They say when the going gets tough the tough get going, yet that is not quite what is going on here. We are talking about the struggles of the Christian life, and particularly here for Paul, the struggles of the preachers; earlier he wrote, “as we [ministers] share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Corinthians 1:5). Even so this suffering and comfort is for all those who live by Christ, to the goal we share of full reconciliation with God our Father (2 Corinthians 5:20-21) and the renewal of all Creation. Things you cannot do by your own strength, I mean can you even heal your own hurts? When things get real tough, when death comes knocking can you fix it? And then we look around at God’s Creation, around at this broken and groaning world, and the tough times happening. The tough times of COVID and those restrictions, those riots in the USA, civil war in East Africa, the death of a loved one, waking up to your son coughing throughout the night; tough times. And of course, when God’s Son, the prophesied Saviour of humanity and all Creation, was abandoned by all, handed over to those tough Romans be tortured, to die by crucifixion. The going got tough and the tough killed Jesus.
But Jesus, He got going. To those looking on from outside, Jesus had wasted away to nothing, yet truly He was renewing not so much Himself as all Creation. God had said as much, all the way back at the beginning of this world, telling the serpent, that dragon, what was to happen; the dragon would crush His heel, yet He would crush the dragons head. More than a heel Jesus bleeding, bruised and killed, He crushed the devil, He bound the strong man unto the end when this dragon, stripped of power will have more than just a crushed head, the devil will be thrown into the pit of burning sulfur. The devil is defeated and Christ is victorious. And by the Holy Spirit, according to God’s promise in Baptism, we are united in this victory, the Ultimate Victory that yet outwardly looks like a defeat. When the going gets tough, Jesus gets things done.
Therefore do not lose heart. Though outwardly you are wasting away, things falling apart, stressed, suffering, even facing death; cling to Christ, to the promises of our Heavenly Father, and be renewed daily by the Holy Spirit. When this world and it’s distractions fall apart God may grant us the ability to see what is truly happening underneath it all, what is happening inwardly. Not the inner workings of council bureaucracy, rather the reality of demonic attack and Christ’s defeat of the devil both at the cross and here in our lives. As we receive those words of God, “I forgive you” the devil runs in fear; as we taste Jesus, He binds that so called strong man, the lies and temptations and we receive the Truth and the Life, Jesus Christ Himself. As He told the Pharisees, Jesus binds the strong man and takes what he has stolen; and so as we heard last week, we are freed from that slavery to sin, to failure and guilt, you have been freed from the lies of the devil.
United to Christ in baptism, and returning to that union in the Absolution, the demonic has no power over us; the Lord of Hosts has His angels to guard us, and the Holy Spirit Himself lives in us, sanctifying us, making us Holy. And if you need certainty that Christ is in you and you in Him, come to the table and receive anew His most wonderful gifts; receive into your body, His Body and Blood. Be strengthened, but don’t let your guard down. Yes the devil is defeated, yet like a snake beheaded he thrashes around causing pain and suffering, but without fangs he has no power to kill us who live in the Victory of Christ.
So through the trials, the sufferings, the outward wasting away; hear the Word of Jesus, receive the renewing gifts of God from the Spirit, and know that our enemies have lost, our Lord is Victorious and our light and momentary troubles with Him will result in an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
And so the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and unto glory. Amen.
Pastor Joseph Graham.