Three Things that Weaken the Believer, Part 1 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #53)

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TEXT: 2 Corinthians 4:15-18

15 For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.

16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;

18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Three Things that Weaken the Believer, Part 1 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #53)

Weakness is looked down upon in our society. Often, a person who has less physical, mental, or emotional abilities is regarded as less valuable than those who have all of their faculties intact. In ancient times, babies that were born with defects were seen as weak, or as a curse on the family, and were left in the woods or on a remote mountain to die or be eaten by wolves.

When Jesus Christ came, He redefined the meaning of weakness. Through His life, He erased the perception that human weakness was completely negative. Indeed, the Scriptures often depict Christ as weak: He is the Lamb, the Suffering Servant, the humble foot-washer, the agonizing cross-bearer, and the meek and lowly One. However, Jesus Christ showed us that we ought to trade our weakness for God’s strength. The world constantly looks for and promotes ways to be stronger and better physically, mentally, and emotionally. But, the believer must look to God to counterbalance — to override — his spiritual weakness.

In the classic allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress, the main character, Christian, tells a story about a poor pilgrim who did not rely on God and thus fell victim to three things that weaken believers. Please listen as I read a portion of the story.

Then Christian said to his companion, “Now it comes to my mind what was told to me about something that happened to a good man in this region. The name of this man was Little-faith, as I said a good man, and he lived in the Town of Sincere.

What happened to him was this; there is an entrance to the straight way here that comes down from Broad-way-gate by means of a lane called Dead-man’s Lane; this lane is so-called because of the murders that are frequently committed there.”

“And so this Little-faith, while going on pilgrimage just as we are, happened to sit down for a while and then fell asleep. It also happened at that time that three sturdy rogues came down the lane from Broad-way-gate; and their names were Faint-heart, Mistrust, and Guilt (three brothers), and when they saw where Little-faith was snoozing beside the way, they immediately made a quick approach toward him. Now the good man was just awakening from his slumber and preparing to continue on his journey. So they all approached him with threatening language and ordered him to stand still. At this Little-faith turned as white as a sheet since he had neither the strength to fight nor to flee. Then Faint-heart said, ‘Hand over your purse.’”

“But when Little-faith hesitated to comply, for he was very reluctant to lose his money, Mistrust came close to him and, thrusting his hand into one of his pockets, pulled out of there a bag of silver. Then Little Faith cried out, ‘Thieves! Thieves!’ At this Guilt struck Little-faith on his head with a large club in his hand, so that the blow felled him flat on the ground; and there he lay, bleeding profusely in danger of dying.”

Notice the three brothers whom Little-faith fell victim to: Faint-heart, Mistrust, and Guilt. These three brothers weaken believers today. From our passage, let’s look at how a Christian can overcome the weakness of faintheartedness through God’s strength.

The Apostle Paul, who is perhaps the most-prominent Christian of all-time, experienced the temptation to become faint-hearted. His temptation to become faint of heart came about the same way this temptation comes about for us — through suffering, through pain, through difficulty. We see this in the early part of chapter four in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. He is talking with them about the suffering he endured for the sake of bringing the Gospel to them and others. He says, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed, Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus…”

Paul was tempted to become faint of heart in the times of his suffering and persecution. If you are striving to serve God, yet negativity surrounds you on every side, you know how Paul felt. Paul was being opposed by the devil, by Jews and Gentiles who hated the Gospel, and even by some Christians — even some at Corinth — who did not like him on a personal level. On top of that, Paul met with physical hardships. He was beaten, imprisoned, stoned, shipwrecked, and robbed. That’s not to mention his often being weary, hungry, thirsty, cold, naked, and sleepless. Paul suffered greatly for the cause of Christ, so it is no wonder that he was tempted to become faint of heart.

However, notice his statement in verse 16: “For which cause we faint not.” To faint means “to be utterly spiritless, to be wearied, to be exhausted.” Paul says, ‘That’s not what I’ve become. I haven’t given up hope. I haven’t become weary. I’m not exhausted. Despite all my troubles, I’m not worn out.’ Why is Paul able to say this? More importantly, how can we say this when we are tempted with becoming faint of heart?

1. When we are tempted to become faint of heart, we must focus on the results of serving God. That’s what Paul did. When he says, “For which cause we faint not,” he is referring to something he had written previously. What is the reason, the “cause”, that gives him the fortitude not to faint? In verses 11-12 of this chapter, Paul tells the Corinthians, “For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you.” The new life that the Corinthian believers had was possible through the labors of Paul. “Death” — that is the death of the flesh through pain and suffering — was present in Paul and his associates so that “life” — the new life of Christ — could be present in the Corinthians. Paul was wise to look at the results of his labors and suffering. Everything he did helped to build up and establish that local church. That is why he told them, “For all things are for your sakes…” He couldn’t faint because he had people depending on him for spiritual food. Yes, sometimes, it was a thankless job. The Corinthian believers repeatedly criticized Paul for what they perceived as his weaknesses, but Paul looked to the results that came from his labors for a reason not to faint.

2. When we are tempted to become faint of heart, we must focus on the fact that we are becoming more like Christ. Paul says, “but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” Notice the contrasts: “the outward man” — Paul’s flesh — is perishing, is suffering, is being worn down each and every day. However, the “inward man” — the spirit life of Christ inside each believer — is being renewed “day by day.” God uses our sufferings to shape us, mold us, and conform us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. For this reason, we ought not to faint. Yes, our flesh may be suffering, but as Paul said, “we glory in tribulation” because it is then that the “power of Christ” is evident in us. Now, notice something else. John Walvoord and Roy Zuck state, “This is amazing: all of Paul’s heavy, continuous burdens were “light” (that is, ‘light in weight, easy to bear’). They are also ‘momentary’ (that is ‘brief, for the slight moment, on the spot’). Though, as he wrote earlier, his hardships were ‘far beyond’ his ability to endure, he said his coming glory far outweighs them all.” God intends to make us like Christ, not only spiritually, but physically as well. We do not have to faint in hard times if we know that every moment of suffering is a step toward Christ-like perfection

3. When we are tempted to become faint of heart, we should focus on the eternal things to come. That is what Paul did. He said, “We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” When the world looked at Paul, and even when some Christians looked at Paul, all they saw was pain, suffering, persecution, and eventual martyrdom. Some Christians who had an easier life probably thought that God had it out for Paul because of some sin that he had committed. But all they saw were the visible, temporal things. Paul chose to look at the unseen, eternal things. Paul’s critics didn’t see all the treasure he had stored up in Heaven because of his faithfulness on earth. They didn’t see the place Jesus was preparing for Paul in Heaven. They didn’t see the crowns of glory that Paul would be rewarded. They didn’t see Paul’s happy union with God the Father and his Savior, Jesus Christ. But Paul did. He saw the unseen, eternal things. He said, ‘That’s what I’m going to focus on. I’m not going to faint.’

Paul sets a great example for each of us. We all will face times in our lives when we feel like becoming faint of heart. Faintness of heart is a condition which weakens believers spiritually. However, we can overcome this weakness like Paul did: (1) By focusing on the results of what we are doing. (2) By focusing on the fact that we are becoming more like Christ. (3) By focusing on the unseen, eternal things which are to come.

During World II, Lt. General Sir William Dobbie was Governor General of Malta. He served during a time when the defense of Malta was at its darkest hour. Dobbie, a committed Christian, realized the weakness of his position and that God alone was “his present help in trouble.” His first policy governing the defense of the island read as follows: “I know that the courage and determination of all ranks will not falter, and that with God’s help we will maintain the security of this fortress. I therefore call upon all officers and other ranks humbly to seek God’s help and then, in reliance upon Him, to do their duty unflinchingly.”

In our Christian lives, we will, at times, be tempted to falter, to flinch, to faint. But we do not have to give in to this temptation. With God, we can continue to carry out our duties, no matter the difficulties we face.

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If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, allow me to share with you briefly how you can be saved from your sins and be guaranteed a home in Heaven with God today.

First, please understand that you are a sinner, just as I am, and that you have broken God’s laws. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Please understand that because of your sins, you deserve eternal punishment in hell. Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death…This is both physical death and spiritual death in hell. That is the bad news.

But here is the good news. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. I am sorry for my sins, and today I choose to turn from my sins. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. I trust Jesus Christ as my Savior and I choose to follow Him as Lord from this day forward. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.

If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! Congratulations on doing the most important thing in life and that is receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light Society.com and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door.” Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

God loves you. We love you. And may God bless you.

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