2 Corinthians 6
Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonour, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
2 Corinthians 6:4–10
Throughout history, God has used many ordinary men and women to do extraordinary things for His purposes. We owe a great debt of gratitude to those people who have brought God’s Gospel to us – sometimes at the cost of their own lives. Despite what we might initially think, Paul is one of these ‘ordinary’ men. Paul himself describes his coming to the Corinthians as ‘in weakness and fear, and with much trembling’ (1 Corinthians 2:3). But, no one will doubt the extraordinary work he did for God’s Kingdom.
Paul gives us his own characterisation of his ministry in verses 4–10. On the one hand, his ministry is characterised by much persecution. He gives us a summary list of what he’s been through in verses 4–5 and we’ll see next week in 11:24–27 just how much he faced for the sake of the Gospel – not to mention his final arrest and death in Rome. And yet, despite all this, he can say that he is always rejoicing and that though he has nothing, he possesses everything (verse 10).
Paul’s description of his own ministry reminds us of the instructions Jesus gave His disciples in Mark 8:34–35 and 10:29–30:
‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.’
‘I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.’
Paul’s life and ministry fulfill these instructions of our Lord. He knows the work will be tough, but, he knows too that there is a great reward, both in this life and in the age to come. Do our lives reflect Jesus’ words? Can our ministries be characterised like Paul’s as ‘in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God’ (verse 6)? That may mean that we are asking for the same persecution that Paul faced. We can endure this, ‘always rejoicing’ because of the hope of eternal life to come. And yet, at the same time, we can pray like David in Psalm 70, that God will deliver us from our enemies.
May our lives and ministries be characterised like Paul’s, for now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation’!