SORROWFUL YET ALWAYS REJOICING
Well here we go again for lovers of spiritual meat – for single minded seekers of The Living God, who desire intimacy, an insight into experiences when walking with the King. Not for the faint-hearted I guess. This is for those who not only read, but meditate and study. And who realise God is our teacher.
II Corinthians 6/1-10
…in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, 5 in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; 6 by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, 7 by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, 8 by honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
Paul the Apostle is giving us a list of credentials. He is telling us of some of the qualifications he received at ‘Bible College’ in order to become the Servant of Christ. The Bible College I refer to, of course, is the Bible College of Life. He was a man who set himself to follow Jesus no matter what happened.
There is one I especially want to look at.
But before we do look at one phrase in this passage, let me say that all of these qualities put together can be summed up by saying that they show clearly an ability to walk consistently with God, regardless of what came against him.
Referring to another consistent man of God. Jesus asked the question: ‘What did you come out to see a reed shaken in the wind?’ – when he spoke of John the Baptist. (Matt 11/7) .
Another translation says ‘What did you expect him to be like: Grass blowing in the wind? A man dressed like a prince in a palace?’
John the Baptist was not tossed to and fro with every wind of teaching or ancient philosophy, he knew the truth he had learnt directly from the Holy Spirit.
He was the only human being to be referred to as a ‘coming one’ in Scripture, before he was born.
He was a voice crying in the wilderness, HE HAD THE MESSAGE PEOPLE NEEDED TO HEAR AT THAT TIME. Perhaps you carry for today the truth someone in their wilderness without Christ needs to hear…(?)
John the Baptist was like Jesus who also on one occasion said ‘Faithless and Perverse generation how long shall I suffer you’.
Could you imagine me today wanting to make a good impression upon my brothers and sisters in Christ – and I am heard to say ‘You are all perverts!’
In today’s society the term ‘pervert’ is usually reserved for someone who has committed sexual sin. Yet Jesus ties together PERVERSITY with HAVING NO FAITH.
Not to have faith is a perverse thing.
And Jesus suffering our lack of faith, nevertheless at the same time, loves us with an everlasting love….
‘How long shall I suffer you?’ He says when grieved by our unbelief, yet –
All day long He stands with his arms outstretched towards us wanting us to come to Him, for this is faith.
And the impressive thing about John the Baptist, Paul the Apostle, and of course Jesus himself was there steadfastness.
But make no mistake about it – they had their steadfastness because they knew the enabling power of The Holy Spirit Himself helping and strengthening them – they were filled with The Holy Spirit.
So as they were filled with the Holy Spirit He created a steadfastness within them, and then when they needed to be refilled they set themselves steadfastly to be filled again. And so it should be with us.
They knew about another dimension of living. That dimension every Christian without exception is called to live in.
If we walk in The Spirit we shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
When it comes to prayer: Pray at all times in the Spirit. Be strengthened with all might according to His glorious power in the inner man. Only thus can we be steadfast unmovable always abounding in the work of the Lord.
The other dimension they had then, was Life in the Spirit.
Now it would be wonderful if we lived an idyllic existence, in a Euro-Disney type world, but of course we don’t.
And the Bible doesn’t ever set out to lull us into a false sense of security, by telling us everything will be ‘rosy in the garden’.
The scripture talks about a time known as the ’beginning of sorrows’, it talks about ‘distress of nations’, and of course there is so much stress-related illness today.
So God does not dress up the negatives with some sort of ‘power of positive thinking’.
God says it like it is. And even though a period of time is indicated here by the thought of ‘beginnings’ the ‘beginning of sorrows’ – literally meaning the beginning of birth pangs.
Everyone experiences sorrow of one kind or another in there lives. So the fact is, there are very negative things we are going to have to learn to deal with.
And God first of all wants us to survive, to overcome, but not just overcome but enter into the complete victory He has purchased for us on Easter’s cross.
He wants us to be victorious, because He was and is victorious on our behalf. The Bible says THIS is the victory that overcomes the world even our FAITH.
And as our faith increases and grows the more we overcome and live victoriously.
And this same wonderful Jesus who suffered having to walk in His fulness and purity amongst a perverse generation of unbelieving humanity, at the same time, healed and restored, showed compassion, set captives free, comforted and exhorted and helped even when his heart was breaking.
Jesus was tempted in all points like as we, yet without sin. He is the one who is touched by the feeling of our infirmities.
And there are times when we go through things, when Jesus seems to be a million miles away. And of course He isn’t, because He has promised to be with us always, even to the end of the world, and He requires us to believe the facts first…
Paul in his experience on one occasion says ‘we were pressed beyond measure so that we even despaired of life’… but he adds ‘we had the sentence of death in ourselves, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead’.
But now I want to come to the phrase that has caught my attention in II Corinthians 6/1-10. Paul in telling us of the experience of his life with Jesus, innumerates what we would call positive and negative things.
And the phrase that struck me was this: ‘sorrowful yet always rejoicing’.
There are different kinds of sorrow. There is what the Bible calls Godly sorrow and it leads to repentance. Repentance basically means to change your mind. God wants us transformed by the renewing of our minds, we exchange our thoughts for His, our emotions for His, our desires for His.
Sorrow or concern as caused by various things, can be carried or endured by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We must carry it with rejoicing lest we be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. To some it might seem like we don’t care because we rejoice, in the midst of sorrow-inducing circumstances.
But what is happening is we are giving it to Jesus, in acknowledgement of our dependancy on him. ‘Though he slay me, yet I will trust him’, says Job in the midst of his sorrowful situation.
At Easter time when we remember the sorrow and pain of Jesus and great rejoicing when the resurrection came, we are reminded of how He endured and how He remained faithful
‘Don’t weep for me’ said Jesus as they led Him to the hill of Crucifixion, ‘…weep for yourselves and for your children…’.
Hanging on the cross He was still ministering to others when He found a mother for a son, and a son for a mother. (John 19/26).
Notice the progression of Jesus journey through the garden of Gethsemane. He took His disciples to the garden, (rather like the outer court of the Old Testament temple) – some stayed there.
Then He took 3 – Peter, James, and John, a little further – (we could liken this to the Holy Place).
But Jesus as our Great High Priest went even further still – into as it were – the Holiest of Holies. Where do you and I want to dwell?
We need all the gospel narratives to give us the full picture of the garden.
Jesus entered into great sorrow.
His disciples too entered His sorrows, but it was difficult for them, they began to sleep. Jesus reinforced that only prayer could handle this, take sorrow to God in prayer like He did.
TIME OF RESISTING: Scripture says ‘Resist the devil and he will flee’. There is a time to take authority in Jesus name. You have not yet resisted unto blood striving against sin. (As Jesus did in the garden) (Hebrews 12/4)
He sweated great drops of sweat – like blood. On the cross it was sweat mingled with His Precious blood. There is a great mystery about what took place in the garden.
TIME OF STRENGTHENING. An angel came and strengthened him. If Jesus needed help from others, then we certainly need each other. The angel came after Jesus had prayed the third time. And so we find that the strength came not at the time of resisting but rather at the…
TIME OF ACCEPTANCE AND YIELDING Yielding to the Higher will of the father. He accepted what was largely a negative situation, but not as one defeated, but as one who was prepared to abandon everything to the Good will of the Loving Father.
This was more than faith in action – this was love (that believes all things, and bears all things) in action.
‘O My Father if this cup cannot pass away from me unless I drink it….’ – here The Lord Jesus exercises ACCEPTANCE.
There is a mystery to this acceptance.
Acceptance seems wrong to us who are schooled in the spiritual warfare school of thought. But there are many principles that Jesus taught and demonstrated in His life, not just one or two. How we need the wisdom of God to know which principle applies to what situation, we find ourselves in.
Here He demonstrates yielding to the higher will of one who knows better.
This was sorrow that lead to death, so we might be led to life.
But with sorrow – rejoicing –
‘…who for the Joy that was set before Him endured the cross’….
Is it a time of RESISTING you need? A time of STRENGTHENING you need? A time of ACCEPTANCE about something only God can change?
The whole idea of anxiety or worry for the Christian is that we turn it into prayer. Casting all our care upon Him, for He cares for us.Not only does He care for us in that He wants our highest good, but also He wants to do the caring for others in us.
God always wanting to keep us in balance with His truth also exhorts us: Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. (I Corinthians 10/12). (KJV)
So the attitude toward victory is not one of being high minded, or puffed up with self-reliance, but rather it is one of humility. In our weaknesses we become strong through the life of Christ in us.
Because we are called to victory and to do all things through Christ who strengthens us, Paul is able to make a statement that sounds like a contradiction:
Thus we come back to Paul’s highlighted statement: He says: ‘Sorrowful, yet always Rejoicing’.
How is this possible? How can we rejoice, when our hearts are full of sorrow?
How can we carry sorrow when full of rejoicing? The Answer Paul gives us is this:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.. (Galatians 2/20)
So the rejoicing that is experienced within my being it is the responsibility of Jesus to supply, and the sorrow within my being it is the responsibility of Jesus to carry. If truly it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.
God never intends me to lose my personality, Ken will always be Ken. God is not out to annihilate my personality. But it is God’s great desire to become one with me, for they that are joined to the Lord are (the scripture clearly indicates) ONE SPIRIT!
1 Corinthians 6:17
But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.
Who is the greater – Jesus or me – so therefore the lesser (me) must be overcome by the greater (Jesus). Anybody up for that?
So if I am to rejoice, who supplies the joy? Why it is the joy OF THE LORD which is my strength.
When sorrow comes my way who must sorrow within me – it is the man of sorrows, the one acquainted with grief.
The sorrow I experience for a lost and dying world, the sorrow I feel for people who will not listen and are on a journey of self-destruct, the sorrow I feel for those who have gone astray, and even the sorrow I feel for my own foolishness, all these and more I must seek Jesus to carry for me and often carry within me.
“Take over Lord”, must be my cry.
Casting all our care on Him for He cares for us.
Closely related to this experience of sorrow, is God’s exhortation to us to be FULL OF CARE FOR NOTHING.
But aren’t Christians supposed to care? If God wants us to be full of care for nothing, and yet we are meant to care…then His plan must be for someone else to carry the care.
Be careful for nothing but with all prayer and supplication – where?
IN THE SPIRIT!…make your requests known to God.
The whole idea of anxiety or worry for the Christian is that we turn it into prayer.
Casting all our care upon Him, for He cares for us. Not only does He care for us in that He wants our highest good, but also He wants to do the caring for others in us, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Paul says on another occasion: ‘I could wish myself accursed from Christ because of my countrymen’, his fellow Israelites. He also says ‘I testify that I have continuous sorrow in my heart for them’.
He also talks about that which comes upon him daily – the care of all the church!.
Comes upon him daily the care of all the church! Think of it.
Was he stressed out? Was he having a nervous breakdown? How come, surely with all this sorrow he was on his way to an early grave? No! Why?
He had learnt how to let the life of Christ within him take over.
If one member of the Church suffers, we are told all the members should suffer with them. Likewise if one member rejoices then all should rejoice.
What happens if both these things happen at the same time? Well it did in the life of Paul. Sorrowful yet always rejoicing! How do we do it? We seek the Lord for His joy, and we bare one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ.
Now there is no demand or competition to see who will be more spiritual than anyone else. Because it is our responsibility to seek God for what we do not have.
We are naturally selfish not selfless. Jesus was not naturally selfish He was selfless. So to properly rejoice we need His Joy. To properly care we need His caring heart to move us.
The question is not is this my emotion or the Lord’s emotion, it is Am I seeking the life of Christ within me to take over.
Jesus was a man of sorrows acquainted with grief. And yet as He, in sorrow sweated great drops of blood, He was still able to set himself to obey His Father, even though being sorrowful unto death.
We understand He did this – the Bible says – because of the JOY that was set before him.
And no woman after the sorrow of giving birth, remembers the sorrow anymore for joy that a child is born. And sometimes I think the women are better equipped than us men to be used and moved with compassion.
We really need God’s help to allow the love, and compassion of Jesus to work through us for others.
But we know our limitations in ourselves, we can’t survive without the joy of The Lord, else we have no strength.
Once in the early church someone committed a very bad sin. And he needed to be disciplined for this sin. And yet Paul exhorts the believers to comfort this person at the right moment, for fear of him being SWALLOWED UP WITH OVERMUCH sorrow.
You see there is the danger of an all consuming sorrow.
The sorrow of the world we are told works death.
Many who don’t have Jesus to cry out to, end up in deep sorrow and depression, and it leads to death as they commit suicide.
At the end of our self-life – life begins anew with Jesus as Saviour.
Let’s seek the Lord while He may be found, and call upon Him – He is near!
Blessings to all seekers.