ENDURE | Courage in Weakness PART I | Enduring Defeat | 2 Corinthians 1:1-2 & Acts 18:1-17

January 10, 2021 Speaker: Christopher Rich

Topic: New Testament Passage: 2 Corinthians 1:1–1:2, Acts 18:1–18:17

Christopher Rich – January 10, 2021

ENDURE | Courage in Weakness 

PART I | Enduring Defeat | 2 Corinthians 1:1-2 & Acts 18:1-17

 

Introduction | We need to endure

Good Morning! Welcome to Mercy Fellowship where we are Saved by Jesus Work, Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today we are beginning a new series ENDURE: Courage in Weakness.  

 

We are Weak and Weary. The challenging journey of life taxes our endurance and reveals the shallow depth of our resiliency. We have moments in our journey that serve as key markers. When they are difficult or painful, they can be traumatic and linger. When they are positive or even considered a win, they can be transformational, transitional surges of zeal. But invariable after a time the impact of that transition, the intensity of the zeal, and the memory of the experience can begin to fade and we can fall back into old patterns or lose sight of the path ahead. Crushing fear begins to set in as we begin to doubt our ability to finish well or even enjoy the journey we are on. Courage is needed to overcome fear and strength to supplant our weakness so we can continue in confidence to where a final victory is experienced. This journey is long, includes difficulty, even opposition, but it can include joy and ultimately leads to a destination of glory. We need to endure. 

 

To endure is to remain or continue even in the midst of great difficulty to a greater destination. Endurance is usually a sign of significant strength. Yet paradoxically we find ourselves both weary and weak the longer we endure difficulty. We need to find both comfort in the present and courage to continue not despite our weakness, but in our weakness. Seeking strength, we look within ourselves for affirmation or beyond ourselves for inspiration. Spiritually, we try find courage in our weakness in one of two ways: 

 

The first is religion. We put in the effort to endure. We earn the reward. We feel the pride, but when we fail we are left dejected and alone. This way leads to great self-righteousness at points in the journey but doesn’t secure our eternity because all of us have and will fall short because we are all imperfect. We all have sin. We are all separated from and accountable to God. Some dismiss religion in favor of irreligion, claiming we’re already perfect or that the only pursuit that matters is our own happiness. Those who cannot see themselves as a religious elite or with the right endurance don’t try or assume a journey with God just is not for them. They either rally and fail with despair or reject the idea that there is anything more or better than where they are now. Neither of these ways will lead to a flourishing life.

 

We can endure with courage in weakness only because of the Gospel where we are brought into family by the grace and mercy of God alone. The perfect enduring done has been by the work of Jesus Christ (God the Son) in our place; living the perfect life we have not, dying the death we all deserve for sin, and rising again so we can be alive now and forever with Him. We haven’t earned strength or overcome weakness on our own. Because of Jesus' effort for us, we’ve been adopted by a Father (God) who loves us. He picks us up, He carries us, He encourages us, and He empowers us (by the Holy Spirit) to walk in the ways and places He sees fit for us. We walk with the knowledge that He’s the one who brought us here for our growth, our good, and His glory. We are humble because we know how weak and dependent we are. We are joyful because we know how loved we are. We have courage because we know where our strength is found. We invite everyone and let them know life with God is not dependent on how they can endure but is reliant on a God who has big enough shoulders to carry all His people.

Our power to endure cannot come from our weakness or in earning great strength. Rather it can only come from the unearned grace of Jesus Christ whose power is made perfect in weakness. In Christ, we can have courage & comfort to endure knowing it is only when we are aware of our weakness that we are truly strong. Christ has given us good courage in our great weakness so we may endure to a glorious finish. 

 

PART I |The Man – Mission – Message | 2 Corinthians 1:1-2  

2 Cor 1:1-2 | Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

The Man - Paul, was a self-righteous religious terrorist whose life mission was to persecute, imprison, and even kill followers of Jesus. After overseeing the execution of an early church leader in Jerusalem, Paul (known then as Saul) was on his way to Damascus on a mission to kill Christians. It was on this journey where he was met by the risen Jesus. He is humbled, blinded, called to faith, and changed forever. He’s given a new name, identity, and mission. Appointed by Jesus, Paul was sent as a missionary to the gentiles (non-Jews) to preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus who makes spiritually dead sinners alive by His mercy and grace. He would go on to plant churches across the known world and his writings would make up a large percentage of what we now call the New Testament. Paul had done nothing to earn this great calling or endure the path God had for him; quite the opposite! Because of His sin and rejection of God/Jesus, all Paul deserved was the wrath of God. Instead, it was the will of God to turn this intense terrorist into an exceedingly effective ambassador of Jesus. 

 

The Mission - After time training and serving in both Damascus and Antioch (site of a flourishing church planting church) Paul was sent on several missionary journeys across Asia and Europe preaching and planting churches. On his second mission, Paul had the exclusive opportunity to preach Jesus in Athens, a hub of culture and philosophy, only to be met with great opposition by the pluralistic elites. Weak and fearful, Paul left Athens and came to Corinth in the year 50AD.   

 

Located on an essential trade route roughly halfway between Athens and Sparta, Corinth was a wealthy city known for religious diversity, sexual immorality, and political corruption. It is here where Paul focused significant time supporting himself working as a tent maker with the ministry couple of Priscilla and Aquila as they also labored to plant the Corinthian church. While the church grows it also experiences great challenges in enduring faithfulness after Paul’s departure. In Paul’s first letter to the church (1 Corinthians) he is compelled to address a variety of behaviors including divisions, doctrinal error, partiality to the rich, abuse of the poor, sexual sin, chaotic worship services, and extreme litigiousness as the church fails to endure as a counter-cultural community in the midst of Corinthian corruption. Paul later makes what is called a “Painful Visit” to enact church discipline and has to write another challenging letter which was not preserved. The Corinthian church begins to entertain other spiritual leaders teaching them false doctrine and hold Paul in low regard. All of this has served to strain the relationship between Paul and the church.  

 

The Message - As he prepares for a third and final visit, Paul is concerned with reconciliation of their relationship. This letter serves as an emotional appeal for repentance, relying on God’s strength as restoration of an enduring church relying on the grace and mercy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In addition to God’s strength in our weakness, other key characteristics and themes include: 

Enduring Promises - In God giving His people a new covenant in Christ, He has proven faithful to old covenant promises to meet people at their point of greatest weakness with the enduring strength to overcome our sin with His grace.  

 

Enduring Death – We will all face death and judgement. Jesus is our judge but also our justifier as He endured death in our place as a substitute to reconcile sinners and making them righteous. 

 

Enduring Exclusivity- While various religions and spiritualities offer paths promising life, only the word of God has power to bring life where there is death. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is clear in definable leaving unable to be tampered with or added to without losing its purity. 

 

Enduring Gratitude- For Christians the motivation for generous giving, sacrificial serving, and faithful endurance, is in response to the graciousness of God shown to us in Christ. 

 

Enduring Spirit- The Holy Spirit has been given to us a guarantee sealing in our hearts an enduring salvation and eternal affection centered on Jesus Christ. 

 

The Gospel (God’s good news to us) impacts every aspect of our lives now and forever. The purpose of this letter is clear: for many to be called and move relying on our own strength, to acknowledging our weakness, and finding the courage to ENDURE through faith in Jesus Christ alone. The Corinthian 

 

PART II |Defeated, Dejected changes to Determined | Acts 18:1-8  

Acts 18:1-8 | After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.

 

Adversity in Athens - Preaching in Athens should have been a career highlight leading to significant impact in the city, region, and beyond. He studied the culture and saw their idols, what was missing in their hearts desire to be connected with the divine. He made connections with influential people leverage relationships to be able to connect with people who needed to hear about Jesus. In a society obsessed with “new” Paul was even given a significant and intrigued audience in the Areopagus. The table was set for revival and impact, a great ministry win… only to be laughed out of the joint. While a few were persuaded, what could have been a great victory was both a personal disgrace and defeat. Paul has been “cancelled” by the Athenians because in preaching Jesus and the resurrection of the dead it upset their philosophical sensibilities. He is de-platformed defeated and dejected.  After his final event Areopagus in Athens Paul decides to leave town and move on to a smaller, less significant city named Corinth. A crossroads known for trade and a transient workforce, it was a perfect place to regroup. Paul meets others new to the city; many Jews were expelled from Rome and found themselves in Corinth living as minority refuges. 

Dejected to Determined – How we respond and recover from defeat matters so that one loss doesn’t destine us for unending failure. First, we have to rest and recalibrate. Not at a spa or retreat center but rest and recover on the go. Paul took time to work outside of ministry while beginning to preach and teach in his spare time. As a tentmaker (or leather worker) he had a lot to keep himself busy with working with others provided time to talk and process with his new friends who have also suffer a “defeat” by being forced by government to shut down their business and up root their lives. New context and new community lead to new zeal for mission and purpose. 

 

By the time he was joined and encouraged by the arrival of his ministry partners he was “occupied by the word” meaning full time funded ministry. While meeting resistance from pagan philosophers in Athens it was the religious people in Corinth who were the most hostile. These are supposed to be the people who know God the best and yet they were missing the main point that Jesus is their savior not themselves. What could have looked like another defeat was used to as an opportunity to expand the reach of the ministry. Paul remained steadfast and was able to engage in the opportunity not by changing the message or compromising but by changing the audience. He knew he wasn’t able to change men’s hearts, so he changed who heard the message while remain close enough to continue to influence the Jewish community. 

He moved ministry, literally next door. He didn’t retreat this time he kept at it neighboring his greatest adversaries. In this environment Paul persisted; many people were baptized, and a church was planted. 

 

PART III | Do not Fear, God has a People and a Purpose | Acts 18:9-11  

Acts 18:9-11 | And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” 11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

 

Things seem to be going well. The ruler of the synagogue has converted. The spiritually and ethnically diverse Corinthians are also responding this should be time to press and enjoy God’s continued grace to Paul and the ministry. Yet despite the change in fortunes there is still fear, anxiety, and tension.

Fear & Trauma – When we’ve experienced something difficult or traumatic, when the corner begins to turn we can be a bit fearful and tentative. When our foundations have been unsettled it can keep us from standing firm easily. We might find ourselves wondering, “When will the other shoe drop?” Is this favor fleeting? Can I trust these people? Is it time to move on… again? When we’ve endured a defeat in can be easy to start seeing potential losses even when it looks like things are going well. It might not take more than a stiff breeze or resistance to crumple. Part of recovery is having our confidence in God’s character reinforced. This both helps us engage with where we are now and endure when adversity comes again. 

As the church begins to grow, God comes to Paul in a dream encouraging him to continue preaching without fear because God is near. God promises Paul protection in the face of hostility. The mission will succeed not because of Paul’s efforts but because God has His people ready to receive the Gospel. 

There is a comprehensive proactive engagement God brings to Paul to endure from past defeats. 

Protection – We know harm and pain are real. God tells us not to fear because He is our great protector. 

Presence - We don’t need to fear because God is near! We’re not alone in defeat or victory! 

Purpose - Keep preaching, living, pointing people to Jesus. Why? God has people who WILL be saved. 

Perseverance – God showing up to remind of His protection, presence, and purpose, is all to move Paul to not stop, not be silent, but to keep sustaining the mission and ministry he’s been given in the place he is in.  

Where are you afraid? Where do you need God’s Protection? Where do you need to feel God’s presence? Where do you need to be reminded of God’s purposes for you? Where do you need to preserve?

PART IV | Attacked, yet Defended | Acts 18:12-17 

Acts 18:12-17 | 12 But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, 13 saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.” 14 But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint. 15 But since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.” 16 And he drove them from the tribunal. 17 And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this.

 

Attacked, yet Defended– God’s presence does not mean we will be free from adversity or difficulty. God has given Paul courage proceeding conflict. God often provides encouragement in the midst of or preceding when we’re going to actual need it. As the gospel advances and the church grows so does it’ opposition. The Jewish leaders are going to the government to bring to say Paul’s preaching contrary to the law (Jewish law) and basically trying to get the Roman’s to crack down on him leading another religion. 

  

Defensive - When we stand under condemnation or in conflict we want to defend ourselves. We’ve got a locked down case in our head as to why we’re right, another is wrong. Part of enduring defeat means recognizing where our victory and vindication come from. Paul is ready for this. We can so easily forget who our savior is and we default back to saving ourselves. While Paul is ready to engage his deliverance does not come from himself. It also come from places we don’t expect. In this case, God uses a “less than just” leader to give Paul a justice and mercy he did nothing to earn. He doesn’t even have to advocate for himself. As he is about to speak, judgement comes not for Paul but his opponents. They are the ones expelled and they are the ones thrown into chaos as their vindictive plot turns to violence. 

 

We don’t face defeat well. When has a defeat in your life lingered and how has it impacted your life and relationships? How have you tried to overcome on your own? When we feel threatened, we want to defend ourselves, yet it is God who is to be our refuge and strength. Psalm 46:10 we’re told in the midst of chaos and conflict not to solider up and charge the next hill but even when the mountains are crumbling to merely “be still” and know HE is our God. When have you been delivered from difficulty outside your control?

1 John 2:1 reminds us in our defeat Jesus is our advocate. He’s taken defeat for us on the Cross defending us from the consequences of our sin and giving us His victory in His resurrection. We can endure defeat when we know where our final victory comes from. Jesus Christ is our defender, so we do not have to be defensive, when we Trust Jesus.