Rick Warren and the Paradox of the “Committed” Christian Life (Part 2)

TEXT: 2 Corinthians 4:1-11 / 2 Corinthians 6:1-10

Sunday Evening Evangelistic Message #115

On last week, we began looking at the Christian life from a perspective that many Christians fail to see it from: and that is, if you are committed to Christ, you will have troubles, problems, and difficulties in this life. Especially in light of the sad event that happened in Rick Warren’s family two weeks ago, it is important for all believers to understand that the devil is out to get anybody who is sincerely serving God.

I know from my own experience, from the word of God, and from observing the experiences of others, that the devil will attack the families of those who are serving Christ faithfully and attempting to do big things for God. I believe that this is exactly what happened in Rick Warren’s family. In fact, just a week before his son committed suicide, in Christianity Today, Rick Warren had announced a plan to reach the world’s 3,400 unengaged people groups with the Gospel.

I was taken aback, and I am sure Rick Warren was, by the negativity and finger-pointing that some in the world and even in the church engaged in. Being a father myself, I know that Rick Warren did everything he could to help his son, but there were still some who tried to accuse him of pushing his son to commit suicide, even after how much good Rick Warren has done and how many people he has helped in the church and in the world.

Now, I come from a very strict, conservative, Baptist background, and I have some preacher friends from that background who I talk to from time to time. One pastor who I talked with about this matter said that this occurrence showed that what Pastor Warren and other Christians of like mind are doing “just isn’t working.” However, I quickly reminded him that believers who come from our strict, conservative Baptist backgrounds have family problems as well, such as divorce and children going astray. The pastor I was talking to was divorced himself and also had a child who had gone astray, and as soon as I mentioned this to him, he had to quiet down. Isn’t it amazing how quickly we can sit back in judgment when something happens to others and say that ought not to happen, and yet we have similar issues in our own home. That is attributed to our sinful human nature.

I think it is crucial for Christians to understand that the Christian life is full of paradoxes. According to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, a paradox is “a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is true.” The Oxford Dictionary states that a paradox is “a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.” Second Corinthians chapters 4 and 6 give us thirteen paradoxes that are apparent in the Christian life. This sermon series is built on these paradoxes which are as follows.

1. Second Corinthians 4:8 says, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed”
2. Verse 8 also says, “We are perplexed, but not in despair”
3. Verse 9 says, We are “persecuted, but not forsaken”
4. We are “cast down, but not destroyed”

Chapter 6 gives more of these interesting paradoxes
5. Verse 8 says, “By honour and dishonour”
6. “By evil report and good report”
7. “As deceivers, and yet true”
8. Verse 9 says, “As unknown, and yet well known”
9. “As dying, and, behold, we live”
10. “As chastened, and not killed”
11. Verse 10 says, “As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing”
12. “As poor, yet making many rich”
13. “As having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”

These are the paradoxes that we must grapple with in the Christian life. Yes, the Christian life is the better life, the fulfilled life, the life of joy, peace, and true happiness, but the committed Christian life is also a life of hardship, temptation, persecution, and even suffering. Last week, we looked at three of the paradoxes of the Christian life. They are:

1. There is much trouble in the committed Christian life, but we do not have to be in distress. Second Corinthians 4:8 says, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed.” Paul experienced this paradox of the committed Christian life. He was troubled and perplexed, yet he did not become discouraged and distressed.

2. We will experience persecution as Christians, but we will not be forsaken. Second Corinthians 4:9 says that we are “Persecuted, but not forsaken.” While you are going through a time of persecution, the devil will come to you and tell you that God has forsaken you. However, the Bible tells us that God will never leave us nor forsake us.

3. Some people will say bad things about you, and some people will say good things about you. Second Corinthians 6:8 uses the phrase, “by evil report and good report.” There are those who know our true character as followers of Christ, and there are those who will try to slander our character publicly.

God allows these negative things to happen to us for a reason — sometimes to teach us a lesson or to strengthen us. Charles Dickens expressed this concept when he said, “Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching… I have been bent and broken, but — I hope — into a better shape.” Sometimes, God allows us to go through suffering to cause us to get to know Him better. Author Chip Brogden said, “Blessings alone do not open our eyes. Indeed, blessings by themselves tend to close our eyes. We do not come to know Him in the blessing, but in the breaking.”

So, we must embrace the paradoxes of the Christian life. We must embrace God’s breaking us, molding us and shaping us. And, as we commit to doing that today, allow me to share with you three more paradoxes of the Christian life.

1. We will often feel downcast as we go through this life, but we will not be destroyed. In Second Corinthians 4:9, Paul writes that we “are cast down, but not destroyed.” To be cast down means to be in a low place spiritually, mentally, emotionally, or physically. The Greek word for “cast down literally means to “throw to the ground.” It may seem as though the pain and suffering that we experience in the Christian life will be too much for us to bear. We may drift into depression, but look at what God’s word says: “We are cast down, but NOT DESTROYED.”

2. We may not be well-known, celebrated, or applauded in this world, but we will be well-known by God. Second Corinthians 6:9 states that we are “unknown, and yet well known.” Paul writes, “we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord.” In other words, Paul is saying that he and his fellow apostles are not trying to make a name for themselves. They are not trying to be well-known, but they are trying to make Jesus known. The world may be ignorant of their names, but these faithful servants will be well-known by God.

3. Because of our sins and disobedience, God chastens us, but because of His mercy and grace, he doesn’t kill us. Second Corinthians 6:9 says we are “chastened, and not killed.” The word “chastise” means to train, to correct, or to punish. The chastisement of the believer is an issue that some people do not understand. Some believe that Christians are immune to chastisement and punishment. They believe that they can live as they please because they will be automatically forgiven by God no matter what they do. However, the Bible warns us against using our liberty as an occasion to indulge the flesh and engage in sin.

+ Plus, listen to the Caravans as they sing “Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone” and Tasha Cobbs singing “Grace”

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