In 2 Corinthians 4:7–18, the apostle Paul explains that the endurance he exhibits in his ministry points to God’s strength and not his own. Even though he has encountered numerous difficulties physically, mentally, and spiritually, he is able to press on because of God’s incredible power (2 Corinthians 4:7). This is vividly illustrated by a series of contrasts in verses 8 and 9. One of the stark illustrations provided is of someone getting knocked down. Paul writes, “We are . . . struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:9).
The words struck down and destroyed mean exactly that in the original language. The word for “struck down” portrays something getting hit, abused, abandoned, or even killed. The word for “destroyed” simply means “perished or ruined.” Paul acknowledges he has been struck down by hardship before, but quickly clarifies that he has never been destroyed, standing up again through the power of God (2 Corinthians 4:7; cf. Psalm 54:4). The picture is like that of a boxer who is knocked over by a huge blow but manages to rise again—think of Rocky Balboa in the Rocky movies. In ministry, Paul has been knocked down but not knocked out. He has been wounded by his enemies, but no one can deal him a lethal blow because God is his strength (2 Corinthians 12:9–10).
What does that look like in Paul’s life? One obvious example is the persecution Paul faced on his missionary journeys. People often did not welcome the gospel of Christ and abused Paul for preaching it. However, they were unable to stop him because of God’s continued protection and empowerment. A good example is what happened in Lystra on Paul’s first missionary journey when the townspeople stoned Paul and left him for dead (Acts 14:19). After the stoning, the indominable apostle got back to his feet and kept ministering, proclaiming the gospel (Acts 14:20). Paul was certainly “struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:9).
What does this mean for us? Like Paul, there are things in life that threaten to strike us down. Because of our faith, we can be persecuted, alienated, or ridiculed. In moments of extreme hardship, it is critical to refocus our attention on God and remember that He alone is our source of strength. It is only by God’s power, and not our own, that we can be “struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:9). The world may wound us, but it cannot destroy us because our future is certain with Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:13–14).