"We do not lose heart" / Sermon / Pr. Lucas Albrecht / Season of Pentecost / June 10th 2018 - / 2 Corinthians 4:5-5.1
Text: 2 Corinthians 4:5-5.1
Theme: “We do not lose heart”
Intr – What keeps your life flowing? What keeps your heart going? What helps you to not lose it altogether – not to lose heart?
I ask you this today because anxiety, melancholy, and depression have been around for a while, and lately the number of cases seem to soar. Or perhaps people are becoming more open to talk about it. It may be hitting home with you, or with someone dear to your heart.
When we look to St.Paul’s life after his conversion, anxiety and depression seem to have been at moments not too faraway from his daily life. Or at least sometimes he was not having the best of his days. In 2 Corinthians he writes: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;”
Afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down. Those are things that may really have a person undergoing grey or even dark days. The type of situation that may get you really sad, downtroded, depressed even. Usually, we might be fooled into thinking that because he is St. Paul, and he is in the Bible his sufferings were not as bad as ours. “God was closer to him than to us, so he could go through life in a smoother fashion, easily putting the problems and difficulties behind him”. But we would be wrong. You can add to all the problems they had then the fact that the main cause of persecutions and affliction was not money, family problems, personal struggles or government bills. It was spiritual. Persecution was coming down unhinged upon him, and many Christians, due to their strong stand on their Faith. He was suffering primarily not for doing something wrong, but for proclaiming a good, life giving message.
Have you been there too? I would guess so. This same problem has not disappeared in our day. We could mention many places in the world where Christianity is persecuted to this day. However, it may also be just at hand, here at home, as we see political correctness oozing around from almost every corner of society, and Christianity being swept aside to the fringe of culture on behalf of a more inclusive, tolerant culture and principles. From abortion to gender identity. From the concept of family to "Religion is bad for society". We are constantly invited to be “on the right side of things”, with the discordance from it bringing punishment and condemnation with one of those labels many are ready to tag us with these days; “intolerant, bigot, fundamentalist. Christian”. And so on. (Are you amazed about Christian being on the list of the punishing labels? You shouldn’t. All it takes for you is to be on the “wrong side” of Christianity").
As St. Paul, we also need not to lose heart. Well, there’s always the option of caving to the strong contrary winds and just go with the flow, assuming that we can interpret the Bible on the basis of sociology and our current time’s principles only. But if that’s not the case - if we really want to stand firm on the Word of God and not lose heart - a closer look on the texts for today will give us solid ground to step our feet on. Especially in the Epistle we find strong clues on why a guy like Paul, in the midst of such great distress and problems could say that “they do not lose heart.”
1 – Because we proclaim not ourselves, but Christ as the Lord
“We do not proclaim ourselves.” They weren’t relying on themselves, but in Christ only.
Likewise, we shouldn’t rely on ourselves. We shouldn’t be “searching our hearts” to find answers. Unless it is filled with God’s love and care. Then our hearts are secure. Then we won’t lose heart, because our hearts would be steadfastly protected under His wings of love.
Christ The Promised (Genesis 3)
Christ Our brother (Mark 3). Christ, the Lord and Saviour.
He is the one who gives us the courage and strength we need to stand up in our faith.
2 – Because his light shone on us
Melancholy and depression are often associated with grey and dark colors. Grey and greyer, dark and darker is what you observe in the absence of light. The more light you have, the brighter you see the colors.
Christ is our light in the midst of darkness. Psalm 130 shows an anxious and even semi-depressed writer. He is down. He is not in his best days. Still, he doesn’t lool inside to find answers. He cries out to the Lord, he looks above. His light shines even in the deepest hole.
Think about this: you are standing at the city fringe at noon time on a sunny summer day. You look ahead and try to see any spot of shadow – which is very hard to find in our prairies, I know. But still: how close it must be to you so you can see it? And how many people in the radiance would be able to see it as well? Now think of yourself in the very same spot, on a clear dark night. From what distance can you spot a point of light, even if it is dim or feeble? We know: it can be miles away and you’ll still see it. And so can many people in the radiance. The feeblest light can stand out in the dark. The biggest dark spot is nothing in face of the daylight.
The light of Christ never ceases to shine on us. No matter what hour of the day, what month of the year, what season of life. It is always there.
3 – Because we have a treasure (in jars of clay)
What we have doesn’t depend on ourselves, on our capacity, on our good will. What we have won’t detach from us in the darkest hour, in the scariest moment, in the lowest time. It is a treasure. We have God’s treasure in us, jars of clay. A great and precious treasure. We are firmly attached to Christ by faith. He is always there. He will always maintain the treasure of His salvation, presence and love in our clay hearts.
That’s why we should think twice or thrice before saying to hopeless, aimless people, in their darkest, saddest days, or when they lose a loved one things like: “be strong”, “hold on”, “believe in yourself”. “You'll find your way out of this”. It may have the contrary desired effect as we know we are weak and strength and willpower is exactly what we don’t have for the moment. We are jays of clay, easily broken. We need the treasure of God’s Love to hold us together in the midst of pain and loss. He is the one who strengthens us and is right there, by our side, all the time. It may be better perhaps just to be there, stay there, be a helping hand or a helping shoulder. Words like : “God is with you”. “God won’t abandon you”. “God will carry you by faith” may better convey the message that person needs in that moment of their life.
4 – Because the sufferings are momentary, glory though is eternal
Think of these examples:
_What do you endure going to the dentist? I guess it’s because you know the suffering that may come out of it is momentary, but your healthy teeth will last for a long time;
_Why do parents discipline their children even when it drives them angry – and make them, the parents, suffer inside? I would bet it is because they know that while they are suffering inside for the moment, they are teaching them lessons that may last their whole life.
_Why do we accept undergoing the anxiety and fear of a surgery? Because you know that the outcome being good your health will be improved.
Momentary. As opposed to long lasting. Now think of undergoing momentary suffering because the outcome would be...forever...
That’s what Jesus endured for us. He suffered unto death to save us from sin, to grant us forginvess, and to graft us into a life of joy that will never end.
This is our life under the cross. The sufferings of the present time pale before the blessings of the eternal life.
The message today is not intended to ignore or downplay the reality that we should have proper treatment when mental health issues ensue. It’s the other way around - as we turn to physicians when our body is not right, why wouldn’t we also resort to mind doctors when our mind is in need of healing? But as Christians we know that the most important medicine is already provided by the doctor of our souls – Jesus Christ: forgiveness of sins and salvation. He heals us in His Word and Sacraments, keeping us grounded in Him, keeping us secure that his light reaches us in the greyest places and in the darkest hours. It is there guaranteed, firm and steadfast even if we are experiencing mental health issues. Like maybe Paul, or some of his close friends, might have had experienced – so much so he writes what we heard today.
It was won by Christ. It was offered by Christ. It is maintained by The Holy Spirit in our hearts. There is no way it can be removed from there. He holds us in His hands until the end.
Cc – What keeps us going? What is the reason we do not lose heart? Surely it is not ourselves, it’s not our posessions, neither good weather or mere positive thinking. It is the Love and presence of Jesus Christ, in our life - no matter how deep the pit is, no matter how high the mountain of loneliness may look. He is there, when we are afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down. When things go low, He is there to always assure the highest blessings from His Hands.