Introduction: Welcome to Calvary Albuquerque. We pursue the God who is passionately pursuing a lost world; we do this with one another, through worship, by the Word, to the world.
Neil Ortiz: Good evening, church. No, I am not Skip. That is obvious. However, for your sake I am going to ask that you do not walk out and that you do not tune out, because the truths that we're going to unpack from God's Word tonight are of consequence if they are believed, if they are followed through with, if they are heeded. And so I'll be spending the night with you. My name is Neil. I serve as one of the pastors here, and I'm sure as I see a lot of friendly faces around, many of you know me and I know you. And for those of you who don't, it's nice to get to know you in this context. Pastor Skip sends his greeting to you as he is on his way to the Ukraine for about a week and a half to do some ministry right alongside Franklin Graham. And so you want to be praying for him in the coming week and a half.
I want to thank Ryan for praying with all of us as I was praying with you backstage as he closed for our time together tonight. For our time as a beginning I'm going to take you all the way to May 27, 1943. That was the day when former world record holder in the mile for high schoolers, a former Olympian who ran for United States in the 1936 Olympics, an Italian American, bombardier and officer in World War II by the name of Louie Zamperini was shot down along with his squad in the Pacific Ocean. Many of you are familiar with his story. And even recently the last two years that he spent serving his country was cataloged for us in a movie titled Unbroken. Now those of you who are familiar with the story, you know that what happened right after the plane crash is that there were only three survivors and Zamperini was one of them.
They had one life raft and for forty-seven days they were adrift at sea. The raft was attacked by sharks. They had, obviously, very little to eat and little to drink, relying upon rainwater whenever it fell. During that time they thought that perhaps a plane that was overhead was there to either recognize them and send help or there to rescue them, only to discover that it was a Japanese plane that ended up shooting at them and puncturing their raft with forty-eight bullet holes. Miraculously none of them were hit. They did their best to patch that raft. So after being adrift for forty-seven days and two thousand miles, they finally reach a place where they see land, only to be intercepted before they could reach that land by a Japanese patrol boat. And after that forty-seven days began two years as a prisoner of war for Zamperini.
During that time, for whatever reason, he had a primary nemesis who happened to be the commanding officer of that Japanese prisoner of war camp. He was known by all the prisoners as "the Bird," only because they couldn't call him what they really wanted to call him because of how brutal he was. He was the commanding officer. He was the commanding officer of correction. His name was Mutsuhiro Watanabe. That name would torment Zamperini for years. Fortunately, in 1945 the war ends, Japan surrenders, and later that year Zamperini's able to be reunited with his family in Torrance, California. Now because of his fame before the war, and because of what he endured during the war, he was immediately desired as a speaker, as someone that the rich and the famous wanted to spend time with.
So he went from being a prisoner of war to thrust into the limelight. He said it was incredible. He loved it. About one year later he found the love of his life, a Miami debutante by the name of Cynthia Applewhite, and they married. Everything looked perfect. But little did she know that way back even as he was a prisoner of war he began to have nightmares, nightmares about his chief tormentor "the Bird". And those nightmares carried on until after he returned home where his life looked normal on the outside; it was anything but normal on the inside. So just a few years into their marriage, he doesn't know what to do, because he can't sleep, so he turns to alcohol. He said it was only when he was drunk he could absolutely forget about what had happened to him.
But he went from being tortured as a prisoner of war to now being tortured by alcohol. Obviously that had a crushing effect upon his marriage, to the point that the two converged one evening where he was awakened by his wife as he was in bed on top of her choking her in his mind. He was having a dream that he was choking "the Bird", but it was actually his wife. And that was the last straw for her. She said, "Enough. I want a divorce." This further crushed Zamperini. He believed his wife to be so beautiful, so brilliant, so devoted, and yet she was on the verge of leaving him. But, fortunately, in late 1949 there was an (at the time unknown) evangelist coming to Los Angeles by the name of Billy Graham, and he was going to begin hosting a series of tent meetings.
And it just so happened that one of Cynthia's friends invited her to this meeting. Fortunately, she went, she heard the gospel, and she became a believer in Jesus Christ. She returned home that night immediately on fire for Christ and she tells---she tells Louie, "Because of my conversion, I'm not going to divorce you. I'm going to tough it out." He immediately responds by saying, "Wow, this is a great deal." But he's torn, because not only was she but also her friends were pestering him with the gospel. So she invited him to the next night's meeting and he agreed to go. He knew this was his only chance. And as Billy Graham shared the message, Zamperini became very uncomfortable to the point of eventually just walking out on it. He left. But his wife didn't give up, neither did her friends. She convinced him to return one more time.
And he made a deal with her. And he said, "I'll show up, but I'll tell you this much, if we get to that point where we have to start bowing our heads and praying, I'm out of there." And sure enough, as the message was being given, he knew it was drawing near to that place where he was going to be challenged and he already had his exit strategy. But he recounts that as Billy Graham was sharing the Word of God, he remembered things he had not remembered for the last five, six years. Most notably he says, "In all of my time as a prisoner of war, not one time did my life flash before my eyes. Not once. But as Billy was reading the Scriptures, my life flashed before me." Specifically, he says, a promise he had made to God while in that raft during a night where there was a very tumultuous storm.
He remembered at that very moment saying this to God: "God, if you get me out of here, I will seek you and I will serve you." He said it wasn't until the very moment he had remembered that promise he had made to God. And he says, "Oh, I was such a heel. Look at me, failure of failures. God kept his end of the promise and here I was not keeping my end." And in that very moment he did a literal 180, and instead of walking out, he walked forward to receive Christ. And as he goes to receive Christ, he says, "I know immediately that I've already taken my last drink, I've smoked my last cigarette, and from this point forward my life is going to be forever different." He said, "That night was the first night in more nights than I can remember that I did not have a nightmare."
And he goes on to say in his late seventies, as he recounts the story, since then he has not had one nightmare about "the Bird" or about all the experience that produced the severe PTSD that he was experiencing prior to his conversion. An amazing story and just a couple of things I want to point out there. That moment when he responded to the altar call; that call to repentance and salvation, he became broken. The movie that many of us saw just half a year ago leaves the best part out. He was unbroken as a POW, but God brought him to the place of being broken before him. And in doing so we come to a consideration of what we're talking about tonight; and that is this, my friends: God promises for every man, woman, and child that knows him that we're able to live what is called a transcendently invincible life.
Every single one of us that are his children have this available to us. You have it available to you. Some of you are living in it right now. Others haven't gotten there yet. It is our hope and prayer that tonight there's going to be some quantum leaps in your relationship with Christ, your experience as God's child. And, yet, I'm aware that perhaps even in our gathering here there might even be one or two of you that don't yet know Christ. You've---as pastor Skip so awesomely often says, "You've come to church but you've not yet come to Christ." If that is you, you need to hear this message that what's available to us is the opportunity to be what Paul the apostle called not just a conqueror, but "more than a conqueror." You see, Zamperini was able to exit the war of World War II having overcome. He conquered. Christ made him even more than a conqueror.
You see, his torture in a POW camp ended when the war ended, but that man, "the Bird", he was already in his head. He was in that man's soul. And years later he was still effectually controlling this man, tormenting him. Who is your "Bird"? Who is your Mutsuhiro Watanabe? What is your tormentor? Or, again, for some of you, Who is your tormentor? So I love the story of Louie Zamperini primarily because of everything that happened after that movie ends. He ends up displaying for so many years later this transcendently invincible life. In 2014 he didn't die, he moved. You see, physically he expired, but all he did was graduate. Invincible, my friend, truly invincible. The apostle Paul, the man whose life we're going to take that closer look at tonight. He was one of the first to model this transcendently invincible life that God's people have available to them.
As we consider Paul's life, a very strong case can be made that his life contained even more suffering than Zamperini. And it's going to be through his example out of our passage---if you have your Bible, you want to turn there, Second Corinthians chapter 4 verses 16 through 18; Second Corinthians chapter 4 verses 16 through 18---that we're going to see that through Paul God reveals three principles for living a transcendently invincible life. Very few of us are living that life, but it's available to all of us. So we come to our passage where Paul writes: "Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while---while we do not look at those things which are seen, but rather we look at those things which are not seen.
For those things which are seen are temporary, but those things which are not seen are eternal." Principle number one: We do not quit because we do not die. As believers we are immortal, immortal. If you're at the passage, I want you to go just a couple of verses before that to verse 14 in just the first part of it. Paul writes, "Knowing that he who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus." When you physically expire, that is not your end, you live on. "Therefore," because of that, "we do not lose heart." What does it mean to "lose heart"? It means to grow weary. More explicitly, it means to wimp out, to be a quitter. It means to be a coward. And Paul is saying, "Look, if you're going to understand this, if it's going to actually change your life, you gotta know right now that this is not for quitters.
It's not for cowards. It's not for wimps." We don't lose heart. Charles Spurgeon wrote, "The saints"---us that know Christ, we that know him---"prove [our] conversion by [our] perseverance." Now that is not to say that we have to grow up into a greater maturity over a period of time. We're going to stumble. We're going to trip up every now and then. But what's trending in our lives is not wimping out, not being a coward. That's what he's getting at. You see, Paul was a man who believed in one of Jesus' declarations. The one I'm going is to refer to was given to Martha, one of his close friends. There's going to be a number of times that we're going to look at various Scriptures tonight. I'm going to simply ask for the sake of time that you only turn to the Scripture and read along with me when I ask you to do so.
Otherwise I'm going to be reading it, by the time you're there, I'm already moving on. Listen to this declaration Jesus gave to Martha in John 11 verses 25 and 26. He says, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall yet live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die." And then he drops a bomb on her: "Do you believe this?" Because if you don't, it's of no consequence to you. However, for Paul, this truth was very impactful. It meant something to this man. It was consequential to him. So, although we physically expire, the real us simply moves on from this side of heaven to the other side of heaven. This is exactly where our invincibility comes from. Satan, ultimately he cannot touch us. Whatever adversary you have, whatever circumstance you dread cannot ultimately touch us.
It cannot touch you. We are invincible. Let's go now to the second part of verse 16. He goes on to make another bold statement. You know what's great about this passage? It is not complicated. It's pretty straight up, straightforward, very practical, but very consequential. He says, "Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day." He says, "Even though," and this is what he means by that: It's a given. It's a fact. It's not even debatable. Since our outward man is perishing, we have to accept that. Paul was a great man in that he was brutally honest. How many of you just like it when somebody needs to tell you something and you just kind of want to say, "Could you just give it to me straight? Just give it to me. Stop all the flowers. Just let me know what I need to hear."
The Holy Spirit, through Paul, was exactly like that. He gave it to us straight. This "outward man" simply refers to our physical bodies, our hardware. It's dying. But the "inward man," that refers to us, those of us, we who are God's children. It refers to that part of us that God has made new. It refers to that part of us that Paul also to the Corinthian church said is our "new creation," our newly created nature, that invisible part of us that regenerated spirit, that born-again soul. That part of you---which, incidentally, is actually the real you---it's getting renewed every single day by the Lord even while your physical body is dying. From the moment we born into this world, we enter into a process of dying. That's that sobering perspective. You know, it doesn't take much to remind us of this.
I had a very depressing experience just a couple weeks ago as I was reorganizing pictures on the hard drive at home, and I noticed photos of me fifteen years ago, ten years ago, and five years ago. It was not very flattering, folks. In fact, just to not feel so isolated up here, I thought back to the 1980s. In just a couple of days I'm going to turn 41. So I grew up during the late '70s and '80s. Right on. And I thought back to the first time I saw the original Terminator. Man, was not Schwarzenegger impressive? Dude was awesome. You look at him, you go, wow. You look at a photo now where he's at the beach, got the shirt off. Hey, I admire him for having the courage to take his shirt off at the beach now. But you think to yourself, "It didn't take a whole lot of time for that to happen."
I think of John-Claude Van Damme, one of the great martial artists and action heroes in cinema of the 1980s, early '90s. Dude was awesome. I remember being so jealous because a girlfriend in high school adored this guy. I knew I could not come anywhere near that dude physically. But it didn't hurt so bad to see what he looks like now, especially because he's even a little older than I am. He's still pretty stout, but . . . . Okay, here's a little bit of an embarrassing moment. I remember as a ten-year-old going to the mall, and I remember it like it was yesterday. It's probably one of those things I need to pray to God that he deletes from my memory bank. But I remember as a young ten-year-old going to the mall, looking at a Sam Goody music store, and seeing a huge display in the window of Madonna's Like a Virgin album cover.
And as a ten-year-old I went "Woowww!" I don't know exactly why I should be liking that, but I sure do." Then I went a couple years ahead. I was an unbeliever at the time, just so you know. I didn't come to know Christ until nine years later. I remember a few years down the road there, a freshman in high school, Cindy Crawford supermodel just stepped on the scene. Wow! Sorry Madonna and sorry Cindy, but when you happen to look at the photos now, instead of going wow, I go whoa. Again, folks, it didn't take a lot of time for that to happen. Many of us in here feel that, don't we? Happens pretty quickly. How is it that we perish? Well, by natural causes, folks. We're just dying. We're just getting older. We're just giving out. It's obvious.
But Paul also was perishing, not just for natural causes, but for supernatural causes, more specifically for his sufferings as a result of his loyalty to Christ. You don't have to turn there, but in Acts 9 verses 15 and 16 we meet a man named Ananias that God gave an incredibly special mission to. He was sent as a word from the Lord to go to this man named Paul, and he says I want you to go to him. And, "Go, for He is a chosen vessel of mine." I want you to tell him this, "to bear my name before the Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel." And he says, God telling Ananias to tell this to Paul, "For I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name's sake." Hey, I don't know how exactly Paul got the down download, but from day one God told him this is a glimpse into your future. I commend the man for not tucking tail and running.
We don't have time. In fact, we can spend an entire night considering all of Paul's sufferings. So what I'm going to simply do for you is I'm going to start with the book of Acts and I'm going to simply catalog for you his sufferings as recorded chronologically in the book of Acts. Just listen to this. Chapter 9 he steps on to the scene as a believer. And just later in that same chapter, verse 23, we see that his life was threatened in Damascus. Later on in the chapter his life again was threatened, this time in Jerusalem. In chapter 13 we see that he was persecuted and run out of Antioch. In chapter 14 we see that he was stoned and left for dead in Lystra. We see in verse fif---or chapter 15 that he was opposed and made the center of controversy.
Later on in that chapter he experienced the loss of a very close friend and coworker by the name of Barnabas. We see in the next chapter 16 that he was beaten with rods and imprisoned at Philippi. Later on in that chapter he was cast out of Philippi. In chapter 17 his life was threatened in Thessalonica. Later in that chapter, forced out of Berea and also mocked in Athens. Chapter 18 he was taken before the judgment seat in Corinth. And then in chapter 19 he was opposed by the silversmiths in Ephesus. Interestingly enough, right at the end of chapter 19, perhaps just at the beginning of chapter 20, is when we come to the very year that the book we're reading from tonight, Second Corinthians, was written.
And so when he recounts what we're going to read in just a moment, in that book of what his sufferings had been up till that point, consider that it did not include this as we continue through the book of Acts: Chapter 20 he was plotted against by the Jews in Greece. Chapter 21, apprehended by the mob in Jerusalem. Chapter 22, he was arrested and detained by the Romans in Jerusalem, and then later on he barely escaped being scourged. Chapter 23, he was rescued from the Sanhedrin. Later on he survives two assassination plots against him and he has a two-year imprisonment in Caesarea. We leapfrog to chapter 27; we discover that he was shipwrecked on the island of Malta. While he was shipwrecked, he suffered a snakebite while on mission for God. And in chapter 28 we find his first Roman imprisonment.
But that wasn't the end, folks, there was a three- to four-year gap between his first Roman imprisonment and his second one. And it was in Paul's second Roman imprisonment that eventually resulted in his execution. Church historian Eusebius says that he was decapitated for his faith. We can't necessarily prove that, but we do know that he died while being in prison and that he was executed. How exactly, we're not entirely sure, but more than likely he did lose his head for Christ. Consider this: Paul lived as a Christian for thirty-two years, thirty-two years as a believer. And in the book we read tonight, Second Corinthians that only covers the first twenty-one years of his Christian life. He had roughly ten to eleven more to go. It's only two-thirds of what his sufferings were.
And for those of you who are familiar, don't have the turn there, but in Second Timothy chapter 4 verse 7 we know that he eventually touched the tape as he was just about a year out from what he believed to be his impending death. And he says this, this is the testimony that he writes of his walk with Christ: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." "Man, I am not a coward. I didn't wimp out. I didn't quit. I made it. I made it." I can imagine how excited he was. But I want us to become a little bit more intimately aware of what his sufferings were, and for that I'm going to ask that you stay in the book of Second Corinthians and you turn to chapter 12 beginning in verse 23. Second Corinthians---I'm sorry. I think I said chapter 12, I meant chapter 11; chapter 11, verse 23.
When we come to this passage here, those of you that are familiar with these books know that Paul was having to defend himself reluctantly to those who were criticizing him. And those critics, they weren't the people on the outside, they were the people on the inside of church. Tell you what, my friends, many of you know this firsthand. Having been a believer for twenty-two years now in this incredible church, this massive church, I can tell you this much, there's a lot of sheep that have fangs, man. They bite. There's an old saying that says, "Hey, the world might stab you in the back, but Christians, they'll stab you in the front." I've known too many fellow believers that are all too willing to shoot their wounded.
And in this case here they took Paul and they said, "Man, the guy doesn't even look impressive, doesn't even sound impressive. He's nothing. He shouldn't be your leader. We should be your leader." So these self-style apostles were coming into the church and saying, "No, man, we are those who should be leading you." So Paul is having to, by the Spirit of God, write to the Corinthians to set them straight. And so he begins in verse 23 of chapter 11, "Are they," these critics of his, "Are they ministers of Christ?" Man, I hate doing this, but "---I speak as a fool---I'm [actually] more." I mean, I hate to say it, but comparatively they don't even stand up to what's gone on through this life by the hand of God. "In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.
"From the Jews five times I have received forty stripes minus one." Do to math. "Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I've been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of water." And when he talks about "perils," it means dangers. In other words, there was nowhere to run to, baby, and nowhere to hide. "In perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my very own countrymen," people I could have be able to trust, "in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren," fakers, posers, "in perils in the wilderness"---um, I am sorry, "in weariness and toil," rather, "in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness."
Kind of feels like you're watching the movie Unbroken, right? "Besides the other things, what comes upon me daily" all that stuff he just mentioned was stuff that affected him on the outside, caused deep pain. But then he mentions something else, and I'm grateful he does: "My deep concern for all the churches." This man, hey, a lot of you have this experience, it's just the way it goes down. You find that after a period of time you're more close, you're more intimate, you're more trusting in your brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ than you're able to even be with your own blood family that doesn't themselves yet know Christ. And so I want to just point that out when he says, "Look, I have a deep concern for all the churches. I love these people. They count on me. I count on them."
And they're being attacked like the Corinthian church was by these posers, these punks. And he says it kills me on the inside. Relationship pain quite often is the most intense kind of pain. And he knew what that was like too. He says, again, "My deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, am I not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I don't burn with indignation?" Who doesn't light me up when I see these guys coming in to destroy the house of God? "If I must boast, [man, reluctantly I'll boast, but] I'll boast in the things which concern my infirmity. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who is blessed forever, he knows, [he knows that I'm being straight up], I'm not lying." I'm telling the truth. The man was perishing. He knew it. He accepted it. Have you? Have you?
Now, friend, God calls us to be good stewards of our body, but God never calls us to be worshipers of our body. Friend, I've experience the temptations myself. As you can see, I haven't given into them. Where all of a sudden you have to style your life dietetically exercise wise to either look a certain way, maybe to experience a certain kind of pleasure or to be worshiped in some funky way. Or perhaps there's a good intention behind it. You want to extend this life as long as possible. There's nothing wrong with that if your motive is so that you can give that much more to God. But, friend, I've got some news for you. Job chapter 14 verse 5, God says to Job, "Job, I want you to write this down and tell everybody that I have set the limits for every man/woman on this earth and no man can pass them."
However you come to your end, God's already prescribed when it's happening. Whether it's seemingly natural or supernatural, accidental or intentional, God knows what's going to happen. You cannot extend the length of your life no matter what you do. Accept it, move on, and you're going to be closer to living a transcendently invincible life. Which brings us to the second half of verse 16. He says, "Though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day." How do we do that? Well, hey, folks, you're part taking of how we do that in part. We've worshiped tonight with music. We have fellowshipped with one another, conversation, patting each other on the back. If need be, even saying, "Hey, man, you gotta step it up next time. That wasn't good."
"The way you checked out that chick when she walked in the church, that ain't right." Prayer, many of you prayed today. Hopefully all of you prayed today. You're learning the Scriptures. All those are ways in which we grow in our faith. I tell you what, though, Paul's life in the entirety of the Scripture says there's something that doesn't replace everything we just listed. But assuming those things which we just listed, which are your basic nutritional requirements as a Christian, this next thing takes it to the next level. What is it? Pain. Suffering. Don't turn there, but Paul knew something that Peter knew and he wrote of it in chapter 5, verse 10 of Frist Peter. He says, Peter writes, "May the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while"---not before, but after---"perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you."
You want to get to that place where you can live a transcendently invincible life? What's your price of admission? You walk the talk knowing that it's going to lead to suffering and you're on your way there. Which brings us to principle two: We take pleasure in pain. We take pleasure in pain? Wait a minute, we take pleasure in pain---that doesn't even make sense. Furthermore, why don't we read the verse. "For our light affliction"---who wrote this, Paul?---"our light affliction which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." This guy's out of his mind. No. He was a man with the right perspective. The word "light" here is the Greek word elaphron. You know what it means? It means frivolous or of small weight.
Basically, this list of things that we just considered of all that Paul suffered, that list of things that he himself wrote about, not only in the part of Second Corinthians we just read, but many parts of the New Testament, he basically says, "Let me gather it all together. I'm going to put it on the scale. You know how much it's going to weigh? Throw a feather on there." It's frivolous, frivolous, of small weight. What was of small weight? The affliction. It's the Greek word thilipsis. What does it refer to? It refers to oppression or a pressure as unto a crushing demise. When I was a kid, I ruined a number of my pairs of shoes, because I loved for some crazy reason putting ketchup packets on the floor. And it wasn't until after ruining about two pairs that I realized I needed to change my technique.
But I would put it on the floor and I would run and I would jump as high as I could and I would smash it. And I'd see how far the ketchup would squirt. Well, I ruined the shoes because I would do this number, and often times it would squirt there, and so it would get on the pants and the shoes. But I was still stoked because I'd look at the ketchup packet and I'm like, "That thing is totally empty, man. I destroyed it." I applied so much pressure to it that it's arrived at its demise. That's the idea of affliction here, under so much pressure that you're crushed to the point of expiring. You say, "Gosh, this guy dealt with this for thirty-two years." Zamperini was on that raft and in the POW camp for just a little over two years. This guy had thirty-two years of that. But he says it was just simply "for a"---what? What does it say?---"a moment." Literally, a brief time.
How could he say this? It was a matter of perspective. He says this frivolous oppression lasted an amount of time that was comparatively nothing. Compared to what? Compared to what it was being used of God for. He goes on to say in that verse, "is working." I want you to say that word out loud with me, for me. "Is working"---what is it?---"for." One more time, "for." One more time loud, "for." That affliction you're experiencing, whether it's by a circumstance or by a person or by people, God has somehow thought it wise to allow it into our lives. And it is not something that, though it might feel this way, it is not something that is against you, it is actually---what?--- it is "for us." It's "working for us," not against us. Friend, this is where we go from simply being immortal or invincible to becoming transcendently invincible.
This is where we elevate above it all. This right here, this truth, if you believe it and act on it, is the actual fulcrum that takes you from the average Joe Christian to rising above, to being able to live like Paul lived. This is it. This is where you as a Christian actually begin to take off. You begin to soar in a manner like Paul. He says this: "Look, I'm not playing mind games here. The crushing that I've experienced, oh, it's very real." He didn't act like it didn't happen. He cataloged it. In fact, I can only imagine that when Paul went to take that bath and somebody looked over and said, "Wow! Look at his back. Look at his legs. Dude is---that dude is messed up. Something did a number on that guy." He bore the marks of his sufferings for Christ. But though he said the crushing is real, comparatively it's petty. It's unimportant.
And here, my friend, is if you believe it and act on it, this is the game changer. This is it. Though it's real, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter compared to eternity. You know, it's amazing how many things take care of themselves when the things that should not matter, do not matter. Try it sometime. You see, Paul is beginning to discover that not every hardship is to be escaped or a problem to be solved, but rather it's something that he's going to benefit by if he trusts Christ in it and through it. He came to this discovery that it is your trials in life that lead directly to the greatest production of your spiritual strength, your spiritual vigor, your spiritual vitality. Paul discovered that there was a correlation between God redeeming all of his natural sufferings, just his body breaking down.
And him saying, "God, I just receive it is from you. I'm not going to fake it like I can actually live forever. I'm just going to cut my losses. I know I'm getting older. I know I'm dying, but I'm going to walk in those natural sufferings with you. Better yet, those that are supernatural, those ways in which I'm suffering for your name's sake, I'm going to welcome them, because I'm privileged to suffer on your behalf. And I've discovered that every time I experience it, I become a better man for your purposes, God." Therefore his mind goes even crazier, crazier, unless you get what he got. Check it out. I want you to go just a few verses up ahead to Second Corinthians chapter 4 verse 7. This is more of the buildup to the passage we're looking at tonight. He says in Second Corinthians chapter 4 verse 7, "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels," clay pots.
Why? Why did God not choose some other extraordinary, splendid way to do his work? He chose us, these breaking-down, perishing clay pots. Why? "That the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us." If God does the work, nobody can say, "Oh, man, that dude's awesome." You think that? You don't even get it. "That the power may be of God and not of us." He continues and says, "We are hard-pressed," that idea of pressure again, "on every side." But guess what? "We're not crushed; we are perplexed." We ain't freaking out. "We're not in despair; we're persecuted," but I know I'm not alone. "I am not forsaken; we're struck down, but not destroyed---"and check this out. Listen to this---"always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus."
Why? Because there's a correlation that when you do that, "the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake." What does that look like? I haven't been taken to the stake to burn for Jesus yet? No. But what about maybe yesterday when your wife didn't respect you as much as you think she should, and instead of loving her anyway, instead of taking that slight as something that God can use to make you a better man for God's purposes, you took it out on that woman either with hot indignation or with cold war tactics. Don't let that happen. Ehhnnt! You didn't die. You didn't die, but if you had, you would have noticed that God would have made you a better man for having endured that light affliction to make you a better man for God's purposes.
"For we who live are always being delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then," this is how it goes down, "death is working in us, life in you." When I die for Christ's sake, God walks through my life and into yours, and you're a better person for it. You're a better Christian for it. I want you to go to the twelfth chapter of Second Corinthians with me. Many of you are familiar with this passage. We come to this place where there's a thorn in the flesh being experienced by Paul. And many commentators believe that this was a physical infirmity, because Paul does write of those things that he had physically that were a bother to him, a tormentor of him.
But there's an equal amount of very solid commentators who say that this was actually referring to a person or a group of people that were problem people in the church. That don't happen here, right, problem people in the church? Nah. The pastoral staff here needs to---don't fall out of your chair, guys. We often are our biggest problem people in the church with one another. They happen, they exist, but these were really special problem people in the church. They were torturing Paul, and he says of this, "Concerning this thing," verse 8 of chapter 12, "I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me." And what did God say back to him? "My grace is sufficient for you." Oh, man, here we are again suffering for God's sake. But there's a benefit. There's a benefit.
There's a gift to be opened if you do that. Why? Because God tells him, "My strength is made perfect in weakness." So he goes on to say, "Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities that the power of Christ my rest upon me." You still tracking with me? "Therefore I," Paul says, "take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses---all for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then [my friend], I am strong." I don't want you to turn there, but in the first chapter of this same book he recounts to the Corinthian church some trouble that they had experienced. He says, "Look, we don't want you to be ignorant of it." We want to give you a heads-up that this is really what happened. He says, "This trouble came to us when we were in Asia."
And he describes it this way: "We are burdened beyond measure above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves." We thought this was it, man. This is it. We're done. But there was a benefit for God allowing them to get to that purpose for suffering for his sake. And here was the benefit: "So that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead." I'm going to recount just some other ways in which we can look at Paul's life and his sufferings. As we've already looked at, he accepted the ways he was perishing as a human. But he knew God was redeeming those natural ways. He also was aware and very forthcoming with how many of his sufferings came as a result of his obedience to Christ.
For he knew what he wrote to Timothy years later when he said, "All who desire to live godly in Jesus Christ will suffer persecution." And a lot of that persecution was at the hands of people he knew, people that he thought he should have trusted. There were those who wanted to destroy him. Just like there are those that you feel are in your life that seem to only wake up in the morning just to make your life more miserable. But what they didn't know that Paul knew was that with every blow to his spirit or his body, he became stronger. You see, Paul's adversaries would have accomplished more toward their goal if they would have simply left him alone. But Paul knew something different. He knew that when I'm ground to powder, I'm solid as a rock. He understood that correlation.
This is where Paul experienced his transcendent invincibility. You see, all our affliction for Christ will serve to strengthen us. And if it gets even so bad that it results in our death, that's the ultimate win-win, folks. You are unstoppable if you're an obedient follower of Christ. You are invincible, if you take God at his Word and life for him daily, keeping your code of conduct as a Christian man or Christian woman, knowing that whatever is going to come to you, whatever slight, whatever disrespect, whatever rejection, whatever torture, whatever torment, whatever opportunity passes you by, however you get overlooked, however you've been violated, however you've been betrayed in Christ, allowing Christ to be the one to take you through it, he promises, "I can take you above it."
You, my friend, in Christ are invincible. In Romans, chapter 8, I'm going to ask that you turn there, beginning in verse 18. We're going to read some more of what Paul said about this relational and physical pain he experienced. And it's important because it gives us opportunity to have it really emblazoned in our heart and mind. He writes to the Roman church, beginning in verse 18. And then we're going to bounce to a couple other verses later on in that same chapter. "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." It's going to get better folks. Verse 28, a very familiar and favorite verse for many of us: "And we know that all things," even the persecutions, "work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purposes."
Verse 31 he goes on to say, "What shall we say then to these things? If God is for us, [there ain't nobody that] can be against us." Verse 35, "Who shall separate us from the love of [God]?" Is it that family member that just tears you down every time you're with them, whether it's aggressively passive-aggressively? Is it your boss that just breaks you down every day you show up to work? Is it your spouse that belittles you at every turn? Is it your child that has rejected you? Who is it? No matter who it is, none of them and nothing can separate you, as he goes on to say, verse 35, "from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: 'For your sake, Lord, we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.' "
Check it out, "Yet in all these things we are more, more than conquers in Christ." Amazing. We don't have time to turn there, but shortly after the writing of this book just a few years later in the book of Acts, we see him writing these words. Referring to more tribulation, he says of them, "None of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself"---why?---"so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God." Friend, here it is. It's not that the pain is not real and deeply felt. It's not that the torture is not real and deeply felt. It's not that the heartache is not real and deeply felt. It's not that the disappointment is not real and deeply felt. It's not that the disrespect isn't real and deeply felt. It's not that the rejection is not real and deeply felt.
It's not that the betrayal is real and deeply felt. It's not that the violation is not real and deeply felt. It's that when compared to our nature, that we are immortal, none of it is going to result in our end or our demise. Comparatively to what we have waiting for us, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. Let's close with this, principle number three: We focus on seeing the invisible. Again, humanly that doesn't even make sense. That first word in verse 18 is the word "while." Those first two verses contain truths that are only real for us while what he says in verse 18 is occurring. What is it? "We do not look at those things which are seen, but at those things which are [unseen] not seen. For those things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
Why is this so important? Because it is the stuff that we see that trips us up. Everything we see has a beginning and an end, everything, and that's where we get snagged, tripped up. You know, Paul was the man who at the end of his life many of his critics said, "What a waste." You see, before he became a believer, he was one of the most intelligent men in the Jewish community, a preeminent leader in the Jewish religious community. He was the one who was giving final word early in the book of Acts that Stephen the martyr would be killed. We read throughout the beginning part of the book of Acts that he was very zealous in persecuting the church, breathing threats constantly against the church. Then he gets saved and everything turns around. This guy becomes a kind of a weirdo to the world, kind of a nothing.
In fact, don't turn there, but I want to read to you what he described what these people were saying of him. He says in First Corinthians chapter 4 verse 9, "For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We [to them] are fools for Christ's sake." But he says to his critics, "But you guys, you're the wise ones." He says, "We are weak," but oh, but you guys, yeah, you tell everybody "you're the strong ones. You're distinguished, we are dishonored! To this present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. We labor, working with our own hands." Man, no handouts here. "Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure"---transcendently invincible---"being defamed, we entreat.
"We've been made as the filth of the world," And to the world we're "the off scourging of all things." Wow. To the world these things were true, but to eternity it was the opposite. I'm going to close where we began; and that is, referring to a passage out of Psalm 18 that Zamperini said came to mean so much to him as he grew in his relationship with Christ. He read these verses and he recognized that that's exactly what happened to him. Psalm 18:3-6 and verses 16-18 read thus: King David writes, "I will call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies. The pangs of death surrounded me. The floods of ungodliness made me afraid. The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me; the snares of death confronted me.
"In my distress---in my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried out to my God; and he heard my voice from his temple, and my cry came before him, even to his ears." And in verse 16 we read: "He [God] sent from above, he took me; he drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support." Who is your Mutsuhiro Watanabe? Who is perishing you? What is perishing you? If you have any answer to those questions, you're not living a transcendently invincible life. You've not yet come to that discovery that that person or those things are actually allowed by God to work for you, not against you. But here's the challenge I'm going to end with tonight.
Paul, at the end of his life, when he touched the tape, as I read earlier in Second Timothy chapter 4 verse 7, he was able to do so because he was faithful and obedient. He took God at his word and God proved to be true where he says, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." I quoted Spurgeon earlier that said, "The saints prove their conversion by their perseverance," and he goes on to say, "and that perseverance comes from a continual supply of divine grace to their souls." So here's how we're going to end tonight. I could not have given you this message any sooner than the last ten days. God had to take me into his proverbial gymnasium, his weight room, and break me down. I had to have my own experiences just over the last week and a half. Or I had to come to terms with, Do I believe this myself?
And I'll tell you, there was some pain involved. There was some accounts that had to be settled. I was a busted man. And my hope and prayer is that for the sake of the cause of Christ, if that be any of you, I'm going to call you to come down right here, right now, to the front. Just as I had to do before the Lord this last week, you're going to make a declaration that you're done living a second-rate, lame Christian life. And tonight you're going to begin to live a transcendently invincible life, because you're going to take God's formula and Paul's example to heart and you're going the follow it. So I'm going to close in prayer. As I do, I want you to come right here if you need to join me in coming to terms with now is the time. No turning back. No more cowardice. No more quitting. No more wimping out. As I pray, you come forward.
Heavenly Father, thank you for bringing us to this place where we can look at the example of Paul. Thank you Lord for bringing us to this place where we can come to terms with the fact that, "Hey, if I have to admit that I've been living like a coward, if there are parts of my life where I have been wimping out, I am done with that, God. I don't want to live that way anymore." And so, God, for those men and women who are coming forward for whom tonight is that moment in time where coming to terms with taking you seriously, then maybe for each and every one of us here, and those that are coming forward, this is one of those situations where you, God, are going to redeem that tormentor in our lives, that person or that situation that is causing us to perish, not only outwardly, but inwardly. And we're going to give it all to you, God, tonight, right here.
[applause] [music playing]
Before I lead us all in prayer, for those who have boldly joined me to say, "Enough is enough. Enough is enough, I'm going to start living like God redeemed me to live." As our heads are bowed and eyes are closed, I do not want to pass up the opportunity that perhaps there is a man or woman here tonight who if they had time to share their story, it would mirror Zamperini, it could look like Paul in some ways, and they are broken. And you know who you are. And you need God's healing touch. You need him to draw you out of tempestuous water and bring you into his loving arms in this welcoming fold. If any of you need to come to terms admitting what God already knows, that you are imperfect, you're a sinner. He knows it. He wants you to know it.
And if you come to that confession and acceptance and you say, "Tonight's the night where I'm going to take you at your word, God, and I'm going to live for you," and if that's you, as the worship team, as this band sings through their first chorus, I want you to get up out of your chair and join these bold men and women right up here. And we're going to lead you in a prayer to commit your life to Christ. Band, go for it, and while they're singing, you come forward. [worship music playing] [applause] God will honor your boldness. Right on! He died and rose again, so you can live forever. Yes, sir. Yes, ma'am. All right! All right! Let's continue in prayer: Lord, thank you for loving us enough to get our attention. Thank you for not letting us wimp out.
Lord, if there's any part of us that before tonight was teetering of going the wrong direction, we're going to trust that tonight you got some attention. And so, Lord, as we are all gathered up here, many of whom are making a recommitment to living for you by trusting in what you've promised and by declaring that today they're going to take you at your word, we ask, God, that you would so empower them as we in a moment pray for them as I pray for myself with them at the same time. As we're praying, for those of you that did come forward to receive Christ, this is a beautiful, beautiful moment. And for you, I want to ask that you would be so bold as to verbalize this coming to terms with Christ and allowing him to adopt you as his child out loud. You're going to have a whole lot of help, I can trust that.
I can promise you that. But I want you to give your life over to Christ. And so it's for those that are committing their life to Christ right now that I'm going to lead in prayer first. And if that is you, my friend, there is no trust to be placed in the prayer. It is not a formula. The power resides solely in the very one who is hearing your prayer, who very literally died to this, to hear you say these words this very moment. And so if that be you, I want you to repeat these words to him out loud. Lord Jesus Christ, I thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I ask you to forgive me of my sins. I ask you to make me clean and to make me your child. Please enable me to follow you, to trust you, and to grow in you as your child, in Jesus' name, amen. [applause]
Don't go away just yet. Don't go away just yet. I'm going to lead us in prayer for every one of us here who were saying, tonight's the night. No more wimping out. No more quitting. Lord, here we are. We're here before you. You know our stories, God. You know the visible and invisible scars we carry. You know the wounds that we bear. You know where we need healing on the outside and healing on the inside. And we ask, God, that you'd be so merciful and gracious as to infuse us with your power. In one sense, God, we're just saying give us another chance,
Lord. Give us another chance to walk with you and to live the vibrant life that you died for us to live, that you rose again for us to obtain, so that we could truly experience what Paul experienced; and that is, a transcendently invincible existence. For that, God, please honor these men and women that have come forward and grant them that gift from this moment forward. We ask this very confidently and powerfully, in the name of our great Redeemer, our great Rescuer, our great Salvation, Jesus Christ. And everyone that agreed with a shout said, amen. Yeah, baby.
Closing: What binds us together is devotion to worshiping our heavenly Father, dedication to studying his Word, and determination to proclaim our eternal hope in Jesus Christ.
For more teachings from Calvary Albuquerque and Skip Heitzig visit calvaryabq.org.