“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed: we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” II Corinthians 4:8, 9
Thanksgiving is gone, Christmas right around the corner. It is such a wonderful and joyous time of year. Yet there are those that struggle. They struggle all year, but for many, this time of year is even more stressful, more demanding, and discouragement seems to increase.
Paul’s use of the word but is singular. Notice what a perfect example of this we have in our text for today. It is even more striking when we read it in the Phillips’ Translation: “We are handicapped on all sides, but we are never frustrated; we are puzzled, but never in despair. We are persecuted, but we never have to stand it alone: we may be knocked down, but we are never knocked out!”
Another striking illustration of Paul’s “apostolic grammar” is found in I Corinthians 16:8, 9: “But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.” Notice his use of the word but. He was saying, “there is a wide-open door of opportunity for work, and there are many adversaries, but I will stay on.” How different from many weak-kneed Christians who might have said, “It is true that there is a wide-open door for effective work, but there are many adversaries and terrible problems, so I will pull out.” Paul never flew such a white flag of surrender. His rallying word was but.
Paul’s use of this word but has led one writer to say, “One of the great acts of life is to put the word ‘but’ in the right place.”’ It is said that Marshal Fock , during World War I, won fame by his brief message: “My right is crushed, my left is crumbling, my center is receding. Situation excellent. I shall advance.” And that was the spirit that he engendered in the hearts of the triumphant Allies.
Paul had this spirit. He could say, “this is the reason that we never collapse. “The outward man does indeed suffer wear and tear, but every day the inward man receives fresh strength. These little troubles (which are really so transitory) are winning for us a permanent, glorious and solid reward out of all proportion to our pain” I Corinthians 4:16, 17, Phillips).
So when you feel life is about to swallow you up, stop, pray to God for the strength needed to make it through any trial that might come our way. He is able and willing to give us the strength. But, when he does give you the victory, the strength, the ability to meet the trials before us, remember to give God the glory. For without Him, nothing can be accomplished.