Sermon on 2 Corinthians 1:8-11
21st Sunday after Pentecost
Deliver Us from Evil
1. By your mighty power
2. By our mighty prayers
Text: 2 Corinthians 1:8-11
A beautiful little 12-year-old girl was the pride and joy of her doting father. She was daddy’s little girl. He loved to watch her run around and play with all of her neighborhood friends. He loved to hear her sing her cute children’s songs. How troubling, then, when his 12-year-old daughter became very sick. It worried the father half to death. So he and all the family took it to Jesus. If anyone could help her, it would be Jesus, right? That’s what they thought, until the little girl died. How it crushed the heart of the loving father to see the lifeless body of his treasured daughter!
And how rude when a guest arrived and made light of the death! “The child is not dead but asleep.” “Of course she is dead! We have seen it with our own eyes! We’ve held her in our own hands!” But the guest proceeded to where the little girl lay. Filled with compassion, he grabbed the little girl’s hand and spoke once more. “Talitha koum,” he said to her, which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” She obeyed. The breath of life filled her lungs and her young heart beat strongly again. Jesus had delivered the daughter of Jairus back into his loving hands.
“Deliver us from evil.” We pray it together every week with united hearts and voices in the Lord’s Prayer. We likely pray it hundreds of times during the weekdays between worship services. “Lord, deliver me from this sickness.” “Deliver me from this pain and suffering.” “Deliver aunt Betty from the clutches of death.” “Deliver me from this sin I always commit.” “Deliver me from this hardship and financial trouble I have right now.” This morning we’ll take a look at what that prayer means, why we can say it, how we can say it, and what we can expect. Then later, again with united hearts and voices, we’ll all join to pray with great understanding, Deliver Us from Evil!
The apostle Paul was no stranger to the evils of this life. In chapter 11 of 2 Corinthians Paul relates all the horrible things he had been through. He was flogged numerous times, beaten with rods, imprisoned, stoned, and shipwrecked three times (one of those times he spent a day at sea). The list goes on from there. But of all the things Paul had endured, in chapter 1 Paul mentions something that seems to have been worse than all the rest. Here’s what he says in the second lesson this morning: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.”
Some scholars guess that Paul was talking about a very recent event that took place while he was in Ephesus. In Ephesus a huge riot broke out over Paul’s preaching of the gospel, a very dangerous situation to say the least. Whatever the event was, Paul and his preaching partners were convinced they were going to die. It was beyond what they could handle and they felt deep in their gut that they were gonners. This was going to be it. This was the end.
We understand the need for deliverance. There are surely plenty of evils that we face in this sinful world. Sickness, disease, and cancer threaten our lives. Every day pains and problems weigh us down. We suffer. We struggle. Sometimes we are even faced with life threatening dangers like Paul was.
But why? Isn’t God a loving God? Doesn’t he care about me? Doesn’t he want me to be happy and healthy? Doesn’t he want what’s good for me? If he really loves me so much, why would he let all these bad things happen? What kind of a loving God is that?
Paul might have thought the same, “Come on Lord. Don’t you remember I’m your apostle? I have mission work to do! I’m sharing your message! Why don’t you deliver me from this like you delivered me from the floggings, the stoning, and the shipwrecks? Don’t you care any more about your apostles?”
That’s often the first step of our sinfulness. We doubt God. We question his plans. We wonder if he knows what he’s doing. But then that often leads to a second step of sinfulness. Once we start to doubt God and question what he is doing, then we begin to think that we don’t need God. “Fine. If you aren’t going to fix this Lord, then I’ll do it myself. I don’t need you. I’ll beat this sickness on my own. I’ll fix this problem myself. I’m pretty smart. I’m tough. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again. I’ll handle this on my own.”
And as soon as we think that, Satan beams with a devious smile. “Aha! I’ve got you,” the devil says. For as soon as we start looking to ourselves, as soon as we start to rely on ourselves, then Satan has us going in the opposite direction. You see, once we think we can handle anything in this life on our own, it is not that far of a step for Satan to convince us that we can handle salvation on our own. It’s really not that big of a leap. And it’s a leap that Satan is pushing us to make. But it’s a leap that will only result in us sinners falling short of God’s glory and ending up in hell.
This is why God disciplines us, as a loving father disciplines his children. This is why God allows hardship in our lives. This is why we suffer in this life. God allows these troubles in our lives in love, so that we learn exactly what the apostle Paul learned. Look at verse 9: “Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”
Paul quickly learned that he couldn’t do it himself. He couldn’t deliver himself from evil, he needed someone else to help him. And the only one who could truly help him in such a deadly situation was the God who has the power over death.
Friends, look at Jesus’ empty tomb. See that he is no longer there. See that the grave couldn’t hold him. See that sin and death had no power over him. Jesus died on the cross to pay for all of our sins—for all of our doubt, all of our worries, all of our self-reliance, and all of our selfish arrogance—Jesus suffered death and hell to forgive those sins. But he didn’t stay dead. Jesus rose to life to show his ultimate power over all things, including death and hell.
Certainly, such a God who has such power, even the power over sin, death, and Satan, is able to deliver us from any evil. Paul learned that lesson: “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.”
Paul learned that our mighty God has the mighty power to deliver in two ways. First, he certainly has the power to deliver us from any trouble of this life. But secondly, he has the mighty power to deliver us from this life itself and take us to heaven. Thus, when we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Deliver us from evil,” we aren’t just asking that God would deliver us from our worldly problems, but we are praying that God would deliver us from this evil world and take us to the glories of heaven.
On November 4, 2007 Christ the King had its grand opening worship service. As always, worship started at 10:00am. But an older couple arrived one hour early that day. It was daylight savings and they forgot to set their clocks. But the early arrival gave me an opportunity to have a good conversation with Charles and Lorraine. They have been members of the church ever since. Many of you newer folks might not know Charles and Lorraine because every year they go up to New York right after Easter until October. Just before they left this last summer, they gifted this pulpit to the church for its new construction. I was wondering when they might come back south this year when Lorraine finally called me last week Monday. They had arrived the week before on Tuesday. But this wasn’t a happy, “Hey we’re back” phone call. Lorraine called that afternoon to share that Charles had entered heaven that morning—before he ever got to set foot in this new building they had been waiting for. It would appear his cancer and other pains got the best of him.
As we mourn with the family we might wonder why God didn’t deliver Charles from evil? Why didn’t he spare Charles all the pain of cancer, and shingles a year ago, and arthritis, and vision problems? If God had the power to deliver Paul from such a situation, why didn’t he deliver Charles? But don’t you see? God did deliver Charles from evil! He took him out of this world of tears, this world of pain and sickness and cancer. The Lord took Charles to be in the perfection of heaven. As Charles prayed thousands of times in his life, and dozens of times in our own church, “Deliver us from evil,” God did. He took Charles to heaven.
So too we pray, “Deliver Us from Evil by your mighty power.” In other words, “Help us with our earthly problems, but finally, take us to heaven.” Because God has the power over death, he can and he will deliver us as he delivered Charles this last week!
It is unequivocally undeniable that God has power over all things, including death itself. There is no denying his mighty power. Yet as God of all, the Lord does something very amazing, he gives some of that power to us. We actually have the power and the ability to help God as he helps others. How? Look at what Paul says in the middle of verse 10: “On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.” Those Corinthians living in Greece were many miles away across the Aegean Sea from Paul as he was working in Asia Minor. Yet they were still able to help Paul because they were able to pray for Paul and his mission companions. Listen to what a result of prayers can be in verse 11, “Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” Not only would God listen to and answer the prayers of the Corinthians on Paul’s behalf, but then they would also offer prayers of thanks to God because he delivered Paul.
God tells us that the prayers of righteous people, of Christians who are his children, are powerful and effective. God hears and listens to all prayers of his children. That means that our prayers pack a lot of power. We pray mighty prayers.
That makes me think of my brothers in the ministry, three pastors from the northeast part of the United States. Two weeks ago Pastor Gumm, Pastor Walters and Pastor Horneber were returning from the pastors’ conference in Barre, Vermont—about the same time I was returning from pastor’s conference in Deltona. As they were driving back to upstate New York a pickup from the opposite lane lost control and veered at them. There was no avoiding the T-bone smash. Yet Pastor Walters had only a few bumps and bruises. Pastor Horneber was hurt, but instantly attended to Pastor Gumm who was more seriously injured. As news spread quickly by Twitter, Facebook, E-mail, and phone calls, countless thousands in our Lutheran church body joined in prayers for deliverance. None of the three spent more than three days in the hospital. Pastor Gumm was injured the worst, and his worst injury was only a small pelvic fracture. All three have returned to their homes and their congregations. The Lord delivered once again through our mighty prayers.
But how come God doesn’t always answer prayers like this? How come God doesn’t always provide deliverance? It sure doesn’t seem like deliverance when there is a miscarriage! Or so we think. If it is God’s will that he should take such a young child, and if it is God’s will that the unborn child go to heaven—think of how gracious our God is! Surely, the parents mourn at the loss. But that child never once breathed the sinful air of this world. That child was never threatened by child molesters, never broke a bone, never cried, never felt pain. If it was his will, Jesus simply took that child to his side in heaven immediately. What a blessing!
In the same way it surely doesn’t seem like deliverance when our dear loved one is taken from us. Why didn’t God spare that life? Why didn’t God deliver on those prayers? Yet how do we know that God isn’t sparing that loved one from something worse? What if there is an unbearable pain or problem lying ahead that we don’t know of, but now our loved one has been spared from that. Or best of all, for our Christian loved ones who have passed, God is showing the greatest mercy as he takes them home to heaven before Satan could get his grasp on that person.
“Deliver Us from Evil.” We pray it all the time, and God listens to those prayers. They are mighty prayers that help others. Yet as the God of all, God brings deliverance in the way that he sees fit, and in the way that he knows is best. For he is the God who has all power over all things, even sin and death, and he certainly has the power to work all things for our good.
Another beautiful little 12-year-old girl was the pride and joy of her doting father. She also was daddy’s little girl. He also loved to watch his daughter run around and play with all of her childhood friends. He also loved to hear her sing her cute children’s songs. How troubling, then, when his 12-year-old daughter became very sick. It worried him half to death. So he and the family took it to Jesus. If anyone could help her, it would be Jesus, right? But this time it seemed as though Jesus did not answer. The cancer behind little Hannah’s eyes spread to her brain. It spread to her spine. There was no fixing it. So Hannah died last week.
Surely the parents and countless others prayed, “Lord, deliver us from evil! Deliver Hannah from evil!” Aren’t prayers powerful? Why did that happen? Didn’t God listen? He sure did! For 12 years ago, when Victory Lutheran Church was starting as a mission church in Jacksonville, FL (just like we started three years ago), Hannah was the first child that Pastor Hoyer baptized. Hannah was a child of God. Her sins were washed away. “Lord, deliver us from evil. Lord, deliver Hannah from evil.” He did. He took her to his side where there is no pain and no chemotherapy and no cancer. Jesus delivered Hannah into the glories of heaven.
As we pray today and every day, Deliver Us from Evil, know that God can and will. God has all power to deliver you from all evils of life. More importantly, God has all power to deliver you to eternal life. As you daily pray to the Lord for deliverance, hold in your heart the words from the closing stanza of the closing hymn from Hannah’s funeral this last Thursday:
Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me!
O Lord, deliver us—to be with Charles, to be with Hannah, to be with you.
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Posted on October 17, 2010, in Church, Sermons and tagged 2 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 1, Abide with Me, Church, Death, Deliver Us from Evil, Evil, Hardship, Sermons, Suffering, Trouble. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.