Knocked Down But Not Knocked Out
Sep 20, 2013 1990
If there were ever anyone who had reason to complain about their life, Paul of Tarsus would have been the one. In 2 Cor, 11:23–27, he writes about how many times he has been thrown in prison, beaten, faced, flogged within an inch of his life, stoned, shipwrecked. He says that he has gone without sleep, food, drink, and warmth, and that everywhere he has faced dangers, including being backstabbed by those within his own church. Eventually, as a result of what smells suspiciously like a religious set-up, and after nine years in prison, Paul was executed in Rome.
Yet, incredibly, it is this same Paul who can write the following in 2 Cor 4:8–9:
We are experiencing all kinds of trouble, but we aren’t crushed. We are confused, but we aren’t depressed. 9 We are harassed, but we aren’t abandoned. We are knocked down, but we aren’t knocked out.
Read the whole chapter. It’s only short. Here Paul is explaining what it means to live the Gospel life. He tells us that an absolute commitment to the proclamation of the Gospel compels everything that a true Christian does. Then he reminds us that we are not promised an easy life. Jesus said to his disciples,
“Remember what I told you, ‘Servants aren’t greater than their master.’ If the world harassed me, it will harass you too.” – John 15:20
But in the very next chapter, Jesus also said,
“I’ve said these things to you so that you will have peace in me. In the world you have distress. But be encouraged! I have conquered the world.” – John 16:33.
Here is the secret of a resilience like Paul’s. It is based on an accomplished fact – something that we believe in by faith, not because there is no evidence for it, but because it happened before we were born. At Calvary and in Joseph’s tomb, Jesus has already conquered the world!
For that reason, Paul explains why he is more than able to put up with so much hardship in his life:
We do this because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus… 16 So we aren’t depressed. But even if our bodies are breaking down on the outside, the person that we are on the inside is being renewed every day… 18 We don’t focus on the things that can be seen but on the things that can’t be seen. The things that can be seen don’t last, but the things that can’t be seen are eternal. – 2 Cor 4:14–18
Let’s face facts. Life can be tough… really tough. It is a miracle of grace that any of us will get out of it alive! Paul was an amazing man. Good on him; he didn’t get depressed. But many of us do.
The wounds of life go deep, and just as we have been shown mercy, we must show mercy to others. Sometimes I have heard the comforting words, “Don’t worry the final chapter of the story of your life hasn’t been written yet.” I would say that this reflects a poor understanding of the Gospel. Because those words aren’t as comforting as the reality that if you are in Christ, the final chapter of our life has in fact been completely written already. It was written in stone, in the stone of the open tomb in a garden outside Jerusalem. It was written in the awesome victory of Jesus Christ not just over the guilt of your sin, but over all of sin’s effects.
Hold on to that. Hold on by faith. It’s because of that, as Paul says, that, “we are knocked down, but we aren’t knocked out.” The storms may rage around us, but we will always stand in the victory of Christ.