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Life coaches are a major trend in corporate America. Even with a tab of $1,500 to $10,000 per month, executives recognize the value of having someone help them process the complexity of the decisions they face, and rightly so. Good advice at the right moment can make a huge difference, and this truth is only amplified when you are walking through a trial.
As the Apostle Paul penned 2 Corinthians, he was navigating a very difficult season of life and ministry, and it is out of his personal hardship that he gives the Corinthians seven timeless life lessons—lessons that are well suited for the dawn of a new year.
1. Getting Over Yourself Helps Get The Gospel Out
It’s fair to say that as Paul penned this letter he was under intense attack. False teachers were intent on undercutting his ministry by highlighting his personal deficiencies. In Greek culture image was everything, and so Paul was an easy target (short, hunchbacked, beak-nosed, balding, and add to that a deformed eye). Yet, instead of going on the defensive by drawing comparisons to prop up his image, Paul simply says, “You’re right.” In 2 Corinthians 4:7, Paul writes, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay” to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” He says, “You’re right, I’m just a clay pot (read chamber pot).” Nobody knew Paul’s deficiencies better than Paul, so he gladly acknowledges his weaknesses and celebrates God’s strength. Paul understood that getting over himself would help get the Gospel out, and in 2016 the same is true for us.
It does not matter how great the pressure is; what really matter is where the pressure lies. Whether it comes between you and God or presses you nearer to his heart.” – Hudson Taylor
2. Life Has Challenges, How We Respond Is Our Choice
This likely doesn’t come as a shock, but life is filled with challenges, yet with every challenge comes a choice. In 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, Paul provides a menu of hardships: pressed, perplexed, persecuted, struck down, but every one of these problems provides the opportunity to choose our response. Hudson Taylor put it this way, “It does not matter how great the pressure is; what really matter is where the pressure lies. Whether it comes between you and God or presses you nearer to his heart.”
We cannot alter the inevitability of life’s challenges, but the choice of how to respond is always ours. In the midst of 2016’s trials, remember that we get to choose.
3. Our Weaknesses Demonstrate God’s Strength
Though many difficulties are the product of bad decisions, sin or just plain selfishness, we should be careful to remember that some trouble comes our way simply because we are Christians. Reminiscent of what we read in Ephesians 6:12, Paul reminds us that following Jesus makes you a target for Satan’s attack. Yet the good news is that our inability to do battle with the enemy on our own becomes an opportunity for God to display his power. How might our challenges in 2016 manifest Jesus’ life to those around us?
4. Trust God Today and Anticipate His Goodness Tomorrow
In verses 13-15, Paul begins to speak directly to the perspective we will carry into the year ahead. Here Paul quotes the Psalmist (Psalm 116) as he moves from a call for help, to a shout of praise. This Psalm and Paul’s words showcase the vital importance of what we speak. In 2016 it is essential that we choose to embrace a faith-filled perspective that anticipates God’s goodness!
5. Spiritual Strength Will Carry You Further Than Physical Strength
What keeps Paul from throwing in the towel? What keeps him strong? In verse 16 he says that he has prioritized inward over outward, which reminds us that not all resolutions are created equal. Exercising is good, nutrition is important, watching your weight is wise, but in 2016 no amount of boot camp, vitamins, or dieting will make us stronger than spending time with Jesus.
6. What We Do Today Will Echo in Eternity
In verse 17 Paul writes, “For our light and momentary troubles…”, but for most of us the problems we face feel long and heavy not light and momentary. But once again, the Apostle Paul is calling us to shift our perspective. An eternal perspective is one of the powerful antidotes to being overwhelmed by 2016’s troubles.
7. We Will Find What We Look For In Life
Notice how Paul closes this thought. He concludes with a call for us to fix our eyes on Jesus. As we begin 2016, nothing will be more determinative for the course of the year ahead then what we choose to make our focus. Paul writes, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”