October 2, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (2 Corinthians 13)

Submitted by Sunny K., from Gracepoint Austin Church

2 Corinthians 13:7-9

  • Given the words of judgment in vv. 1-4, what is surprising about Apostle Paul’s prayers for the Corinthians? 

In light of his earlier words of judgment in Ch. 13, I am continually struck by Paul’s unrelenting hopefulness for this church to be restored into proper standing before God, in their relationship with Paul and with each other. He never gives up having hope for them. That is what is so surprising about his prayer. Why does he not give up? Because he knows they have genuinely encountered the Gospel and have experienced salvation. Even as Paul urges them to not do wrong, but do what is right before the sight of God and to respond to the truth that has been set before them, you don’t get the sense that he holds a grudge against them for their offensive reactions, hurtful ways of questioning his credibility and basic love for them. He keeps the focus on the greater issue, which is their restoration.

I am so challenged by this, especially as a leader. Paul never gave up on this church, even though they had given him so many reasons to. His response was not “I’ve had enough of…,” but rather “that he most gladly spends and is spent for their souls” (12:15). What a heart of a true leader of the Gospel! I know I’m not there yet to express this kind of sentiment all the time in ministry, but I really desire to one day. Paul was able to stay clear of the non-essential issues with this church and not become sidetracked by all the drama their reactions could’ve created, but because his aim was for their restoration, it was clear to him what needed to be done. He needed to have pointed out their sin, in the harsh way that he did. He needed to ensure that they genuinely repented and felt godly grief and not worldly sorrow. He needed to have followed up to make sure they followed through on their offering amount as they had intended. He needed to correct and cut through all their worldly and flabby thinking when it came to how they saw what were proper credentials for an apostle. He needed to warn them to not place such high value in mystical experiences as these super apostles were boasting of. He trusted in the power of the truth and sought to help them through these various areas, so they could be restored before God, with him and others in the church. This is the kind of thorough work I as a leader to regularly engage in. I think it really comes down to what is my ultimate aim in ministry. If it’s for people’s restoration and reconciliation before God and others, then, it becomes pretty clear what I need to do. However, if my aim is something else, something much less like being well-liked or even popular with others, then, I won’t be doing the kind of ministry Paul did.

  • What does v. 8 reveal about what is necessary for the Corinthians to be restored?

What this reveals about what was necessary for the Corinthians to do in order to be restored was that they needed to have accepted the truth. They needed to have first acknowledged all that Paul corrected them about was accurate, justifiable and that they were in full agreement. Without that happening first, restoration is impossible. Why can’t restoration happen apart from the accepting of truth? Because if you aren’t even in agreement over what caused that rift in your relationship with God or others to begin with, then, there’s no basis on which to restore. No matter how much the Corinthians may have wished to be restored to God and Paul, it would’ve been impossible until they were willing to admit the ways they had sinned.

I’ve seen this to be true often in ministry. I’ve met people who seem to genuinely desire to start a relationship with God because they recognize that something is missing from their life. But as soon as I begin to talk about sin and help them reflect over ways they could’ve sinned against God, their defenses are up and they are no longer willing to even go down that path. There’s a refusal to accept the truth of what the bible considers as sin and an unwillingness to try and identify that in their life. I tell them that unless they are willing to accept their truthful condition as laid out in the Bible, then, no matter how much they wish to have a rel. with God, it’s impossible because there’s a fundamental disconnect in what God sees as the problem and what we see as the problem in our broken relationship with Him.

Of whom can I say that I am glad to be weak so they can be strong?

I am glad to be weak for those in my ministry so that they can be strong, as well as in my relationship with my kids and husband. I think only in my later years as a minister and as an adult, did I come to value and not be afraid to be weak and to show my weaknesses before others. When I was younger, I thought to be strong meant being self-sufficient, all-knowing, competent, etc. But the problem was I wasn’t and I realized the longer I fought against that reality, the more miserable I was in my relationship with God and with others. Trying to be a good minister, a good wife, mother, etc. was no longer a joy, but became a burden because I tried so hard to appear strong, “with it”, able, self-reliant, etc. but deep down inside, I knew that I wasn’t and so insufficient for the tasks before me. Finally, God broke through my stubbornness and helped me to see how I had it all wrong. My sufficiency, my competence, my strength and abilities, were never supposed to come from me because I am and will always be a poor and insufficient individual. But when I began to draw my strength from who God was and my standing before Him in light of the cross, as a redeemed broken sinner who was so loved by Him, then, life, relationships, ministry, and just plain living became a joy. Hence, when I didn’t know something or felt weak in a situation, it was a lot easier to admit before others because there was no longer a need to engage in face-saving tactics because the truth was out (as it had been all that time before, but I was just unaware of it), that I’m here engaging in His redemptive work by His grace and what a privilege and honor it’s been. So, I will all the more gladly boast about my weakness and not be afraid to admit that truth so, that hopefully, as I try and obey God even in the midst of this reality, others can become strong.

2 Corinthians 13:10

  • How did Apostle Paul view his authority?

Apostle Paul viewed his authority as something that was given to him by God. He understood that it came from God and that if needed, he would be severe if he had to. He understood that the authority given to us by God as spiritual leaders was to build up the church, to invest in the church, to really be spent for those in the church, so that their faith can be built on a solid foundation, and experience the fruitfulness of living “in Christ.” It’s tragic to see how this perspective has gotten lost in some parts of Christendom, where a person’s personal ambition and agenda takes center stage rather than their spiritual obligation to the building up of their churches.

  • When would a spiritual leader’s “severe…use of…authority” be appropriate?

A spiritual leader’s severe use of authority would be appropriate in situations where church members were being rebellious and unrepentant over their sins and their was a failure to sufficiently acknowledge what they’ve done before God and its effect on others. That God-given authority to respond in such a way goes in line with “building up the church” because in order for that to happen, there has to be an agreement over what happened in their relationship with God or with others. But if there is a continual refusal to agree over the facts of how they’ve sinned, and understand it’s gravity and that member is a Christian, then, a severe use of authority is appropriate. When I think back on my own journey, I know that had my own leaders not responded to my sins with sufficient severity, I would not have repented and understood the far-reaching consequences of my sin. Why? Because sin can blind us to such an extent that we can fool ourselves that we are in the right, when we know deep down inside we are in the wrong. I know in the past, I didn’t understand the full scope of how offensive my sin was before God and others, and it took someone’s strong reaction to jolt me out of that locked position and perspective my sinful nature took me down at times. I am truly grateful for those people who took such risks and exercised their God-given authority to deal with me severely. For if they hadn’t, then, I don’t know where I would be and definitely I would be in no position to build others or anyone up for that matter.

Submitted by James K., from Gracepoint Austin Church

2 Corinthians 13:7-9

·         Given the words of judgment in vv. 1-4, what is surprising about Apostle Paul’s prayers for the Corinthians? 

Apostle Paul had such a grand vision and parental heart for the Corinthians. He knew the kind of sins they were living in.  He knew the kind of ways they were falling away from God.  He needed to speak harsh words of judgment to wake them up from their spiritual slumber.  But like a parent who doesn’t want to leave his child in despair, he also leaves them with words of encouragement and exhortation to keep pressing on that they may be restored.  He had such vision for this church which from the outset just didn’t seem like they could survive and be that light of the Gospel to the city.  But Apostle Paul lovingly wanted to leave them with words of hope so that they ultimately see his heart for their lives and how much he wanted them to be that light for the people in that city and region.

·         What does v. 8 reveal about what is necessary for the Corinthians to be restored?

The Corinthians needed to hear the truth.  Apostle Paul could not be half hearted in how he dealt with the Corinthians and how they conducted their lives.  He was firstly an advocate of truth to the church so that they can plainly see the extent in which they were disobedient and sinful. He didn’t do this to make them feel bad about themselves, but wanted them to be restored to a place where they can be the pillar of truth and God’s community in that city.

I am reminded of how in my own life, the only real change and restoration that ever occurred in my life was when leaders took the risk to speak the plain truth to me.  The plain truth needed to be spoken because in the end, I needed to see the kind of ways my actions and way of living life affected not only my relationship with God but how it affected my own relationships within the body of Christ.  Although painful and hard to see the truth and kind of sinner I really was, I know that I was also able to experience true freedom in knowing that even though I am fully known, I was also loved, and experienced the joy of being fully restored in my own personal relationship with God.  I was able to gain confidence again to have vision, to have that sense of sharing the same heart and burden that God had for the world, and where I just wanted to just obey God in whatever He called me to do.  In the same way, I see just how much Apostle Paul wanted the Corinthians to experience the same kind of restoration and was willing to do anything for this goal.

·         Of whom can I say that I am glad to be weak so they can be strong?

When I think about being weak, I realize I cannot ever measure up to the kind of weakness and anguish that Apostle Paul had experienced in his ministry.  But as I have joined ministry here in Austin, I know i cannot just sit idly by whenever I notice something which needs to be dealt with or when someone needs to hear some words of truth.  As I think about the kind of love and vision that Apostle Paul had for the Corinthians, I want to have the same kind of zealous vision and hope for the church I am a part of.  To be weak in being vulnerable, in taking risks, in moving out of my own comfort zones and ways where I can avoid conflict, so that through this, the other person can be restored and be strong in the Lord.  I know that I have experienced the most growth when my leaders or peers decided to be weak and vulnerable, in taking risks with me to speak the truth, so that I can know what I am like and in the end be strong in the Lord.  I want to share in this same kind of burden and sense of privilege to be weak so that I can build up the body of Christ I am a part of now.

2 Corinthians 13:10

·         How did Apostle Paul view his authority?

Apostle Paul viewed the authority he had as a something that was God given. Something that He never wanted to take advantage of but something he knew had the power to build up as well as tear down.  Just as he was humble and careful in not wanting to elevate his own status and how others viewed him, he all the more gave credence and wanted to point to the fact that God gave Him the authority to be severe and speak the truths that needed to be spoken.  He viewed his power to be legitimate because God gave Him the rights to do so.

·         When would a spiritual leader’s “severe…use of….authority” be appropriate?

The severe use of authority would be appropriate when God’s honor and His church is at risk of losing it’s power and identity as a pillar of truth.  I look at Apostle Paul and saw how he needed to deal with egregious sins and conduct that the Corinthians were taking part in which would have invalidated their confessions and have been such a source of shame to the church as a whole.  He was not exercising his authority to gain more power for himself or felt like he needed to save face for his own ministry.  He was more concerned over the honor of God and the fact that the church was supposed to be that place where God can be most visible to the communities it was a part of.

Personal Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,

I am reminded again of the high stakes that are involved when being a part of your church.  There is no room for desiring or seeking comfort.  There is no room for any kind of selfish thinking or way of living.  So often I get so focused on my own small world of responsibility and things I need to get done for ministry.  Help me have the same kind of heart that Apostle Paul had.  The same sense of vision and hope that he had for the church and how much it can be that source of truth and Gospel to the world it interacts with.  Lord I want to be weak.  I want to suffer and share the burden in any way possible so that others can be strong and restored in their personal relationship with God and the good work that God has for them to do.

In Jesus Name,

Amen

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One Response to “October 2, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (2 Corinthians 13)”

  1. Dennis says:

    Hi, I was really blessed by the sharing from Sunny from our Gracepoint Austin church. The sharing on “Of whom can I say that I am glad to be weak so they can be strong?” really stood out to me and I was really ministered to, by reading her sharing. I think going through that time myself of learning that it’s not about competence or strength is precious and a hard lesson as the same time. Grateful for this sharing.

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