Afflicted... But Not Crushed


Sermon By Terry Siverd

Cortland Church of Christ / May 19, 2019


Our 43rd Annual Camp 2:52 Summer Youth Retreat is now just five weeks away.

Our camp directors David & Brazle are due to arrive stateside next Sunday after traveling the globe this past year.

There is much to do in this home-stretch to camp.  Please funnel your registrations to N & H Wildman a.s.a.p. 


We all have rough days from time to time.

Out of necessity, most of us learn to shake off what ails us and move on to the next day with its responsibilities.

In the daily grind of various discouragements we learn the high value of persistence.

The value of persistence becomes a key ingredient when our rough days become weeks and months,

and even years.  I suspect that quite a few of us know what I'm talking about on a first-hand basis.

Some people go through storms in life that might seem never-ending - - one difficulty after another.

It might be a marital breakdown that extends itself over a considerable period of time.

It might come in the form of a long battle with poor health (our own, or that of loved ones).


The Indians all-star third basemen, Jose Ramirez, has been mired in a slump for about four months now - -

two months at the end of the 2018 season now butted up against two months into this new season.

He's appears to be hanging tough but you know he has to be getting really downcast.  Coaches and fellow players

tell you to “just relax and enjoy the game”, but how do you relax when the game is playing games with your head?

Relatively speaking this might be categorized as “small potatoes”, as Ilene Taylor was prone to say.

And in the grand scheme of things it may well be small potatoes, but for Jose Ramirez it is his livelihood. 


While I know that all of us are not avid history buffs, it does the heart good to read of others who've had

struggles yet remained firm to their commitments and obligations and subsequently survived and even excelled.

This is a case of where “misery loves company”.

In a twisted kind of way it does us good to know that we're not alone with struggles.


As Job stated long ago (Job 14:1) - - Man, who is born of woman, is short-lived and full of turmoil.

Job knew whereof he spoke.  In Job 17:1 he exclaimed - -

My spirit is broken, my days are extinguished, the grave is ready for me.

But through his prolonged agony, he refused to be crushed.  His faith was resilient.

In Job 23:10, he confidently proclaimed - - HE knows the way I take; When HE has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.


President Truman (our nation's 33rd President / 1945-1953 proved to be an impressive profile in courage.

For starters one can only imagine the monumentally-difficult challenge it must have been to follow in the steps

of Franklin Roosevelt - - who served as our nation's president for three full terms and the start of a fourth.

FDR became an national icon as he led our nation during The Great Depression, The New Deal and WWII.


Harry Truman was about as ordinary as a man could be.

He was chosen by FDR to be his fourth-term VP - - primarily because of his good work ethic, sound judgment, and

the lack of enemies.  As VP, Harry was a midwesterner with no college degree and not even enough money to

buy his own home, and then suddenly and “accidentally” he found himself anointed President after FDR's death.

Here's what happened in the first four months of his presidency:  the founding of the United Nations … the fall of Berlin … victory at Okinawa … firebombing in Tokyo … the first atomic explosion … the Nazi surrender … the liberation of concentration camps … mass starvation in Europe … the Potsdam Conference … the controversial decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki … the surrender of imperial Japan … the end of WWII … and rise of the cold war.

Can you fathom the toll this would take on any human being?  All of this over the course of just four months??

It should not surprise any of us to realize that President Harry S Truman was confronted with

many days throughout these four months when he became extremely downcast, bordering on despair.

(The above notes are gleaned from A. J. Baime's mesmerizing biography, The Accidental President).

The Scriptures are a repository of admonitions and exhortations about finding strength in times of weakness.

Many people search the Scriptures on a regular basis for words that might inspire them to keep on keeping on.

Many sources of inspiration are found in the stories of others who have gone before us.


In Rom.15:4, the apostle Paul observes - -

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction,

that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.


Open your New Testaments to 2Cor.4:8-10 as we re-read some biographical words from the apostle Paul - -

we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;

persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed; always carrying about

in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.


Here we find our sermon title for this morning:  Afflicted...But Not Crushed.


Think with me about this latter phrase:

always carrying about in the Body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus might be seen in our Body.

To be understood properly this phrase needs to be connected with 2Cor.4:7 - - But we have this treasure

in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of THE POWER may be OF GOD and not from ourselves.  


What Paul is noting here is more critical that we might imagine.

God has made us as “clay pots” (earthen vessels).  As pots of clay we are by nature fragile creations.

Sometimes we have deformities.  Sometimes we are easily broken.  Sometime we fall apart from wear and tear.

This is the way God made us, intentionally so.  It wasn't a mistake in creation, but was by His design.

God made us weak in order that we might look to HIM for strength, and, in so doing,

we might bring glory to GOD, who sustains and empowers us even in our weak conditions.

One might argue that this seems selfish on God's part - - HE wants the glory.

Let us not forget - - HE IS GOD ALMIGHTY.  He alone is worthy of glory and honor.


As Rom.11:36 declares - - from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To Him be the glory forever.  Amen.


These words from Paul in 2Cor.4:7f serve as a precursor to 2Cor. 11:22f (NCV) - -

Are they Hebrews?  So am I. Are they Israelites?  So am I.  Are they from Abraham's family?  So am I.

Are they serving Christ?  I am serving Him more.  (I am crazy to talk like this).  I have worked harder than they.

I have been in prison more often.  I have been hurt more in beatings.  I have been near death many times.

Five times the Jews have given me their punishment of thirty-nine lashes with a whip.

Three different times I was beaten with rods.  One time I was almost stoned to death.

Three times I was in ships that wrecked, and one of those times I spent a night and a day in the sea.

I have gone on many travels and have been in danger from rivers, thieves, my own people, the Jews,

and those who are not Jews.  I have been in danger in cities, in places where no one lives, and on the sea.

And I have been in danger with false Christians.  I have done hard and tiring work and many times I did

not sleep.  I have been hungry and thirsty, and many times I have been without food.  I have been cold

and without clothes. Besides all this, there is on me every day the load of my concern for all the churches.

I feel weak every time someone is weak, and I feel upset every time someone is led into sin.


Reading passages like these that we find in 2Corinthians chapters 4 and 11 can evoke differing responses.


Hopefully we do not read them and surmise that they are fabricated and unreal or make believe.

As if to conclude:  Nobody could possibly endure all of this - - it's just hyperbole and “un-credible”.

The Bible is a book of sacred writings, filled with truth upon truth, containing narratives that are truly authentic.

In fact the the Scriptures are often painfully candid, revealing sordid details that we'd rather not hear. 

We read citations where we wonder why God didn't edit and clean up some stories:  stories like

David's abuse of Bathsheba and Uriah; Jonah's fleeing from God; and like Peter's denial of Jesus.

We might respond by being embarrassed - - chagrined in light of how we complain about what we experience.

Our difficulties often pale in comparison to those we read about in Scripture.

It might well be that the stories of Scripture serve to convict us of our own whimpiness.

We complain and grumble about so many things and it is appropriate that we might well need to be

shamed for our lack of toughness and tenacity and for our adherence to the warped notion that

“if God really loves me He ought to shelter me from the many vicissitudes and hardships of life.”


There is a third response, one that is far better - -

what if we could actually find INSTRUCTION in such stories of tribulation?

Paul uses this word not only in Rom.15:4 but also in 1Cor.10:11 / these things were written for our instruction...

This “instruction” is not just that life is short-lived and full of turmoil (Job 14:1), but

rather that God is interested in how we deal with the problems that come our way.


This is the real test of life:

 how we handle whatever God sends our way or how we cope with whatever God allows to come our way.


The best summary I can find in Scripture as to the attitude that God wills for us

as we face a multitude of difficulties and troubles is found in Paul's words in 2Cor.12:9-10 - -

God said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.'

Therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with perse-

cutions and with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.


Here is our sermon assignment for the immediate days to come.

This “homework” consists of a three-fold request.


First, mark these passages in your Bibles and cross reference them.

In particular - - 1Cor.10:1-12 … 2Cor.4:7-10 … 2Cor.11:22-29 … and 2Cor.12:9-10.

Mark them with a yellow highlighter.  Connect them and cross-reference them.


Secondly, read them every day throughout the next week and return to them often.


Thirdly, memorize them - - if not the full passages, lock onto a few key phrases.

Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall (1Cor.10:12).

Afflicted in every way, but not crushed (2Cor.4:8).

(His) grace is sufficient (2Cor.4:9).

When I am weak, then I am strong (2Cor.12:10).


Storing these verses up in our minds is not optional.

The truths taught in these passages are essential for our discipleship.


Every single one of us need to have these truths etched in our hearts and minds.

They will not only help sustain in times of trouble but they will help us shine to the glory of God.

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