The School of Hard Knocks
As believers we are troubled on every side, yet not distressed. We have a calm assurance that life’s lessons will not wear us down, but build us up. In troubled times we can have a joyful assurance. Tough battles mean victories. The hard yards and difficult times lead us to godly courage. Authentic Faith under pressure makes right choices. We will not bend but will stand with godly convictions, no matter the cost.
I’m talking about a school this morning. A school that we are invited to enter – it’s called the school of hard knocks.
2 Corinthians 4:8-11
(8) We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
(9) Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
(10) Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
(11) For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.
We are living in days of…
- A downward drift.
- A slip sliding.
- A back sliding.
We’ve lost something.
Some COULDN’T CARE LESS about SPIRITUAL THINGS.
For some it’s mere LIP SERVICE.
And when things get hard they get all flakey.
Paul says we are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake.
Sounds like he’d never ever heard of the health wealth prosperity gospel.
We are troubled on every side.
Our world cares little for the Bible.
Meantime, Christians are FAIR GAME.
THE MEDIA mocks and THE WORLD laughs at anything remotely to do with MORALITY and DECENCY.
As Christians, we are squarely IN THE DEVIL’S TARGET SIGHTS.
Our Lord never said it would be easy.
We are troubled on every side.
He had been to the school. He had got HIS MINISTRY CREDENTIALS at the school. At the old Bible school.
The school of hard knocks…
He was qualified. He was a workman, approved unto God.
2 Corinthians 6:4-5
(4) But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God,
in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses,
(5) In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings;
Paul had earned his stripes.
He had borne them, literally.
He’d been beaten, he had gone through sleepless nights…
Paul says we are troubled on every side.
As a pastor, as a Bible-believing Christian,
I get troubled at times, too…
Paul said it again, here…
2 Corinthians 7:4-5
(4) …I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation.
(5) For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.
These days we live in are troubling times.
Even WITHIN churches there’s people who MAKE FUN of BIBLE TRUTH, as if it’s OUTDATED, and needs REPLACING.
People want something ear pleasing and flesh pleasing.
They will not endure the Word of God preached.
Even the people who call themselves Christians don’t seem to care.
Paul was troubled on every side, yet rejoicing…
Troubled, yet not distressed.
I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation.
Is the church going to go through tribulation? Yes it is.
Yes it is.
I don’t believe we will see THE GREAT TRIBULATION.
But we WILL see MUCH TRIBULATION.
That’s normal. Expect it. Get used to it. It’s actually a sign you’re doing something right.
Here is Paul, not long after he had been stoned almost to death for preaching the gospel… He’d been dragged out of the city like a dead man.
Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
Troubled, on every side.
Get used to it.
Troubled on every side, was Paul.
I’m a troubled pastor, also.
It troubles me to see many who are just…
Playing with sin.
Playing with fire.
Paul says we are troubled, on every side,
BUT – he says – we are NOT DISTRESSED.
We know God will work in hearts.
We know God is calling out a people for His name.
God has His people, and He is saving such as will call on His name.
We see troubles within, without. There is MUCH to TROUBLE US, in a WORLD that is TORN – by heartache and family strife, unbelief, and godless living.
For some, it can be that life’s trials bring bitterness, and a loss of hope.
I get PERPLEXED, too. I ask myself why on earth is this happening? What is going on?
It is truly perplexing to see some things.
We get perplexed. We wonder, why is this happening?
Yes, at times, we are perplexed, BUT NOT in despair.
What makes spiritual greatness when we are troubled? How can we overcome these setbacks and trials of life?
Paul knew. He knew troubles.
He knew what it takes.
In order for us to live THE VICTORIOUS CHRISTIAN LIFE we have to go through some things. Some BATTLES, some TOUGH THINGS.
So that we can gain victory.
Paul shows us the blueprint here.
The model for authentic Christianity.
A faith that will go the distance and battle on, against the odds. A faith that will shine through, even in the very darkest hours and the hardest of times…
When we face bitter persecution and hatred from our loved ones because we will not accommodate sin or the devil’s lies…
Maybe we will get accused of being intolerant.
Yes, I am intolerant… Intolerant of doctrines of devils. Intolerant of the lies the media tells me to believe.
So, what are we to expect on this planet?
Paul says, yes, we may get persecuted.
BUT we are not forsaken.
The faith – what we see as Bible faith – will go the hard yards…
It seems these days that so many Christians are casual and half hearted.
It doesn’t take much to rock someone when their foundations are shallow. When their faith is superficial, and skin deep…
It’s as if when they strike the least bit of inconvenience, or difficulty, they are put off.
The Bible says get used to it.
Persecution is the norm. It’s meant to be par for the course.
There’s a lot of talk about the persecuted church, in some place, way over there…
If WE were WHERE God wanted us to be- then WE would be the persecuted church…
Right here. Right now.
That’s what WE are meant to be.
2 Timothy 3:12
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
People have SETTLED, by and large, for A COZY CHRISTIANITY.
A Christianity of convenience.
People these days seem to shirk the hard work. They won’t do the hard yards. They wilt under some opposition.
There is a predominant laziness and a lack of discipline.
I put to you that Bible Christianity is the school of hard knocks. Really, what I’m talking about is being a DISCIPLE.
It’s DISCIPLESHIP. It takes DISCIPLINE.
I would urge you – to be willing to inconvenience yourself for the Kingdom of God. To suffer some inconveniences…
I encourage you –
To GO THE SECOND MILE.
To get radical.
To strive in a godly way.
To strive for God, even unto blood…
Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.
What are you willing to do?
Will you go the hard yards?
What would it take to put you off?
It depends on where your treasure is.
We need to go through the school.
Job was a student in this school.
He was a graduate.
The school of hard knocks.
We may get cast down, BUT we are not destroyed.
This is all part of our TRAINING.
As DISCIPLES OF CHRIST we have enrolled in THE SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS.
This is the kind of faith that stands out…
The school of hard knocks calls for…
We have need of godly courage.
It takes courage to enroll in this school. It is a life changing school.
For this school of hard knocks, WIMPS need not apply. It’s going to take some men and some women, PEOPLE WITH STAMINA. PEOPLE WITH GUTS. People who are wanting to MATURE in their faith.
God calls us to battle. Not to be, as it were, ‘chocolate soldiers’.
But He calls us to real battles.
Sure, we may get knocked down in this fight for our life, but we will get back up on our feet again. We will get back into the fight again. We won’t slink off with the quitters.
Sure, we might feel at times like we are cast down, BUT not destroyed;
I have heard many claim to me, to be spiritual people, but give it time and they have shown the stuff that they are made out of. It shows through, soon enough.
Scratch the surface and you will see what people are made of. The stuff they are made of. Apply a bit of pressure and you will see.
It takes COURAGE, this school of hard knocks.
What we are wanting God to raise up here, are genuinely spiritual people…
- Courageous men.
- Courageous women.
The school of hard knocks will separate the men from the boys.
We are called to boldness.
It takes courage to be in their number.
Will you join them?
Who will you align yourself with?
Whose side are you on?
What about the company you keep?
Will you join up with the compromisers? Will you team up with questionable things? Or will you stand fast and have the courage of your convictions?
Choose your path wisely.
- Who you will team up with?
- Who will you travel with?
It takes courage to stand with God’s dear people. To stand with the right, and the true. And AGAINST the doubtful, and the wrong…
It was – and it still is – a dangerous thing.
Only a few will make the grade in this school.
Only a few dared, back then, to join themselves to the church of God…
And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them.
NO ONE DARED join them…
It wasn’t the popular thing, the easy thing.
It took courage.
How are we going to respond to difficult times?
Are we ‘the real deal’?
We have much need of courage.
These days call for AN UNRESERVED CHRISTIANITY.
Don’t hold back.
It is all or nothing.
Let’s pull out all the stops.
The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.
This kind of faith we need in these days of trouble has a courage that goes the distance…
This courage that we have will be undeterred. It will keep on, keeping on… day, by day…
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
(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.
We don’t lose heart…
What we see now is just temporary.
We will go and keep on going.
Till we see His face.
2 Timothy 2:3
Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
We will report for duty.
We will work – while it is day.
We won’t shirk, we will work.
We will endure hardness.
We are made of the stuff that makes for good soldiers of Jesus Christ.
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
We will learn to be faithful in the little things.
We won’t weary. We will go the distance.
The school of hard knocks calls for us to press on, regardless, despite knock after knock, despite knock back after knock back.
We must hold our ground.
Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation. (2) He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defence; I shall not be greatly moved.
Let us be immovable, unshakeable.
Serving the Lord.
The school of hard knocks calls for…
And, Secondly… it calls for…
Is your faith real?
Godly faith makes godly choices…
Faith under pressure will not flinch. It will choose the right.
Life is about making choices – learning lessons. Hopefully we will learn things the first time. Sometimes we have to repeat those hard lessons till we learn what God is trying to show us.
Some talk as if God were real in their lives – yet they act like He was not real.
(15) …unto them that are defiled and unbelieving …even their mind and conscience is defiled.
(16) They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him…
Have you ever met people like that?
They say, Blah, blah, blah, all this talk about God, but in works they deny Him.
Real faith works in real life.
It’s real, where the rubber hits the road.
When we are troubled on every side. It will do right.
God wants to ROAD TEST your faith. That’s why we face hard times.
As a people we need to come to know the desperation of faith at work in us.
Faith that works in the rat-race, in the treadmill that life is, sometimes.
Faith that will work.
When we are troubled on every side.
Faith makes wise choices.
Faith determines to go God’s way, even when it hurts.
Faith will make the…
- Tough choices
- Hard choices.
MOSES made a choice.
He CHOSE to be with God’s people. He chose to take a desk at the school of hard knocks.
(24) By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;
(25) Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
Faith makes a choice. It makes a decision.
By faith, by faith… Read Hebrews 11. It’s all about the heroes of the faith, men and women. They all made a choice.
Faith makes a choice…
By faith, Moses… Moses chose the people of God – to identify with them, to be with them, to belong to them.
He chose the church – in the wilderness.
He could have tried to please the people who wanted the world – they wanted Egypt… They hungered for the Egyptian cuisine… They wanted to throw another onion on the barbie… God gave them miraculous manna yet they still hankered after Pharaoh’s fancy food…
(4) And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?
(5) We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick:
(6) But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.
Moses could have taken the easy track, and enjoyed the pleasures of sin for a season.
He could have gone back to enjoy Pharaoh’s tasty fish, and the onions, and the garlic… and the salad bar…
He enrolled in the school.
He chose the school.
The school of faith.
Faith is truly the IN-WORKING of God.
The faith we speak of is a faith under fire.
It will not lessen with opposition, but it will strengthen.
This is the kind of faith that we need.
Faith makes a choice.
Whose side are you on?
Step over the line.
The school of hard knocks calls for…
And, thirdly, it calls for:
Much of THE NEW SCHOOL of Christianity these days is COMPROMISED and CARNAL.
It is BENDING and WEAK. It makes no stand. It is truly ECUMENICAL, anything goes… Don’t rock the boat… Let’s not stand against false teaching… they say…
It seems many people know little of the school of hard knocks. They do nothing to stir or challenge….
If we want to be a student in this school we must know that there are some non-negotiables. There is truth we can believe in.
I’m talking of CONVICTIONS.
The world will call us POLITICALLY-INCORRECT.
We are not talking ‘preferences’ – these are convictions – deliberate choices – Bible-based convictions, based upon Bible principles and Bible standards.
We will be MOCKED for them.
We will stand by these convictions, no matter how unpopular it makes us.
We are set on steering this fellowship in a godly direction. We will not be moved. Other than by God.
As God’s people we should be marked by a love of the truth.
Truth we will stand for, and hold fast.
No matter what.
Even when the popular church swallows the lie… We won’t compromise the truth.
God’s promises are no less true than they ever were.
We are not going to budge. We will hold fast the truth.
I received some comment from a friend of mine lately – along this line – I am quoting in part here…
God is called the God of Truth
He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
God’s truth is relevant for all generations, it does not change.
For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to ALL generations.
Men of truth are in short supply.
We need leaders as Jethro instructed Moses to search for…:
“able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness.” (Exo. 18:19-23, 1 Sam. 12:24.)
We have been too trusting of an education system which though once founded upon truth, has since suppressed the truth of God, yet we unquestioningly entrust our children to it.
Even teachers in most Christian schools have been indoctrinated by the same atheistic worldview from colleges that train teachers in the public indoctrination system.
We have been too trusting of the scientific establishment, which though once founded upon truth, has long been driven by falsehood, greed, and the agenda of social engineers.
We are too trusting of the medical establishment, though once founded upon truth, it is now driven by big pharmaceutical companies, fear of litigation, a lack of respect for life… Doctors who do speak truth, eg warning about the dangers of same-sex relationships are silenced and lose their jobs.
We are too trusting of government which though once was founded upon Christian truth, (the concept of prime minister as primary accountable servant) has largely been hijacked by socialistic atheists who seek not the good of the nation but popularity, money, fame, and freedom from morality.
We have been too trusting of the media. Though the inventors of TV and radio were God-fearing, as were many of the scientists who did the ground work for all modern technology, yet the media has been taken over by the godless.
We have been too trusting of publishing companies. Though the printing press was first invented for the dissemination of the truth, its first usage being to print the Bible, yet even so-called bible publishing houses have largely been taken over by those who wish to promote a particular agenda or make a profit from the sale of Christian books.
We have been too trusting of the institutionalised church. Though it was once the pillar and ground of the truth, it has degenerated into an organisation which often values the traditions and reasoning of man over the Word of God.
There has always been opposing forces working against the truth. The more Christianity loses its influence, the less truth is respected, sought after, upheld, practiced or defended.
May we learn to be more discerning, teach our own families how to discern truth, and take every opportunity to defend truth.
As the western world plummets into godlessness, truth will become more scarce.
We are called to INTEGRITY.
We need men of truth, still.
Ever more so.
When we enroll in the school of hard knocks we become students of the truth.
The one we serve is the Lord of Truth.
The school of hard knocks will admit no pretenders. You have to be real.
The school of hard knocks calls for men and women who will stand shoulder to shoulder and march, lock step, with the truth.
They will not be detoured.
They will not be distracted.
They will not deviate from the straight path.
They will not cut corners.
We will stand against and confront that which is a distortion of the truth.
It’s about time we tell the truth.
I know when I tell people the truth, they sometimes rile up.
They don’t like it. They don’t want to hear it.
That’s all the more reason we need to deliver it. And, strongly so.
If we don’t have the gumption to tell the truth, then who will?
It says He sent His Word… Psalms 107:20
He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.
Healing isn’t going to come WITHOUT THE WORD. You must deliver the message. The sure Word of God. No substitute will do.
Open your mouth and speak it.
Don’t keep it to yourself. Our job is merely to deliver it.
We are engaged in a battle for truth. If you are going to be a student in this school then GET READY FOR SOME BATTLES.
He never said it would be easy.
We must hold our ground – AGAINST ERROR and FOR THE TRUTH.
The truth isn’t popular.
It never was.
And it never will be.
1 Corinthians 2:15
But he that is spiritual judgeth all things…
The truth hurts.
These times call for us to be resolute for the truth, pleading with men.
More than ever before, where we have lying prophets, and where all manner of confusing messages abound, we need the more sure word of prophecy, the genuine word of God.
Our mission is to IMPART TRUTH.
What is THE TRUTH?
The truth is that our careless world has offended a holy God. And it is headed full pelt on a collision course with His sure judgment.
Our world is playing cubby houses, thinking it can hide from God’s penetrating vision.
The world has largely fallen for the refuge of lies. But all that is sham and substitute will be swept away, and shown for what it is, A REFUGE OF LIES…
Let us, rather, FLEE TO CHRIST FOR REFUGE.
The majority will be lost.
The terrors of hell will be the lot of the many.
We must stand for the truth.
What it takes…
The school of hard knocks calls for…
There is a cost to this school.
If you want to live godly it will cost you.
It will cost you everything that you have.
Just to be found holding a Bible can cost you your life in some places…
It will cost you, to belong to this church.
Always remember that while it costs dearly to stand for right, the cost of yielding to wrong is far greater.
There is a cost to…
The school of hard knocks.
It will cost you. To be a disciple.
You have to be broken.
God loves to use broken vessels.
As one preacher put it:
“God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.” – Vance Havner
In Judges, chapter 7, we find the story of Gideon and his victory over the Midianites. When the jars were broken, the light shone through…
Gideon won BY WEAKENING. His army was whittled down to 300.
And as these men simply broke the jars that held the lights God shone through and wrought a great victory.
In Mark, chapter 14… Our Lord Jesus is dining at the home of a man named Simon, when a woman comes in. She breaks open an alabaster box, and begins anointing Jesus with its expensive perfume.
As we are broken God can break through and do a work…
A Christian is like a tea bag— it’s not much good until it has gone through hot water!
An old time preacher said this: There is a great want about all Christians who have not suffered. Some flowers must be broken or bruised before they emit any fragrance. – Robert Murray M’Cheyne.
I would love to see some new students enroll in this school.
Where do we go to enroll in this school? This school of hard knocks.
It starts at the cross. Your cross.
The cross for Christ was the cross of shame.
Likewise, He beckons us there…
- To the cross.
- To carry the cross.
- Your cross.
Are you crucified with Christ?
Are you dead yet?
The school of hard knocks calls for the cross.
It calls for a dying to self.
It is, as we hand over the reins of our life into His hands, that we become His disciples…
John the Baptist knew the secret of spiritual strength:
He must increase, but I must decrease.
Paul found the secret…
2 Corinthians 12:9
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.
Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Troubled on every side, but not distressed…
Paul says the reason is…
That the life of Jesus might be manifest.
That Jesus will show through us…
It’s going to take…
And there is a Cost.
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
…that the life …of Jesus might be made manifest…