The Cast Down (2 Corinthians 7.6)
The New Testament assembly is made up of believers who vary in age, background, temperament, education, employment, and spiritual gift. The complexity and demands of modern living mean that at any time there may be differing pressures brought to bear upon them, some known to others and some unknown, which can affect their mood and behaviour. Over the next few months, if the Lord will, it is proposed to examine a number of the expressions used in Scripture to describe some of those whom we meet.
Paul had been anticipating the coming of Titus to bring him news of how the assembly at Corinth had responded to the epistle that he had written to them. As he waited apprehensively, his concern was so great and his anxiety so acute that he described himself as one who was "cast down". He had been brought low (the word can also bear the thought of being depressed) and oppressed in his spirit to such an extent that the downheartedness could not be cast off.
This is the "cast down" condition to which I refer; not a general feeling of "things are not good" (that can be, but is not the subject of our present meditation), but a great burden about the spiritual state and progress of the saints, particularly in the assembly of which we form a part. It is a feeling that many, who care little for the condition of others, will find difficult to understand. It is, contrariwise, a feeling which shepherd hearts will not fail to recognise. It can dominate the mind, fill the hours, cause physical and spiritual exhaustion, and be used by the Adversary to suggest that caring for the flock is a pointless, thankless, and ineffective exercise, from which it would be better to "retire".
The question which this brings before each of us is a simple one, yet one which must be faced: Are we causing leaders to be cast down?. Is our conduct in the assembly, and at other times, of such a nature that it gives rise to concern amongst those who guide Gods people? It may be that we once ran well but now have fallen behind, no longer taking our part in the work of the assembly. Perhaps we never have shown interest in spiritual matters. Is it that we are given to materialism and so committed to our employment that it is detrimental to our spiritual lives? Is our attendance at assembly gatherings inexcusably irregular? Be assured that these features, and others, cause concern to shepherds, and, if overwhelming, or coming on the back of other issues, may cause those who are concerned, to be cast down. Surely, despite our low spiritual condition, which is evidenced by our conduct and background muttering, we do not wish this to be the outcome. Would it not be much better to be a positive influence for spiritual good amongst the saints, rather than a hindrance? Let us all remember that there is a twofold responsibility here. One is for elders to guide, and the other is for saints to follow. Let us keep both before us!
To those shepherds of the flock who feel like this the Word of God comes with encouragement. Paul knew what it was to be cast down by persecution from without (2 Cor 4.9) as well as from circumstances within the assembly, but he also had come to know the God "that comforteth those that are cast down". Our God is not unaware of these pressures and disappointments. He does not fail to take account of the anxious hours and nights. He draws near and comforts. It may be, as with the coming of Titus, that evidence of spiritual progress is seen, or it may be in some other unexpected way from an unexpected source that He will comfort our cast down soul when we turn to Him and place our anxieties into His compassionate care.
To elders I say, "Keep up the work, no matter how little encouragement saints provide". It is not given to you to be "lords over Gods heritage" (1 Pet 5.3), but to seek to nurture the flock. Doubtless you will feel failure at times and helplessness at others, but so seek to guide and lead that at the Judgment Seat you will be able to give an account "with joy, and not with grief" (Heb 13.17).