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Optimism in the Face of Adversity

By Kyle Pope

The Holy Spirit can paint word pictures more beautiful and stirring that any master artist could ever produce. In II Corinthians 4:8,9 Paul through the direction of the Holy Spirit paints such a picture demonstrating the overwhelming optimism that can characterize the Christian life. Consider what is written:

We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed” (vs. 8). – The word translated “hard pressed” is thlibo meaning – “To press (as grapes), press hard upon, properly… a compressed way, i.e. narrow, straightened, contracted, metaphorically to trouble, afflict, distress” (Thayer, p. 291). The picture here is that of being squeezed (much like a bunch of grapes) by trials and persecutions. Yet even so, in Christ Paul was not “crushed”. The word for “crushed” is stenochoreo meaning – “To crowd together into a narrow place, straiten; passively to be in straits, to be cooped up, to be cramped from action, to be cramped in feeling” (Moulton, p. 375). In spite of many pressures, the Christian is not restrained by such pressures.

We are perplexed, but not in despair” (vs. 8) – The wording here is subject to a few different interpretations. Paul may refer to his state of mind or his material status. The word translated “perplexed” is aporeo  meaning — “To be without resources, to be in straits, to be left wanting, to be embarrassed, to be in doubt, not to know which way to turn… Middle to be at a loss with one’s self, be in doubt; not to know how to decide or what to do, to be perplexed” (Thayer, p. 66). The word translated “despair” is exaporeo meaning – “To be at a loss. To be wholly without resource, to despair utterly” (Zodiates, p. 600). “Be in great difficulty, doubt, embarrassment… despair of living” (BAG, p. 273). If we take it to refer to Paul’s material status Paul suggests that he is virtually without resource, and yet he is not utterly without resource. In Christ we can learn a contentment with the basic needs of life (see I Timothy 6:8).

“Persecuted, but not forsaken” (vs. 9) – In Greek the word for persecution is tied to the idea of being pursued by one’s enemies. The word rendered “persecuted” is dioko meaning – “1. To make to run, to run or flee, put to flight, drive away; 2. To run swiftly in order to catch some person or thing, to run after… 3. In anyway whatever to harass, trouble, molest one… to be maltreated, suffer persecution on account of something… 4. Without the idea of hostility, to run after, follow after some one; 5. Metaphorically… to pursue i.e. seek after eagerly, earnestly endeavor to acquire” (Thayer, p. 153). Just as Paul had once pursued the church trying to destroy it, he now finds himself “pursued”. Yet in Christ, he could have the confidence that the Lord had not left him to himself to face such trials alone. The word for “forsaken” is egkataleipo  meaning – “To leave in a place or situation, to leave behind; to forsake, abandon; to leave as a remnant from destruction” (Moulton, p. 113). The picture here is that Paul is pursued by the enemy but not left behind by the Lord!

“Struck down, but not destroyed” (vs. 9) – Paul (in the writing of these words) had already faced 39 lashes five times, beatings with rods three times and stoning once (II Corinthians 11:24,25). Yet none of that had (or could) effect his soul! The word for “struck down” is kataballo meaning – “To throw, cast. To cast down, used transitively for example from heaven, In the sense of to prostrate… In the middle to lay down a foundation” (Zodiates, p. 826). One can picture the blessed apostle thrown prostrate before his enemies in persecution. Yet even so his relationship to the Lord and hope of salvation endured. Jesus taught – “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28 NKJV). The word for “destroyed” is apollumi– “1. Actively – a. ruin, destroy… b. lose; 2. middle. – a. be destroyed, ruined. Of persons perish, die… Of Things b e lost, pass away, be ruined, b. be lost” (BAG, p. 95). Nothing man can do can “destroy” the soul if we ourselves stay true to the Lord.  

Pope, Kyle. "Optimism in the Face of Adveristy" Truth Magazine 49.6.5 (March 17, 2005): 5.  

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