that we have little time for anything else.
The god of this world is certainly a concern as we seek to effectively proclaim the gospel of Jesus and share God’s love and grace with our family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. The glitz and glamor of the world poses another concern for us, too. Does the world draw us away from God and compromise our lives as disciples of Jesus? Does our quest for security keep us from sharing our blessings? Does our desire to fit in silence our witness? Does the noise of everyday life deafen us to God’s voice?
The attractions of the world are very powerful. The might of the Holy Spirit is even more powerful. The Spirit still draws us into a life where we walk with God and serve God by loving the people around us.
Spirit of God descend upon our hearts. Wean them from earth through all our pulses move. Stoop to our weakness mighty as thou art, and make us love you as we ought to love. Amen.
Thursday, June 2, 2016
“We proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5).
Children sing it in Sunday school, “I love Jesus, does he know ….” We sing it in our songs and hymns of worship, “I love you Lord, and I lift my voice ….” “Love God” is commanded by street preachers on soap boxes. We share the fact that we love God with our family and close friends. Paul did the same thing. He proclaimed Jesus as Lord—not only Lord of the world, but Lord of his life and object of his love.
Rarely does the second half of Paul’s statement, “and your slaves for Jesus sake,” get communicated. Slaves is a powerful word. We aren’t servants, like butlers and maids, who get paid to serve and can stop serving if they desire. We are slaves. Our service is a result of our situation in life—it is part of who we are. We do not even serve as equals because slaves are subservient to their masters.
In ancient times people became slaves because of war (their side lost), because of poverty (they were sold into slavery) or because of birth. More recently people became slaves because of the color of their skin or their gender. We are slaves for “Jesus sake.” We have been conquered by the love of God, overwhelmed by God’s grace and empowered by the Holy Spirit. We are the slaves of others because we are disciples of Jesus.
Lord of lords, we love you. Grant us opportunities to proclaim that you are Lord by serving as slaves to those around us. Amen.
Friday, June 3, 2016
“We have this treasure in clay jars” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
Martha was known far and wide for the flowers she grew. Her greenhouse was resplendent with gorgeous flowers of all shapes and sizes. Each of those flowers was planted in a plain Terra-cotta pot. Some of the pots were cracked and others were stained, but no one noticed because the focus of their attention was on the beautiful flowers that the pots contained.
Paul uses the metaphor of a clay pot to describe the life of a disciple of Jesus. Certainly we want to grow, to display the fruit of the Spirit and to be molded into God’s image. We also want to use our gifts and talents in the best way possible. Still it is important for us to always remember that we are not the gorgeous plants, but rather the clay pots. Our purpose is not to puff up ourselves. Instead we have the privilege of holding the treasure of the gospel of Jesus for all to see.
Almighty God, it is a privilege to be used by your Spirit as clay pots. Forbid that our lives would ever detract from the value and beauty of your treasure. Amen.
Saturday, June 4, 2016
“We are afflicted in every way but not crushed” (2 Corinthians 4:8).
Life is filled with its ups and downs. We live for the laughter of a child, conversations with good friends, awe-inspiring panoramas and hugs from people we love. We live through the disappointments, failures, betrayals, dashed dreams and struggles of life. We can identify with Paul when he says that he was afflicted in every way but not crushed—there have been those days.
The fact that we are here today reading a devotion on 2 Corinthians indicates that like Paul we may have been afflicted but we were not crushed. No matter how bad the situations were in our lives, we survived them. As we look back on those times, we realize how active God really was. The Holy Spirit offered us strength, comfort, peace, hope and may have even provided one of those “divine coincidences” that helped resolve the situation.
God has been our help in times past. Today we step out in faith trusting that God will continue to move in our lives as God has done in the past. Whatever the day may hold, we will not be crushed. With God’s power we shall overcome.
Powerful Lord, may our fear of what may happen be countermanded by our faith that you are with us and you are powerfully a part of our lives. Amen.
Sunday, June 5, 2016
“Always carrying in the body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible” (2 Corinthians 4:10).
Paul suffered hardships and struggled with relationships with the Corinthians. It wasn’t easy but Paul did so because he understood that God would use those struggles to breathe life into the Christians in Corinth. The Lord was powerful enough to be able to create good and life, out of bad and death.
Raul coached a team of rowdy pre-adolescents. He enjoyed it, but it took a lot of time and effort. Raul spent extra time with the boys getting to know them and building relationships. He wanted the team to be able to win games, but more than that he wanted his players to understand what it meant to be team players and to catch a glimpse of what it meant to be men. Raul trusted that his efforts would produce the results he wanted. Carol spent time visiting the residents in two assisted living facilities. She enjoyed her ministry, but it took hard work, dedication and a certain tenacity to develop helpful relationships with the residents. Carol would confess to anyone that if she didn’t believe that her efforts made a difference in the lives of the elderly she wouldn’t continue. Carol knew, though, that life comes from hard work and struggle.
We live with the same hope that Paul, Raul and Carol had. The challenges of the day may be daunting. We believe, though, that the Holy Spirit will use our words and actions as we seek to share God’s love and grace and bring new life to the people we serve.
Ever present Lord, work through us to bring new life to others. Amen.