The Comfort Zone…Where We Are Really Uncomfortable
It Takes Pressure to Make a Diamond
2 Corinthians 1:8-11 (p. 803) September 18, 2016
When the Apostle Paul uses the words “We were under great pressure” it gets our attention…because he was stoned and left for dead, beaten with rods three times, whipped with the lash (39 times)…5 times, attacked by angry mobs…ship wrecked 3 times and spent a day and night dodging sharks in the open sea, He had been snake bit, criticized by unbelievers and believers, he’d been arrested and spent 2 years in jail without a trial…He called these things “light and momentary afflictions.”
Here’s the most extraordinary thing about what Paul writes about in 2 Corinthians Chapter One…we have no idea at all about what this terrible experience is…we know it happened in Ephesus but he doesn’t go into any detail…anywhere.
He first believed it was so bad there was no way out…It was far beyond his ability to bear.
You know that statement “God will never let anything happen to you beyond your ability to bear?” Well that is not the truth…The truth is He will not let anything happen to you or me that is beyond His ability to bear.
Paul goes into specifics elsewhere concerning his troubles and hurts…but not here…Why? We might never know for sure…but we do know one thing for sure about it.
I. HIS FOCUS IS ON THE POWER OF GOD NOT THE HORRIBLE CIRCUMSTANCE
William Barclay writes in his commentary “There is a very human tendency to make the most of anything we have to go through.”
It’s the art of one upmanship…“Oh, you think you’ve had it bad? Let me tell you about what I’ve been through!”
Remember the movie Jaws back in the 70’s? One of my favorite scenes it when Brody and Quinn compare scars
SHOW VIDEO (3 minutes)https://youtu.be/dLjNzwEULG8
Notice that Quinn doesn’t volunteer the US Indianapolis scar…Where his friends died…Where it appeared all was lost…He wasn’t going to use the most painful memory he’s ever had in this one upmanship game.
I think Paul’s experience in the province of Asia falls into this category.
You don’t write about this in a letter…You don’t put this in a list of bad things…You try to remove the tattoo…You try to make the memory go away.
My dad never talked about his worst experiences during the war…neither does my son Tyler…There are experiences in my lifeI won’t either…I might share them with my wife and closest friends…but even then it’s because they’ve asked…“What’s that scar from?”
For many, this is the fulcrum where faith tips towards God…or away from Him. Is God big enough for this memory…Is He powerful enough for this pain? Will I rely on my own resources or will I trust His?
[Ernest Hemingway made a 10 dollar bet with a bunch of authors after they’d had lunch…The guys bet him 10 dollars he couldn’t come up with a short story that was only 6 words long. Hemingway took the bet, pulled out a napkin and wrote a 6 word story:
“For Sale, Baby shoes, never worn.”
As Kyle Idleman writes in “The End of Me,” If you’re going to live…you’re going to lose…you will come to the end of your own resources…The End of Me…You might as well wake up to the fact. You too will have your own 6 word story…
“There has been a terrible accident.”
“I’m leaving…The marriage is over.”
“You are not able to conceive.”
“I am sorry He didn’t survive.”
“Here’s a rose off the casket.”
“Hurry, Your son’s been horribly burned.”
And each of us will have to choose whether the history of our 6 word story holds us captive in pain…or whether we set our hope on the one who delivers us and it becomes HIS STORY.]
It will require:
II. LETTING GO OF OUR LIFE AND TRUSTING THE GOD WHO RAISES THE DEAD
[Our souls are eternal…these bodies they lie in are temporary…I told my friend Billy Ferrill the other day that its like a driver and a car in a race trying to win a race…We’re the driver, our bodies are the car….you can’t win if you don’t finish, but you also can’t win unless you take some risks…sure you have to fix things…fill it up with fuel…but if you are too cautious…if your goal is to protect the car from the rubs and dents no matter what, you will not win. I want to power slide through the gates of heaven with the fenders falling off and as the engine explodes…I want to get out, fall on my face and lay the keys at Jesus’ feet praising Him for the ride…I also want it to look like one of those clown cars at the circus because so many people get out of it with me!]
You cannot keep your life and save it…you don’t believe me? Listen to what Jesus said to the crowd as well as His followers:
MARK 8:34-38 (p. 705)
Do you think He meant those words? Do you think He was just kidding?
No!? Me either.
There will be times you despair of life itself…and then you and I have to choose whether eternity is more important than life itself…and whether we will rely on the God who raises the dead.
“He had delivered us from such a deadly peril and He will deliver us again. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us.”
Let me end today with one of the most important and unifying truths I’ve ever discovered.
III. GOD’S GRACE FLOWS FROM BROKEN JARS
Remember that the Corinthians are experiencing some of the pain and difficulties that Paul and His companions are going through. He says:
“And our hope for you is firm because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.” (v. 7)
Do you pray differently for those who are going through your 6 word short story, just like you did…than for those you barely know?
Sure we do…as we pray we remember the pain of the burn unit, or the divorce, or the inability to conceive, or the baby shoes that were never worn…and we fervently pray for God’s grace, healing and comfort to do for them what it did for us.
When Paul says “As you help us by your prayers” he’s rejoicing that someone who understands his pain is storming the throne of grace for him…He’s finding strength in the knowledge…that he is not alone…He trusts his gracious Father will perfectly answer the prayers of many…and he’s OK whether that answer is to live for Christ…or even better gain death…and home.
The reason a “broken and contrite heart” are the sacrifices God desires is because they are the sacrifices that crucify pride, selfishness, and self reliance.
You cannot lay a proud self sufficient heart on the altar of God…but you can sure lay a broken heart on that altar.
Broken people who have acknowledged the cracks and flaws in their lives are the most effective prayers and servants.
But most of us spend our energies trying to hide the cracks in our lives…we fill them with worldly philosophies and putty instead of being honest and transparent before our God and other…those who live this way spend a lot of time focusing on the flaws of others instead of their own…prayer is replaced with judgment, gossip and criticism…compassion and ministry is replaced with hypocrisy and separation.
No wonder Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of God.”
[Pottery merchants in Jesus’ day used to put out their jars and vessels on display and advertise them “Sin Cera.” It means “without wax.” Hypocritical and dishonest merchants would take jars which cracked in the fiery kiln and fill the jars with wax and paint over them…the jars were useless to the people who bought them because as soon as they were filled….the wax would melt and whatever liquid was inside, poured out.
It’s the same word used to describe God’s people in the book of Acts… “They were together with glad and “Sin Cera” sincere hearts…hearts without wax…the flaws are there…the cracks show…but the grace of God leaks out into the lives of others.]
It takes pressure to make a diamond…lots of pressure…and it takes a broken and contrite heart to worship and serve our God and other people.