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Pritchard, Knocked Down But Not Knocked Out

boxing

By Ray Pritchard

Scripture: II Corinthians 4:8-9

As Mike Tyson famously remarked, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” If you live long enough, you’ll be punched in the mouth more than once. Sometimes you’ll see the blow coming. More often it seems to come out of nowhere. What happens to others happens to us too.

It’s a big mistake to think that God promises to shield his children from the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” What happens to others happens to us too. We get sick, our children get sick, we get laid off, the recession takes away our savings, the chemo doesn’t always work, and sometimes we end up in divorce court.

What then?

More and more I am convinced that our best apologetic to the world is not some clever argument we make to prove that Jesus really rose from the dead. Clever arguments can only take you so far. Our friends will judge our Christianity mostly by how we respond when we take it on the chin. Tim Keller says we need a theology of suffering if we’re going to reach this generation.

If Christians are truly the light of the world, when is the light most likely to be seen? In the bright sun of midday or in the darkness of the night? The answer is obvious. And it’s not as if we have to choose. We are the light of the world twenty-four hours a day. But our testimony given in the midst of hardship and sorrow will resonate more loudly because it comes at midnight.

Anyone can sing when the sun is shining.

If you can still sing at midnight, the world will hear you in a different way.

Nitty-Gritty Realism

I love the nitty-gritty realism of this passage.

Are we under pressure? Yes!
Do we get confused sometimes? Yes!
Do we face harsh criticism? Yes!
Are we knocked down sometimes? Yes!

That’s life, that’s reality, that’s the truth for every follower of Jesus. If you thought anything different, you better go back to the recruiting office and have a chat with whoever signed you up because being a Christian doesn’t mean getting a free pass through life. Far from it.

Christ offers victory through trouble not victory apart from trouble.

I love how J. Philip Arthur summarizes the meaning of our text:

Taken together, these four images tell us that Paul was a hard-headed realist with no romantic illusions about his service for God. Far from depicting himself as a spiritual superhero blazing a trail of success like a comet across the first-century sky, Paul portrayed himself as a groggy fighter reeling from a succession of near-lethal blows, surprised to find himself still on his feet and sure that if he was still standing, it was only by the grace of God (cited by Michael Andrus, “Treasure in Clay Pots.”)

What does this mean for us? We talk a lot today about the “victorious Christian life.” I’m all for that as long you understand victory the same way Paul did. Sometimes when I hear people talk about “victory,” it sounds like they want some sort of experience that will deliver them from the trials and struggles of life. They want to be lifted to a higher plane and a “higher life” that will preserve them from trouble. It doesn’t work that way.

Too many Christians want life to be like the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride at Disney World. You float along in a little boat where you see menacing pirates with their sharp swords. And it seems like they are going to get you, but they never come close. So you have a “thrill ride” but you are never really in danger. Life isn’t like that.

Life is hard.

We face danger around every corner.

Paul’s view of “victory” means, “Yes, I face trouble every day, and sometimes I despair of my own life. I’m under pressure all the time. I get confused. People attack me. Sometimes I get knocked down by life. But that’s when the power of Christ shows up to help me. If I have victory, it is victory through trouble not victory apart from trouble.” That’s the message we need to hear today.

This Isn’t a Cafeteria

We don’t get to choose our troubles. It’s not as if we can say, “I’ll take some light tribulation but let’s hold off on the persecution, and if you don’t mind, I think I’ll skip the part about being knocked down.” But life isn’t a cafeteria where we can pick what happens to us. We take what God sends us. But by God’s grace though we are knocked down, we are not knocked out.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come.
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

So what can we expect as Christians who live in this world? Well, we can say with Jimmy Stewart, it’s a wonderful life. But it’s not an easy life. If you follow Jesus, you will face suffering, trouble, distress and perplexity. Sometimes you will feel backed into a corner. Sometimes you may think God has forgotten you. But if you hang on, you will see God’s power at work, and though you are broken by life, out of your brokenness will come the fragrance of Christ himself.

Run to the cross!

You will smell beautiful!

And the Lord Jesus will be glorified by the way you respond to your trials. What about my friend who is hanging on to life? At the moment he has been truly knocked down, but it is equally true that he is not knocked out. He is clinging to Jesus even as he clings to life itself. As I pray for his complete recovery, I do not fear for my friend because long years ago, he placed his life in the hands of the Lord Jesus. And the Lord will take good care of him.

The same is true for all who believe in Jesus. Do you know him? Have you trusted him? He died on the cross and rose from the dead. Put your life in his hands and all will be well.

Perhaps the Lord is using the hardships of life to draw you to him at this very moment. If so, then my advice is simple.

Run to the cross!

Run to the cross and lay hold of Jesus Christ who loved you and gave himself for you. Trust him completely as your Lord and Savior.

And for all who do know him, rest in this truth. Whether we live or whether we die, no matter what happens tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, we need not be afraid. You may live another fifty years or you may die in the next twenty-four hours. In the ultimate sense it doesn’t matter for all things are in the Father’s hands. “No man need fear the years, for they bring him nearer, not to death, but to God” (William Barclay).

If we know Jesus, we’re in great shape today, tomorrow and forever. Amen.

©Keep Believing Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Bio:
Dr. Ray Pritchard is the founder and President of Keep Believing Ministries. For twenty-six years he has been a pastor, speaker and author of twenty-seven books. Married to Marlene for thirty-three years, he enjoys being a dad to three sons, biking, world travel and playing with Dudley, beloved basset hound. Learn more about his ministry at www.keepbelieving.com.