2 Corinthians 12:11-21: Christian Service
May 15, 2023
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Paul’s defense of himself—which, as he clarifies at the end of this section, is really a defense of the gospel—continues. You sense here especially the deep emotion, the pain, and indeed some of the frustration that Paul carried in his relationship with the Corinthians. What can we learn from this interaction about the nature of Christian service?
First, it is not always easy. If it is true that there can be great joy in Christian service—whether as a pastor, a missionary, serving in children’s ministries, running a Christian organization, serving your children at home, or serving Christ at work—there can also be difficulties. It is not encouraging to never highlight the difficulties. If we do not specify that it can sometimes be hard, people will be confused when they find it hard. They will think if only they were a better Christian, then they would not experience any difficulties in Christian service! But if the apostle Paul can find Christian service sometimes difficult, then surely we will too. Even Jesus found his life of service at times deeply difficult, and the very shape of his service—a cross-shape—is ours too who follow in the footsteps of Christ.
Second, it requires great love. Paul loved the Corinthians as a parent loves a child. He poured out his heart for them. Those who serve Christ cannot expect to gain much fruit if they do it begrudgingly, unwillingly, coldly, or mechanically. There is a right passion that is to attend all serving of Jesus. We love him! We love his people! We love the gospel! We love the lost! And therefore, we pour out our lives in love.
Third, there is a place for giving and receiving of correction. Paul was correcting the Corinthians. Sometimes, we find it hard to be corrected. We tend to think that we need to be in the right, or we fear what will happen to us. But we all stand before the standards of Scripture and fall short of the glory of God. It is important that we are humble enough to ask God to train us by his Word, to correct us—as well as to encourage us and exhort us. Be humble enough to learn from the Bible, or else you will stop learning and grow stagnant and stale. What have you learnt recently? Even if it is not new information about God, what has God spoken to you recently? Are you resisting a word from God? Receive it humbly. Even if it is a word of correction.
Fourth, we cannot always “finish well” or achieve all the goals that we set for ourselves—even if they are good goals—in Christian service. Paul feared that what he wanted for the Corinthians would not come about or come to pass. Christians long for certain good things to take place. They long for revival. They long for their neighbors to come to know Jesus. They long for their church to be more holy and more like the church is meant to be. They long for their workplace to be more hospitable to the gospel. We have these gospel-centered, good longings, but not all desires this side of heaven will be achieved. We can finish the work that God has for us (as Paul, in 2 Timothy, says that he did). But we are unlikely to see all that we long for in that work done as we would want it done. Some desires of the Spirit at work in us can only be fulfilled in heaven.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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