We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned,
struck down, but not destroyed...
Therefore, we do not lose heart.
Though outwardly we are wasting away,
yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
2 Corinthians 4:8,9,16
These are some of my favorite words form the Apostle Paul, from my second favorite letter of Paul (Ephesians is my favorite).

We are So Afraid of the Hard Times!

I suppose this is our first and natural reaction. Hard times. Struggles. Problems. Suffering. We don't like those things. I don't like those things.

But I am not afraid of them.

One reason is that I know it is only through hard times that many good things happen.

Grapes must be CRUSHED to make wine.
Diamonds form as coal is under PRESSURE sustained over time.
Olives must be PRESSED DOWN and SQUEEZED to release oil.
Seeds grow in the DARKNESS.
The butterfly must STRUGGLE to break free of the cocoon. That is how its wings are made strong to fly.

In Genesis, Jacob the Deceiver wrestles with the angel of the Lord and is given a new name. What is that new name? ISRAEL or "he who struggles with God."

In the New Testament, we who follow Jesus are part of the new Israel. We too struggle with God. It is how we grow.

Anytime you try something new, you struggle with it. In the struggle you get better.

Every time you exercise for the purpose of getting stronger and faster, you struggle and break down muscle tissue. It is in the breaking down of muscle that muscle grows back BIGGER. Running fast so you breathe hard is how lung capacity expands.

What is True in the Physical World is also true in the SPIRITUAL WORLD.

And that is the main point of what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4.

In all his struggles, Paul encounters Jesus Christ and receives the strength of Jesus.

Paul sums up everything in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

But he (the Lord) said to me: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

That is the promise of Jesus for you.

Don't be afraid of the pressure. Don't run from the struggle. In faith, wrestle with God and see what God will do.

Pastor Brian Rice

P.S.  And here is one final encouraging word.
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