The Apostle Paul was one of the greatest missionaries in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ. Recently I was reading the fourth chapter of 2 Corinthians where he gives a message to the world, inviting them to partake of the light of the gospel. Paul's language is sometimes difficult to understand in our day. But, with careful study, his message is powerful. Here is a verse-by-verse study guide, and a synopsis of his message 1 Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;
As members of the church of Jesus Christ in the earth who have partaken of His mercy and enjoy the blessings of the gospel, we have a solemn responsibility to preach the gospel. We do so with determination, never wearying. 2 But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
Having received this commission, Paul first speaks about how we should NOT do missionary work. I have spent most of my working life in the world of direct selling and sales training. While many are honest, professional sales people, too many in that profession think nothing of stretching the truth or using cunning or sly methods to get the sale.
Paul is saying that the gospel is not to be “sold” using the techniques of the world, but with unabashed truth, giving each man and woman the chance to find out for themselves whether or not it is true. Spreading the gospel is not so much about techniques and strategies, as it is about spreading light and truth, then allowing the Spirit to manifest the truth of it to each individual. This allows each person to evaluate and receive a personal witness of the gospel.3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
The gospel brings hope and peace and light into our lives giving us courage in those moments when “dark clouds of trouble hang o’er us.” But, for most of the world, this glorious message is hidden, causing them to wonder and wander as one who is lost in darkness. (See D&C 45 28-29) 4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
Who is the cause of this confusion and darkness? Satan himself, he who has temporary dominion in the earth, desperately darkens the minds of the masses in order to prevent the glorious light of the gospel of Jesus Christ from shining on them and giving them hope.
One of the ways that Satan blinds the minds of people is through confusing messages. I work in the self-improvement industry. Almost every week, there is a new personality or philosophy that promises to be to answer to all of life’s problems. Most of these people are well-meaning, but without the illuminating power of the gospel, they are left to navigate the road of life as best they can in the dark: literally, the blind leading the blind. Moreover, in their dash to always come up with innovative, new ideas, many are discarding tried-and-true principles to forge new, unproven paths based on the ever-changing popular notions of the day. 5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.
We must look to Christ and put our trust in him alone. We are his servant and can do nothing without Him. The philosophies of the world are limited to the knowledge and wisdom that we currently possess. Paul rejects these worldly philosophies, appropriately removing our focus from ourselves and redirecting it to the Savior. We must look to Christ and put our trust in him alone. 6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Christ is THE source of all light and truth. (See D&C 88:50) He who said, "let there be light" and there was light. He who has power to create all things, causes the gospel light to shine in our hearts and permeate our bodies. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
Where is this valuable light, this precious treasure that Satan is determined to keep from the world? It is inside each faithful member of the church. It radiates from our countenance, it is in our eyes, it resides in our bodies (our earthen vessels). (See D&C 50:24)
The Lord taught, “Ye are the light of the world . . . Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16) Please see also President James E. Faust’s classic talk titled "The Light in Their Eyes
" which elaborates on this principle. 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;
What does this light do for us? How does it have power in our lives? We live in a troubled world. Confusion and despair surround us on all sides. Yet, for those whose foundation is built upon the rock of Christ, we are not distressed; we do not dispair. For, the glorious light of the gospel gives us hope and the power to cope with any difficulty. 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. 12 So then death worketh in us, but life in you.
The true test of a disciple is not what they do when things are going well, but what kind of light they shine in times of distress or trial. In Paul’s day, many saints gave up their lives for their testimony. In our day, I am reminded of the life and death of the Prophet Joseph, and all of the prophets down to President Hinckley, who, despite the devastating loss of his beloved Marjorie, forged ahead with faith and determination. Today, we are not usually called upon to die for the gospel. But, the way we react when trial or tragedy visits becomes our ultimate opportunity to shine our light. Our light never shines brighter than it does when we allow it to shine despite personal challenges or tragedy. 13 We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; 14 Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.
As the prophets of old, we believe in the gospel, and therefore we speak of our faith. Faith and light compel us to open our mouths and share the message of the gospel. Our testimony is that God, who with power raised Jesus Christ from the dead, also has power to raise each of us to share eternal glory with him. 15 For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.
As missionaries, we are constantly thinking of ways to get the message across to our brothers and sisters in darkness. We do it because we want to share the hope and power the light of the gospel brings. We do it for the individual. And we look forward to a great celebration in the eternal world with each person with whom we are able to share the gospel. The Lord said that if we bring even one soul unto him, “how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!”
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;
And so we work tirelessly, through trials, temptations, and difficulty, renewed in body and spirit by the gospel, and looking forward to the joy of the saints in celestial 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.
Our focus is on the Lord and his eternal kingdom. We do not despair that most of the world is in darkness. We see the big picture. We feel unseen power helping us. With Elisha, we say, “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them . . . [and] behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” (2 Kings 6: 16-17) Here is Paul’s message to the world in a nutshell:
We who have received the gospel of Jesus Christ never weary in sharing it with you. We do not resort to deception or clever persuasion to spread this message, but share our knowledge in truth and purity. We share it because we know that because of the gospel, we have something that the world does not have: light and power.
This light is a precious treasure which shines in our hearts, fills our souls with joy, and which gives us hope and courage in times of trial. Because of this light, even though we live in a troubled world, surrounded by pain and despair, we are not distressed.
In an effort to keep you from receiving this light and power, Satan has blinded the minds of the masses. For most of the world, this glorious message is hidden, causing them to wander, lost in darkness. He is desperate to prevent the glorious light of the gospel of Jesus Christ from shining on you and giving you hope. We preach of Christ because the source of this transcendent light is Jesus Christ, not ourselves.
Yet, for the faithful saints, the light resides in our bodies, in our countenances, and in our eyes. It is manifested in our faith, example and actions – in good times as well as in bad – even unto death. In all things we strive to be an example and a light for you.
Because of this light, we are driven to open our mouths and share it with you who are in darkness. We do it because of the hope and power the light of the gospel brings. We do it for you. And we look forward to a great celebration in the eternal world with you when we are raised up together by the power of Christ.
Despair may temporarily reign in the world. But, through Christ, we are renewed daily in body and in spirit. And so we work tirelessly, through trials, temptations, and difficulty. We see beyond the physical world to view the power and light of the gospel sweeping the earth and we look forward to joy with you, our friends, in Celestial Glory.