2 Corinthians 10
By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you – I, Paul, who am ‘timid’ when face to face with you, but ‘bold’ towards you when away! 2 I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be towards some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. 3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 6 And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.
7 You are judging by appearances. If anyone is confident that they belong to Christ, they should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as they do. 8 So even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it. 9 I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. 10 For some say, ‘His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.’ 11 Such people should realise that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.
12 We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. 13 We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you. 14 We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. 15 Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, 16 so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in someone else’s territory. 17 But, ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’ 18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
Sadly, most of the pastors and gospel workers who I know have faced criticism and hardship to some degree or other. No doubt, some of the critique will have been justified (even if not given in a loving way) and many of them welcome loving feedback and critique in order to grow and develop. But sometimes, the criticism is not only harsh, it is unjustified; even horrible and spiteful. At those times, they need to remember they are in good company.
Paul’s ministry was also criticised. Indeed, in the reading today, Paul answers the scathing criticisms of himself and his ministry from within the Corinthian church. He, his ministry and his doctrines were under attack. Whether they think he hides behind his letters (verse 1), or lacks in the area of delivery and oratory (verse 10), or doesn’t compare to the ‘super-apostles’ visiting the church (verse 12); the point is, their unjustified criticism is scathing and cutting to the core. Paul must steel himself against this by rooting himself in the only One whose critique really matters – his Lord. So, Paul reminds his critics that in this spiritual battle, his weapon is the Word. It is this Word that ‘demolishes arguments and every pretension’ (verse 5); that helps him ‘to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ’ (verse 5) – thus overcoming their harsh and unjustified comments. And, it’s this Word that shapes his past, present and future ministry so that his boast is not in the things of this world, the accomplishments of man, or the perception of others. No, his boast ‘is in the Lord alone’ (verse 17).
Such a passage reminds us of the very real struggles faced by those in ministry, especially the pastors. They face the same problems and struggles that we face, yet are tasked to rise above and to live their lives at a higher standard (James 3:1). Because of this calling, they are vulnerable and susceptible to tests and temptations, to gossip and slander, and to unfair and unloving criticism. While we must speak the truth in love to them; so too we must seek to encourage them and build them up. One way to do that is to pray regularly for them.
Let’s do that now.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the pastors and leaders who serve the body at TCC. Thank You for the vision that You have given them for our church and that we get to be part of the community which You are building here.
Give them strength, power, and understanding to teach Your Word and to do so in a way that drives religion out and brings relationship with You back as the centre point. Equip them and empower them to do the work of the ministry for which You have called them. Give them an overflow of wisdom and grace as they love the sheep and assist Your people. Thank You for their role in my spiritual growth and maturity.
Lord, surround them with people they can trust and can be accountable to, with people to encourage them in Your ways. Guard them against unloving and unjustified criticism or conflict. Help them to evaluate all comments in light of Your Word and to make all thoughts captive to obedience to Christ.
In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.