“Don't Lose Heart”

 

Hello and welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” My name is Bret McCasland. A favorite saying of athletes engaged in intense competition is, “Never give up!” No matter what the score is or how challenging the opponent might be, dedicated athletes work hard and don't go down easily. They motivate and encourage each other to overcome the setbacks, and strive to gain the victory. Throughout his ministry, the apostle Paul also faced insurmountable odds. He was laughed at, persecuted, and beaten yet he never gave up. It would have been easy for him to lose heart and to give in to the opposition, but he never did. He never quit running the Christian race. His example of perseverance and dedication to his ministry of serving others is something we will consider in our lesson today on “Key to the Kingdom.” Paul encourages us to hold on to our faith in God and to remember the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. In today's world, we need encouragement like that, don't we? I hope you will stay tuned for the next few minutes as we let the apostle Paul encourage us, from 2nd Corinthians chapter 4.

 

>>LESSON

For the next few minutes, I invite you to go with me on a journey. Now that journey will not take you away from your television set. You will not be required to travel in an automobile or an airplane. Rather, that journey will be in your mind. I want us to think about and to reflect upon 3 significant and important events in our lives. Then, after we reflect upon those things, I want us to ask ourselves some questions in regards to how those events impacted us then, and how they still impact us today. So with that in mind, let's look at reflection number 1. Think in your mind; think about the time when you gave your life to Jesus Christ. Think about the time when you became a Christian. What were some things that went through your mind? Did you say to yourself, I am done with the ways of this world and I want to live for Jesus Christ? Maybe you thought to yourself, I am tired of living by my own interests and my own desires and I need something better. Maybe you even thought to yourself, I need a new direction to go. I need someone to save me and to give me a purpose for which to live. Oh, I remember the time when I became a Christian. I remember the time when that happened to me. I put my faith in Jesus Christ. I confessed Him as the Lord of my life, and then I was even baptized into Jesus for the forgiveness of my sin. No doubt, that was a wonderful occasion. That was a wonderful event in my life and I am so thankful that I experienced that. That was a life-changing event for me. And if you went through that same thing, no doubt it was a life-changing event for you, as well. That conversion experience is really something important to us, isn't it? The apostle Paul writes about what happened to him, in a passage found in 2nd Corinthians chapter 4. I want us to think about what he wrote there in verses 1 and 2 of that 4th chapter. – Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the Word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. – Paul remembers how he received his salvation through God's mercy; that God brought him into a new and better life. It completely changed his life. Paul did not receive that salvation by any good works he might have done, by anything good he did, rather it was a gift of God's mercy, a gift of God's grace. You might remember at one time Paul was named Saul, and he persecuted Christians. He did everything he could to stand in the way of the advancement of the cause of Jesus Christ in this world. He persecuted Christians. He even put some of them to death. He stood in the way of the growth of the church and he opposed the way of the Lord, but now he had received mercy. And as a recipient of God's mercy, and of a new ministry, he decides to faithfully carryout God's mission for him. For God said I want you to be My spokesman to the non-Jewish world and to share with them the good news message, which also has changed your life. And even though people said things that were bad about him, and that were bad about his ministry, he wasn't about to lose heart. He was not about to distort the truth or change the message in any way, shape, or form, because he was now a faithful messenger of God's salvation to everyone who would hear and respond to it, no matter where he went. Yes, the apostle Paul even wants to help those people who were speaking out against him and who are opposed to him, believing that he really is not a true apostle, believing that his message carries no weight or authority among them. But those people turn on Paul. They make false accusations against him. In spite of all of that opposition, however, he will faithfully proclaim God's Word. He will never change it. He will never distort it. He won't lose heart and he won't give up. And why is that? Well, it's because Paul's relationship to God, through His Son Jesus Christ, means more to him than anything else. That what God did through Jesus, by sending him that new mercy and Paul receiving that salvation, has changed his life. It changes the way he lives. As we reflect upon our story of salvation, I wonder if it is similar to the apostle Paul's? Do we remember that new mercy and that new ministry that God has entrusted to us? And as we reflect upon the time when we gave our life to Jesus Christ, now here is the 1st question. Can we say the same thing Paul did? Oh, we have a story to tell just like the apostle Paul, and hopefully it means something to us. Hopefully it changes the way we live our lives in this world. Yet, sometimes the discouraging words of others try to distract us from our story. We are tempted to lose heart. Maybe even tempted to change God's Word, or distort it in some way so that it might be pleasing to other people. Paul, however, encourages us in this passage not to do that. He wants us to hold fast to our salvation, and not to lose heart in the midst of this challenging world. His word to us is to stand firm on God's Word and to allow it to make a change in our life. So, that is reflection number 1 and question number 1. Here is now reflection number 2. Reflect on or think about a time when you were tempted to lose heart and to give up your salvation. There are times when Satan tries to keep you and me from seeing the goodness of God's glory. There are times when he tempts us to turn away from Jesus Christ and to turn back to him and follow him. And again, the apostle Paul can relate to that because it happened to him, as well. He addresses that in the next 2 verses here in the 4th chapter of 2nd Corinthians when he writes, beginning with verse 3 – And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. – Oh, Paul knows Satan is alive and well, and active in this world. He is the god of this age and he is continually tempting him to move away from that salvation and move closer to him. Maybe the god of this age is tempting you right now, to do the very same thing, to lose heart, to give up on Jesus and to go back into that dark world. Through negative statements and attitudes of other people, Paul's faith is being challenged as he writes these words, but again we notice Paul is not going anywhere. He is not giving in to Satan. He is not giving up his hold on what Jesus Christ has done for him, and so Paul will continually stand fast on what he believes. He will make Jesus the foundation upon which he builds his life. No matter what temptation comes to him, no matter what kind of problems or difficulties he might encounter, he will continue to hold fast to the salvation that has been entrusted to him. Yes, Satan continually tries to tempt us to do the same thing, to move away from God. And the question is; how do we handle that? How do we deal with the temptations of this world and rise above them? Take a look at this short video clip on dealing with temptation. Perhaps it can be an encouragement to you.

 

Every day we face temptation. There is not a day that goes by when we are not tempted to rebel against God and to do that which is not good and right. Traveling down the road, we face temptation. The way we use or misuse our television, our computer, what we say, where we go, and how we respond to the people that God puts into our life continually presents opportunities to do good or bad. Yet we must realize that sometimes we face some trials in life, and those trials test our faith. But understand, that those trials, and those testings are not the same as temptations. Let's listen to the words of James from chapter 1 and verse 13. When tempted no one should say God is tempting me for God cannot be tempted by evil nor does He tempt anyone. Well, if God does not tempt us then who does? The obvious answer is Satan. He tempts us to do that which is not right. He tempts us to drift away from God and to follow him. He is alive and well in this world and he will continually tempt us until the day we die. My godly, 93-year-old father-in-law tells me, on a regular basis, I feel that I am drifting away from the Lord. And what is that? It is simply Satan tempting him to do that which he doesn't need to do, to take his mind off those things, which are good and right. No, God is not responsible for the temptations in our life, but He sees when they are going on in our life, and He cares for us, and He provides a way of escape, and we know that from 1st Corinthians chapter 10 and verse 13. No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to us all, and God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but when you are tempted He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. Isn't that encouraging to know? That God controls the temptations Satan presents to us and those temptations can be overcome. The next time you feel Satan is tugging you and dragging you away from the Lord, tempting you to do that which is not good and right, I encourage you to draw close to God. Allow Him to give you that way of escape so that you can overcome the temptations in your life. Yes, know that God loves you very much and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can handle. Trust God today. Believe in that way of escape and follow Him, and draw close to Him, and resist Satan's temptations.

 

Yes, Satan's temptations are real and they are ever present. They won't ever go away, but Paul, as we notice here in 2nd Corinthians 4, will always remain true to his convictions and he wants his readers, like you and me, to know that we are to hold fast as well. That Satan is the one to blame. Satan is the one who is putting a veil over our eyes. He is putting some blinders on our minds so that we cannot see clearly the glory of God through the face of Jesus Christ. Yes, Satan is in the business of tempting people to turn away from their salvation and to turn to him. We might say it like this. That is Satan's occupation. Nothing else matters to him than to get you and me away from God and back into his camp. And today it might be easy for us to blame God for the problems we face in life. We might think God has turned His back on us and really doesn't see what's going on in our life. We might be tempted to think God has forgotten about us, and He's out to lunch. He doesn't care about us anymore. We might even be tempted to believe that God doesn't even exist, because things are not working out in our life the way that we want them to, or in ways we had hoped. I want us to know that is the temptation of Satan. That is the god of this age putting a veil over our eyes so that we cannot see, and reflect upon, and remember the goodness of God, that comes to us in Jesus Christ. Now, as we think about the activity of Satan and the temptations we face, here is question number 2. Are we holding on to the Lord? Oh, Paul reminds us that no matter what opposition we might face and no matter what Satan tries to do to us, we can and we will overcome and so we don't lose heart, and we don't give up, and we don't give in to the temptations of Satan. Yes, Paul encourages us here to stand firm and to rely on God's power, and to believe that God will deliver us from evil. He wants us to hold fast to God, to be a part of the family and to enjoy all of the wonderful spiritual blessings that come as a result of that. Well, that's reflection number 2 and question number 2. Here is reflection number 3. Reflect on how the light of Jesus changes your life. Can you remember those times when you were in spiritual darkness, separated from God and not a part of His family? The ways of this world controlled your life and you were fully engaged in them, and you had nothing to do with God and the salvation He gave through Jesus Christ. Yet as you reflect on that, you remember how the glory of God, through the light of Jesus Christ Himself, delivered you from that darkness and brought you into the glorious Kingdom of God. That's Paul's message. He remembers that and he wants us to reflect upon it. He writes about that in verses 5 and 6, here in the 4th chapter of 2nd Corinthians. – For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. – Oh, Paul declares Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He said it's not about me but rather it's about what Jesus Christ has done through me, and therefore I will proclaim Jesus and Him crucified. That is exactly what Paul did throughout his ministry. He preached Jesus and Him crucified, 1st Corinthians 1:23. He states the same thing in 1st Corinthians 2:2, that he did not come to baptize but to preach Jesus. Then in 1st Corinthians chapter 15, the 1st 4 verses, he states, this is the most important thing I could ever share with you: the death, and burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ my Lord. Yes, Paul wants people to know Jesus came into this world to bring light. And in this darkened world, He comes to bring a new life, and a new hope, and a new mercy, and a new beginning, and a new ministry to you and to me. Based upon that, Jesus changes the way we live. We live now not by a set of rules or by a set of standards but rather we live by a relationship with Almighty God, because of what Jesus Christ has done for us. We live a transformed life and one that represents Jesus, who saves us. And so, here in verses 5 and 6, Paul reminds us that Jesus is the Lord of his life, and for him there is absolutely no other way to live, because of the changes Jesus has brought to him. Now based upon that, Paul is not only a servant of Jesus Christ but he is a slave to others. That is the actual meaning of that word servant there. He is a slave. He's a slave to those receiving his message and he is even a slave to those who reject his message. But Paul's great desire and his great ministry to people, even to his critics, stands in contrast to the accusations which are made against him. He does it for one specific reason. He does it because he is overwhelmed with the greatness of God. He is so impressed with God's mercy, that has been extended to him. He cannot help but share that good news with other people, wherever he goes. Oh, as Paul was writing these words perhaps he was reflecting on the light that shined on him, that came down from heaven, the glory of God, while he was on that road to Damascus seeking to persecute even more Christians. When God changed his life, and through that conversion experience God gave him that mission, that new ministry to go and to be His spokesman to the rest of this world. That outward, and that visible light, now magnifies the light of God's glory, His Son Jesus Christ. It is now Jesus who shines in his heart and who transforms his life. As Paul writes those words, his great desire is for that same thing to happen to all of those who read these words. He wants us to realize without a doubt that Jesus Christ is the light of this world. In fact, Jesus said those very words in John 8:12, “I am the light of this world. Whoever walks in Me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Yes, we think about, we reflect upon when Jesus brought that light into our life, don't we? We remember that occasion. What a wonderful life-changing event that was, and hopefully continues to be in our life from day to day. And as we reflect upon that, here is the 3rd question I want us to consider. Are we living in a world of darkness or are we now living in that world of light: being transferred into the Kingdom of God, the glorious kingdom, and we live in the light of Jesus Christ? There's something very important I hope we remember and that is the light of Jesus will always conquer the darkness of Satan. It always has and always will. And there may be times when we are tempted to go back into that dark world, and to follow again the god of this age, and to give in to the temptations he presents to us: yet the light of Jesus needs to continually shine through our hearts and be manifest in our lives. Oh, Paul reminds us there is no greater way to live than in the light of Jesus Christ. And even when the way seems dark, even when there seems to be no good things happening in our life, Jesus is still there, and He is still working, and He never quits longing to have a relationship with us. Do you remember the 1st few verses of Genesis chapter 1? We are told that the world was without form, and void; and darkness filled the face of the deep, and it was a chaotic mess, if you will, but in verse 3 God brings light to this world. He creates what we have, and God has been bringing light into this world ever since, in the person of His Son Jesus Christ. He is willing to bring light into your life, and to mine as well. Yes, our unbroken Savior enters into our broken and chaotic world and He brings a solution. He brings light and comfort. He brings peace and hope. He brings salvation and the forgiveness of sin. He brings compassion and love, and it changes our life! The author of Hebrews paints a beautiful portrait of Jesus, in Hebrews chapter 1, and he writes these words in chapter 2 and verse 1.  “Therefore let us pay close attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” And isn't that Paul's message to us today? Pay close attention to Jesus Christ. Don't drift away from Him. Don't lose heart. Don't give in to the temptations of Satan any more, because Jesus Christ gives us the light of life, and as we walk in that light we can say no to Satan. We won't lose heart but we are motivated and encouraged to live a life pleasing in the sight of God. My encouragement to you today is, to never lose heart.

 

>>CONCLUSION

Thank you for taking a few minutes to watch this episode of “Key to the Kingdom.” I trust the message was a blessing and encouraged you to never give up and never lose heart while running the Christian race. If you would like a free Bible study, please call the number on the screen. Leave your name and address and the study will be sent to you without any charge or obligation. Many other resources are available on our website and I hope you'll take a moment to visit keytothekingdom.com. While you're there, please send an e-mail to me letting me know how and when you saw this program. Free downloads of this and previous lessons, along with other useful videos and messages, are also available on the website without any cost or obligation. And remember, download onto your Android or iPhone the free “Key to the Kingdom” app, from your phone’s app store. Once again, thank you for tuning in to today's broadcast and be sure to join us again next time as we continue to study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom.”