September 10, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (2 Corinthians 6)

Submitted by Will W. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 6:4-5

“[T]he focus of Paul’s commendation…is once again on his divinely enabled endurance in the midst of adversity. […] [T]his endurance ‘commends’ Paul as a servant of God. […] [T]hose who lack such a divine recommendation can only engage in self-commendation.” [2 Corinthians The NIV Application Commentary, Burge, Gary M., Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2000.]

  • In what ways do the many sufferings of Apostle Paul and his companions “commend” (v. 4) them as servants of God? 

Paul and his companions’ sufferings “commend” themselves as servants of God because they’ve objectively gone through a lot in the name of God.  I think about how they suffered so much, and when I look at someone like Paul, I simply think, he could only go through these things if he was living before God and for nobody else.  Simply looking at the list of some of the things they dealt with, facing afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger, being treated as impostors, gets them anything but pain from a worldly perspective.  And so any objective observer who sees the situation of Paul knows, there’s something different about what this guy is living for.  It’s definitely not for himself, to boost his own ego.  As a Christian, when we see others who suffer for the message of the Gospel, there is a universal understanding that these people are living for God as opposed to themselves.  Suffering, not for some random reason, but for a cause, is a great commendation.  I think of the start-up culture.  Christianity back then was still kind of new and not tested.  Just like start-ups, the only people there are there because they really believe in the company and are willing to go through that early phase.  They stay at the office late, they do extra work and take extra ownership.  How much more so what Paul is doing for the Gospel, facing the kind of suffering that most of us will probably never have to face.  So the only conclusion I can come to is that Paul is enduring what he does because he knows the reason for his suffering, spreading the Gospel, is truth and worth it.  He knows that his obedience to God is more important than anything else, so even if he gets beaten for obeying God, he will do it and that’s an amazing testimony and challenge to me.

  • What sacrifices or hardships borne for the sake of the gospel can I point to as “commendations” to back up my identity and message as a Christian? 

Well, when I look at the Christian life I’ve lived these past years, I know that I haven’t suffered all that much.  I don’t have a huge list of commendations, but there are some sacrifices I’ve made as a Christian that I can look back at to back up my identity as a Christian.  I know that for myself, one thing I’ve committed to do is to love people.  Even as I think about the Bible Study James gave on last Friday, a huge part of love is suffering.  How can you love without suffering, without making yourself vulnerable to opening up your heart to someone who could possibly hurt you?  That’s what I’ve committed to do when I joined college staff.  For the students that I’m going to give my attention to, that I’m going to give time to, that I’m going to spend money taking care of them, that I’m going to drive around, trying to relate to them even though I’m like 7 years older than them, that’s a small sacrifice I make for no other reason than trying to honor God.  For what reason other than the Gospel would a 25 year old interact with a bunch of 18 year olds just to share with them the words of a book that is more than 2000 years old?  I think about how there are a couple younger Christian brothers that I have the privilege to guide this year and how I’ve decided that I’m going to care about their spiritual, physical, and emotional life.  I’m going to try to pray for them, to help them struggle through their issues, and make myself fully available to them and even share vulnerable things about myself so I can relate with them better.   And if things are causing these guys anguish, I’m allowing them to cause me anguish also, if I see them hurting, I’m going to be hurting for them too.  I’ve made little sacrifices in other places like not putting in extra hours at work like so many others do, even if that means I miss out gaining as many opportunities to advance in work.  Even also having come back from Taiwan a couple of months ago, while I know I got do travel and learn Chinese, one thing I know for myself is that my main reason to go there was just to share the Gospel.  And while it was a humongous privilege to go, I did have to quit a job and come back with the uncertainty of being jobless.  I can point back to that time and say, “God that was for you.”

2 Corinthians 6:8-10

  • Reflect on the real difficulties, the actual pain and struggle, which must lie behind the contrasting pairs of words listed here that describe the life of ministry.  Reflect also on the fact that all believers are called to be ministers. 

When I read the words Paul writes, that alone is enough to make me wince.  I’ve never been beaten, starved, placed in prison or in riots, slandered, or treated as an impostor.  For each of these words that Paul talks of, he really experienced.  He was in prison.  He was lashed; he was beaten almost to death.  He got stoned, had people yell at him and probably call him all sorts of names.  He was betrayed by the very people who once looked up to him in Jewish society.  If he had just said that he was beaten for the Gospel, that alone is a more real pain than I’ve ever felt.  Then there’s the other side where he experienced knowledge, purity, patience, kindness, the holy Spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God!  This is all part of ministry; it’s a huge list.  It’s like what Ajith Fernando wrote in the book The Call to Joy and Pain.  That’s ministry–it’s the strongest of pains and also the highest of joys.  There’s the pain of seeing someone you love and poured out a lot to just leave or somehow hurt you.  And then there’s also the greatest joy of seeing/experiencing someone like my best friend Law become Christian.  There’s the joy of being co-laborers in the Gospel with guys I got to reach out to as a freshman.  As I think of the fact that all believers are called to be ministers I think of the immense privilege I have.  I think of how insufficient I know I am, but also that God provides the sufficiency.

  • Think of the paradoxes in v. 10, and what they say about the glory and dignity of being servants of God.  To what extent can I affirm these words as aptly describing my view of the Christian life, my actual experience as a Christian, and my personal vision for my life?

Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.  Poor, yet making many rich.  Having nothing but possessing everything.  In my Christian life I can affirm these words because I’ve gotten to experience both sides of each paradox.  I’m been sorrowful in seeing the sins of myself and of others.  I’ve been sorrowful in seeing the burdens people are weighed down by.  And I’ve also had the immense privilege of seeing people progress through sins, myself also included.  I’ve seen people cross the line of faith, and here I think of the 12 or so brothers or sisters I got to see become Christian in Taiwan.  When I look back to them, man, I get to rejoice.  I’ve seen myself as poor when I felt lame, didn’t have much to give, and even didn’t have a lot of money to do anything with.  Yet the fact I get to share the Gospel, the treasure I have inside this jar of clay, I know that’s making others rich.  And when I think of the personal vision I have for life, I can affirm that I want to keep being sorrowful for people, I want to keep feeling poor and lacking, inadequate.  I want to see that I have nothing of my own to offer, but that the Gospel in me is everything.  I want to once again recommit to the vision of trying to live a life like Paul’s, suffering for the Gospel yet experiencing the amazing joys that seeing God work brings.  That’s my vision, wherever and whenever.

Personal Prayer

Heavenly father,

As I see the kind of life Apostle Paul lived, it’s challenging to say the least.  He went through so much for the sake of the Gospel, but one thing is certain, he can say with confidence that he commended himself to you.  He wasn’t living before men, but you.  Lord, help me to desire to live like Apostle Paul and to persevere like Apostle Paul.  I know a life of suffering is not easy, but at the same time there’s the greatest joy of sharing the Gospel, of being reminded of my own testimony, of seeing people change.  And as I go about trying to love people like Paul did, because in essence his suffering was out of love, please help me to hang onto your love.  That’s my prayer.  Let me accept any suffering or hardship that comes my way and see it as a way to honor you and live before you.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Submitted by Ander C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 6:4-5

  • In what ways do the many sufferings of Apostle Paul and his companions “commend” (v. 4) them as servants of God? 

The many sufferings of Apostle Paul and his companions “commend” them as servants of God because they give testimony to the power of God. Their ability and response to affliction, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, and hunger attests to the their identity as Christ followers and apostles.

  • What sacrifices or hardships borne for the sake of the gospel can I point to as “commendations” to back up my identity and message as a Christian? 

The sacrifices or hardships borne for the sake of the gospel that I can point to as “commendations” to back up my identity and message as a Christian is through the life of ministry I’m engaged in. The pain of getting rejected and seeing the relationships that I have invested in abruptly come to an end without reason or explanation. Having people just stop responding to me or flatly rejecting me because of my faith. People judging me and attacking my personality and character when they find out I’m a Christian. I’ve also had the people that I’m trying to love criticize me and misinterpret me. I’ve experienced the hardship of trying to speak truth to people who refuse to listen.

I’ve experienced late nights where I stay awake with my heart full of anguish, anxiety, sadness as I worry and think about the people I’m trying to reach out to and minister to. My emotional life is a roller coaster as I deal with people’s sin issues as well as dealing with my own struggles with sin. Bearing the sins and struggles of people as they go through difficult times and making myself available for them, sometimes pleading, reasoning, having long and difficult talks. I’ve sacrificed my time, money, and career in order that people may come to know God and the gospel of Christ. When I look at my life and compare it to that of Apostle Paul and his companions I can hardly say that I’ve suffered. Living where I live, I probably never will be imprisoned, experience a riot, or get beaten for my faith. And so as I think about my life in comparison to Apostle Paul I see that there is so much more of myself that I can give. Through his description of his life I’m challenged to pray more, give more effort, put more thought into it, spend more time with people, place more people into my heart and to really learn what it means to have that kind of “divine jealousy” (2 Cor 11:2) Apostle Paul had for every person.

2 Corinthians 6:8-10

  • Reflect on the real difficulties, the actual pain and struggle, which must lie behind the contrasting pairs of words listed here that describe the life of ministry.  Reflect also on the fact that all believers are called to be ministers.

Through reflecting on these contrasting pairs of words listed here in verse 8-10 it’s clear that a life of ministry is not an easy one. There is emotional and physical pain involved; there is actual pain and struggle contained in these words of “dishonor, slander, imposters, unknown, dying, punished, sorrowful, having nothing.” If anything Apostle Paul’s life clearly paints a whole picture of what a life of ministry looks like.

And so as believers this is the life to which we have been called. Yet it’s not all pain and struggle, Apostle Paul contrasts these words with ones filled with hope “honor, praise, true, well known, live, not killed, always rejoicing, yet making many rich, possessing everything.” Looking at these contrasting pairs of words I’m reminded that although we may face hardships and pain it doesn’t end there. In the end, because of Christ we have hope, we have praise, honor, and we will be well known by Christ for our efforts and given eternal life.

  • Think of the paradoxes in v. 10, and what they say about the glory and dignity of being servants of God.  To what extent can I affirm these words as aptly describing my view of the Christian life, my actual experience as a Christian, and my personal vision for my life?

These paradoxes remind of why I am living a life of ministry. It reminds me of why I have chosen to sacrifice and give my time and energy to others. I am a servant of God and that is my identity; I no longer live for myself but for the glory to which God will give to me one day in heaven.

In my view of Christian life, I easily find myself getting focused on things such as how well people are responding, how much spiritual hunger people have, and how many people that I’m ministering are actually coming out to bible study and church. So when difficulties come and as I’ve recently experienced people completely stop responding to me, walking away from their faith and losing interest in Christianity, it’s easy for me to think this is the end of it all. It’s easy for me to think that Christian life is just hard and difficult. It’s easy to think that I’m lame that I’m incompetent as a minister and this responsibility is too much for me to bear. Yet I’m just struck again with the truth of these words and the vision that God has for my life. To be someone who is “rejoicing, rich, and possessing everything” is the vision God has for my life and the one that I need to hold onto today. Apostle Paul had this clear vision for his life and because of that he had hope and was able to endure and remain faithful. That’s the truth that I must remember today and claim these hopeful words for myself.

Personal Prayer

Heavenly Father, I thank you for just giving me that message of hope and for reminding me of what a life of ministry entails. It amazes me how I repeatedly think that Christian life should be easy and that as a Christ follower my life should go smoothly and well. Yet I’m reminded today that this is my own view of my life, that this is my pride setting unrealistic expectations. I repent for being a selfish person who cares just about my own physical, mental and emotional comfort. Lord, please forgive me for placing my expectations of what Christian life is supposed to be like, trying to assert my will onto yours. God, I thank you for just once again painting that picture of a life of ministry and I also thank you for giving me this privilege of getting to share your gospel with people. I know that my life in comparison to many others who have carried the gospel has been an easy one and I’m just challenged to do more. I repent for being so easily shaken and commit to endurance and faithfulness. Thank you Lord for the hope I have in you and for such timely words of encouragement that refocus my view of Christian life.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Response