Guard Your Heart By Not Losing Heart
I thank God that I have spent the majority of my adult life being healthy and energetic. My life motto is, “A body in motion stays in motion.” Other than the occasional sports incident, (muscle pulls, sprains, bicycle crashes) I have been blessed with good health, hardly remembering the last time I even had a cold or flu. However, the month of November changed all that. I had major reconstructive shoulder surgery and shortly thereafter contracted the virus. Talk about a double whammy! Although the prognosis for full recovery is good, the worst part is life coming to a screeching halt. Being a self-avowed, “impatient patient” I don’t know what’s worse, the pain of surgery or the stir craziness of the recovery? When you feel like your bullet proof one moment, and then suddenly you are not, it affects you and for the first time in my life I am experiencing that.
Philo of Alexandria counseled, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” We are all in a great battle right now, especially against this pandemic and all the mini skirmishes it has spawned, i.e., isolation, depression, economic, relational and spiritual difficulties. However, as we conclude our “Guard Your Heart” series today, we will see how not to get discouraged even during life’s biggest battles. Let’s go to I Corinthians 4:16
We do not lose heart…
We Do Not Lose Heart
“We do not lose heart!” Paul proclaims. He began chapter four with the same grit and determination. What was happening that prompted Paul to repeat the encouragement for us to not be discouraged? “Outwardly we are wasting away”he laments. Our physical bodies, which he also called, “earthly tents,” (2 Corinthians 5:1), “jars of clay” (v7 cracked pots) and“bodies of humiliation” (Philippians 3:21) are continually being broken down by the disease and decay of this fallen world. Even under normal circumstance it takes a lot of heart to not lose heart, but Paul’s circumstances were anything but normal.
For Paul it wasn’t just the regular wear-and-tear of life or a chronic illness that was eroding him physically. Listen to the threats on his well-being (4:8, 9, 11)
8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;
9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
11 We live under the constant danger of death because we serve Jesus …
Here Paul is talking about his personal challenges of trying to spread the message of Jesus to the ends of the Roman Empire. It was not easy, neither financially, emotionally, spiritually, and certainly not physically! In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 he elaborates even more on how doing his part to fulfill the “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:18-20) has physically wrecked him:
As you can see Paul payed an extraordinary physical price to fulfill his calling as a missionary to the Roman World. He was, as one person put it, “Subject to a thousand troubles and under the sentence of death.” Can we imagine paying such a heavy physical, emotional, and spiritual cost for the sake of the Message? Although parts of the global Church are being persecuted today, we thankfully are not. We enjoy religious freedom, which, at least for now, is vouchsafed by our Constitution. How much longer is anyone’s guess given that PC and identity politics are rotting out the underbelly of our nation and Church. I believe the winds of change are beginning to blow ill against the Church in America as a fulfillment of end-time prophesy. I am convinced that we need a great revival and historically speaking, nothing fans the flame of revival more quickly, or more brightly, than persecution. Whether or not it comes in our lifetime, however, remains to be seen. What we do know is that today each of us is fighting our own set of battles, physical, spiritual, and otherwise, so here’s why we must guard our hearts by not losing heart.
The Greatest Treasure
We guard our hearts by not losing heart because we have possession of the greatest treasure. In v7 Paul says
We ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.
Our mortal bodies, as weak and frail as they may be, contain the greatest of all treasures, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is the “Treasure hidden in a field” and the “Pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:44-45). It is the “Eternal Gospel” (Revelation 14:6) and the “Power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). The news that God sent his only begotten Son into this world (John 3:16) to save us from sin and reconcile us to God, is of priceless and inestimable worth. If “physical health is wealth” then how much greater is the wealth of the “Good News?” It pays dividends in this world and in the world to come. I could go on, but we guard our hearts, by not losing heart, because we possess the greatest treasure of all, the Gospel of Jesus.
The Greatest Power
We possess the greatest treasure because we have the greatest power residing in us. And what is that power? The Holy Spirit! He is the supernatural power that indwells our inner being the moment we put our faith in Jesus (4:14). This is why Paul could boast that despite the external deterioration our (v16)
Inner person is being renewed day-by-day.
Although our physical bodies are in constant decay our inner person is being redeemed, renewed, revived, and regenerated, each and every day. The HS makes us stronger whether or not we are in “good shape for the condition we are in.” I could go on, but we guard our hearts, by not losing heart, because the greatest power lives within us.
The Greatest Future
The third reason we guard our hearts by not losing heart is knowing we have the greatest future. Paul says in v17
For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.
Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!
When newly minted Supreme Court justice Amy Barret discovered that she was pregnant with her third child she was naturally delighted. However, just hours afterward, the adoption agency in Haiti notified her that they were ready to deliver her long-awaited special needs child. Her joy immediately turned into panic! Two kids at once! Too much! However, after prayer and conversation with her husband, she decided to carry through with the adoption. Her rationale, “Life is hard but at least it’s short.” That’s true but what comes next, our eternal future in Christ, is the greatest of all futures, one that far outweighs any temporary afflictions, troubles, problems, challenges we endure in this life. No matter what happens to us now, we guard our hearts by not losing hearts by realizing we have the greatest future!
They say success is getting up just one more time than getting knocked down. Success in our “fight of faith” (I Timothy 6:12) means that getting knocked down but not knocked out! Success means getting knocked down but we always getting up again because we guard our hearts by not losing heart. We never lose heart because we have the greatest treasure, the greatest power, and the greatest future of all! Amen? Amen!