Persevering in Difficult Times
: Paul the apostle, speaking about how and what ministry and I would dare say, faith altogether looks and feels like says this:
Three of these pairs belong to the customs of wrestling; the fourth, to that of running in the race.
2 Corinthians 4:8
I. Troubled on every side, yet not distressed.
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
Troubled = pressed hard on, restricted, contracted.
[We are troubled on every side] We have already seen, in the notes on the ninth chapter of the preceding letter, that Paul has made several allusions to those public games which were celebrated every fifth year at the Isthmus of Corinth; and those games have been in that place particularly described. In this and the three following verses the apostle makes allusion to the contests at those games: and the terms which he employs in these verses cannot be understood but in reference to those agonistical exercises to which he alludes. Dr. Hammond has explained the whole on this ground; and I shall here borrow his help. There are four pairs of expressions taken from the customs of the agones.
En panti thlibomenoi. The word thlibesthai belongs clearly to palee, wrestling.
So says Aristotle, Rhet. lib. 1 cap. 5 (and the Scholiast on that place), ho gar dunamenos-thlibein kai katechein, palaistikos. “He that can gripe his adversary, and take him up, is a good wrestler;” there being two dexterities in that exercise:
1. to gripe, and,
2. to throw down,
Hesychius calls this oothein and kratein; the first of these is here mentioned, and expressed by
thlibesthai, to be pressed down; to which is here opposed, as in a higher degree, stenochooreisthai, to be brought to distress, as when one cannot get out of his antagonist’s hands, nor make any resistance against him.
So in Isaiah (Septuagint): stenochooroumenoi ou dunametha machesthai, we are brought to such extremities that we can fight no longer.
But…..Not Distressed = to be in a narrow place, cramped, reduceded.
II. Perplexed, but not in despair.
= without resources, to be in straits, to be left wanting, to be embarrassed, to be in dount, not to know which way to turn.
The word aporeisthai, to be in perplexity, is fit for the wrestler, who being puzzled by his antagonist’s skill knows not what to do: so in Hesychius, aporountes, ameechanountes, they that are not able to do or attempt anything, yet are not exaporoumenoi, they miscarry not finally, orthoi histamenoi, stand after all upright; ouk apoginooskontes kai heettoomenoi, despair not, nor are they overcome, but find a happy issue out of all, being at last conquerors.
= to be utterly at loss, be utterly destitute of measures or resources, to renounce all hope, be in despair.
III. Persecuted, but not forsaken.
= to make to run or flees, put to flight, drive away or whatever harasses, trouble or molest us. Mistreated, suffering, hostility.
= abandoned, forsaken, helpless, forgotten
IV. Cast down, but not destroyed.
= hunted down, pursued, struck down.
= destroyed utterly, put out of the way entirely, put to an end, ruined.
: We may feel or even be down, persecuted, struggling to figure things out and get ‘off the matt.’ But we’re still kicking! God promising to do and be for us completely what we lack!
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