logo Living Water Christian Fellowship logo
Home Recent Sermon Multimedia Sermons News & Events Our Vision Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!

"Purpose for Living in the Face of Death"

2Cor.4 Sept.6/15 Appreciation for Emergency Workers


2Cor 3:11f in the NLT states, "Yes, we live under constant danger of death...So we live in the face of death..." Today along with Huron County we show appreciation for Emergency Workers, First Responders - Police, Fire, and Ambulance workers. Often First Responders are called to put their lives on the line, to face significant risk: they might well relate to Paul's acknowledgment that he lived "under constant danger of death". What could possibly motivate someone to continually put their life in harm's way; what purpose justifies living "in the face of death"?

A firefighter takes a deep breath before charging into a blazing building. Certainly life is at risk. Not long ago even just walking on the roof of a burning building in Listowel cost the life of a volunteer firefighter.

What motivated OPP Constable Vu Pham to stare down the barrel of a gun before meeting an untimely death, and leaving a widow with a young family? Was it just for money, a mere paycheque? I doubt it - there are safer ways of earning income! What caused Constable David Mounsey to hurry to the scene of an accident when roads were icy and treacherous? Was it so he could get his name posthumously on a bridge dedicated in his honour? I very much doubt it!

Why would ambulance workers and paramedics dare to intervene when people's lives are hanging by a thread and could go either way? Don't they know their care becomes a vital part of the outcome, that they're incurring responsibility to some degree if the person doesn't make it? Who wants THAT hanging over your head?

Then there are the less adrenaline-filled aspects of the job. One of my first churches was next door to the ambulance base in Richards Landing on St.Joseph Island. One day a church board member who was also a full-time ambulance worker gave me a tour of the base. The 'office' was nothing impressive - kind of cramped, actually - and I started to realize how many hours are spent just WAITING for a call to come in! That must get very tedious - I don't know if I could stand all those hours of waiting. That too would be demanding, but it's all part of the package, the sacrifice, in order to save lives.

But first responders are not the only ones who "live in the face of death", or have to endure severe hardships. Paul talks in vv 8-9 about being "hard pressed...perplexed...struck down": how many believers could relate to those terms in other lines of work, or even just in parenting? In school, or college? Why should believers tackle ANY difficult task, for that matter? Why not just always choose the "easy out"?

In 2Corinthians 4 we discover Paul's reasons for sticking it out during apostolic ministry; these can motivate us and inform our own hard situations.


The coat of arms of the Ontario Provincial Police bears the motto, "SERVITUTE CLARIORES" which means "More illustrious through serving". Serving others is a big consideration for first responders. 2Cor 4:5 says: "For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake." The apostles were conscious of wanting to SERVE others. V1 "Since through God's mercy we have this ministry..." 3:3 God "has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant..." 3:8 "Will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?" The Greek root here, diakonos/diakonia, refers to a servant, a waiter/waitress, someone who waits on another in order to serve them. So as Paul sees it, "[We are] your servants for Jesus' sake."

But why serve? Why not just 'play it safe'? Aren't there a slew of other occupations in which you can serve people without having to constantly put your life on the line?!

Note the little phrase "for Jesus' sake" - through, because of, for this reason, for this cause, on account of - Jesus. How did Jesus serve us sinners? By going all the way to the cross to lay down His righteous life as an atoning sacrifice for our sinful ones. Jesus went "all out" and stopped at nothing in order that you might be put right with God, shameful and "bent/warped" as may be all the sinful evil deeds you've ever done. We serve for Jesus' sake, because He first served us.

Note how Paul introduces this servanthood idea by the start of v5: "For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake." We serve because Jesus is our Lord, He's boss, He died so we might no longer live for ourselves but for Him who died for us and was raised again (2Cor 5:15). We're no longer our own, we've been bought with a price (1Cor 6:19f); we belong to Him, we're completely at His disposal as our Lord.

How are you at serving others for Christ's sake? Too often the world entices us to serve ourselves instead. Acknowledging Jesus as Master helps us keep perspective, that it's "not about us" - He's redeemed us for a larger purpose beyond our own self-interest.

George Bush said, "The definition of a successful life must include serving others."

William Willimon of Duke University tells about a young woman named Anne who was a member of his congregation. Anne attended pharmacy school, and from time to time came home and worshipped with her parents. One Sunday evening, after one of her visits, Will received a telephone call from Anne's father. "Do you know what's happened?" he asked. "Anne just called to say she has decided to drop out of pharmacy school." "Really?" Will said. "What on earth is leading her to do a thing like that?" "We're not sure," he said. "We thought maybe you could talk some sense into her." Prof. Willimon went to meet with her. He reminded Anne of all her hard work and her achievements and how she should think carefully before throwing all of this away. "How in the world did you come to this decision?" he asked her. She answered, "It was your sermon yesterday that started me thinking.You said that God has something important for each of us to do, in our own way.I thought to myself, 'I'm not here because I want to serve God. I'm here to get a job, to make money, to look out for myself.' Then I remembered the good summer I spent working with the church literacy program among the migrant workers' kids. I really was serving God then. So I decided, after your sermon, to go back there and give my life to helping those kids." There was a long silence, and finally Will said, "Now look, Anne, I was just preaching." (But she caught the divine drift!)


A second reason some choose to "live under constant danger of death" is to give expression to God's saving / delivering power in time of crisis. We can do a certain amount in our own strength. Emergencies force us to rely upon God for help when things are beyond our control. He delights to work through our meager efforts and safe lives and souls in a way that moves us to worship His greatness.

Paul the apostle knew hard times - most of the time! His life was certainly no picnic. Vv8-10a "8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus..." Now right after this comes a little "purpose clause" (grammatically speaking) that suggests WHY he would put up with all that: and he repeats it for emphasis - vv10b-11 "so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body." In other words, Paul's saying, "We put up with such hardships because it gives Jesus' own life opportunity to show up and be seen in the midst of our otherwise crushing circumstances."

A couple of other times in this letter, Paul details further his extreme trials. Chapter 6 vv4-10 mentions troubles, hardships, distresses, beatings, imprisonments, riots, hard work, sleepless nights, hunger, bad report, dying, sorrowful, poor. Can you relate to something in that list? Troubles that seem beyond your power to cope? Call on Jesus for the extra strength you need. Chapter 11 vv23-27 goes into more detail about Paul's beatings, imprisonments, stonings, shipwrecks, and danger from enemies. Such pressures make him feel as weak and fragile, according to 4:7, as a common "clay pot". But the very ordinariness of the vessel God is using highlights that the strength that sustains Paul must come from beyond himself. 4:7 says, "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."

Paul Krause played 16 years with the Minnesota Vikings and was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. However, his greatest challenge in life did not occur on a football field but in his response to the automobile accident his wife of thirty-five years suffered in 1995. Pam Krause was in a coma for five years after suffering a brain stem injury and several broken bones on the left side of her body, including facial bones, ribs, pelvis, and vertebrae. A former Vikings teammate said, "I have gained so much more respect and admiration for Paul over the past two years for what Paul has done as a husband, father, and provider for Pam.He has proven himself a true Hall of Famer based on how he has handled everything." Krause credits his strength to his faith in God: "When the doctors tell you that they do not know if she will live...that is not giving you any hope.But I never thought she would die.That is my belief in God, hoping that he would give me strength through all of it."

So, we can endure in the face of danger of death because: (1) we serve others for Jesus' sake; and (2) it allows God's saving power to shine through, despite our own weakness.


Before you enter a burning building as a firefighter, or confront an armed criminal as a police officer, it's probably a good idea to have developed some convictions about death and the afterlife. If you believe this life is all there is, why let your one opportunity for existence and enjoyment be snuffed out needlessly?

Paul was whipped with 39 lashes 5 times, beaten with rods 3 times, shipwrecked 3 times, and stoned once. Yet survived. It was miraculous. He was a walking testimony to God's amazing ability to keep someone alive when there was a task to accomplish.

Paul could face such near-death treatment because he had resolved in his soul that physical death would not be the end. Better things awaited him! He trusted in God, so kept testifying. Vv13-14 "With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because [WHY?] we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence." Paul had met the risen Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). There was ZERO doubt in his mind that God has power to raise people from the dead, or to give them new glorified spiritual bodies after this life is over. 1Cor 15:42-44 "42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown...is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body." The cemetery is NOT the end of the line! Judgment and condemnation awaits those who reject God. According to 2Thess 1:9, those who don't obey the gospel "will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power." Christians will be rewarded for their deeds: 2Cor 5:10 "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." As Paul states in 2Cor 4:17, "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." FAR outweighs!

Believers are blessed to share in God's glory, God's beauty and honour, both now in this life AND even more in the life to come. Our theme this month is taken from Colossians 1:27, "Christ in you, the hope of glory." At the end of 2Cor.3 (just before today's text) Paul wrote, "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." (2Cor 3:18) Yes the Lord is primarily glorious; but believers REFLECT His glory, and are being changed by degrees to be like Him, resemble Him, so we display "ever-increasing glory" in ourselves which comes from Him. Then, after this life, Paul encourages us by saying this life's troubles are producing for us "a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!" Sounds like a good deal - the blessings then will be disproportionately greater than the burdens we bear now.


But it's not primarily about us, or getting glory for ourselves. I suspect if you could pull aside that police officer, that ambulance driver, that firefighter, and ask them as they're about to risk their life one more time WHY they do what they do - many of them (Christian or not) would say simply, "Because it's the right thing to do." As in, "It would be wrong to just stand aside and let evil / destruction / disease have its way, when we could step in and prevent it." God has created humans in His image, His likeness, with a sense of right and wrong, of moral values, what we call "conscience". 2Cor 4:2 "...by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God." We come hard-wired with a sense of "oughtness"; Romans 2:15 "since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them."

An atheist or secular humanist may have a hard time explaining where this sense of right-and-wrong comes from; logically, for the Darwinist or materialist as for Adolf Hitler, "might makes right": those of super-race ought to lord it over those who are weaker. But Christians acknowledge a God to whom all must one day give account (Heb 4:13). Because God is our Creator and Judge, He deserves foremost glory and honour: it's all from Him! V6 the light that shines in a believer is "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." V15 the grace reaching more and more people will cause "thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God." Paul tells the church in1Cor 10:31, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." THAT'S our fundamental purpose - glorifying God! Acknowledging and praising and drawing attention to His goodness, excellence, majesty, and beauty!

A major attribute of God is His righteousness or justice. In 3:8f Paul calls the New-Testament ministry of the Spirit "the ministry that brings righteousness". So when a first responder is moved to get involved and put themselves in danger to protect a member of the public, when they feel in their gut that it would be wrong for them to back away and let evil or injustice get the upper hand, whether they realize it or not - they're resonating with the righteousness that is at the core of God's being; His saving / delivering power that loves people and reaches out to help them.


In an online article titled "Why Faith is Important to Firefighters", Andy Starnes points out the trust required by members of that profession in their gear and their leaders on the job, and challenges them to extend faith beyond such temporal factors to One on whom their lives ultimately depend. Starnes writes: "As firefighters, we each place confidence in one another and our leaders as we serve in the most dangerous environments.We place faith in our PPE [Personal Protective Equipment], that it has been tested to endure the extremely volatile environments that we boldly go into.We place faith in our SCBA [Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus], that it has been tested and will perform when we enter into places where no man could breathe without it. We place faith in the hands of our drivers as we stretch a hose line towards a fire, that when we open the nozzle that the water we need will be there.

"Now let us ask ourselves again: Do we have faith?

"Consider the examples given and look upon our lives from a faith-based perspective.If we as firefighters can place such trust and belief into the hands of another person, our fellow firefighter, and such great faith into the hands of our leaders who faithfully watch over us through the flames of fire, then is it too big of a leap for us to place our trust into the hands of the One who made us?"

Let's pray.