Got up this morning, grabbed my trusty old NIV Study Bible (which I have studied infrequently since becoming an ESV convert) and found my bookmark pressed between the pages of 2 Corinthians 3 and 4. So, I read chapter 4. If you ever feel the need to consider your purpose for ministry – or just need some encouragement to carry on in the Lord’s work – this is the place to go.
What did I glean from 2 Cor 4? In a nutshell:
– Ministry is not a job. It is not a chore. It is a gift, given only through “God’s mercy.” The work of the Lord should be a joy, even when it is arduous or difficult or doesn’t make sense. (v.1)
– For the sake of integrity in ministry – an uprightness the world does not provide, but only comes through God, the author of morality – we are to speak the Truth, and let the Truth do the speaking. We do not “distort” the Word to fit our ministry ideals. We let the Lord do the forming. The Truth will prevail, for it is the Word of God Who “hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” [1 Cor 1:27, KJV]. It is God Who illuminates. While light can extinguish the dark, dark cannot snuff of the light. As ministers of the gospel, we are to set aside all darkness and let the light of Christ shine through us. (v.2-6)
– We humans are frail and flawed. Anything great that we do comes not from us, but the “all-surpassing power” of God working through us. We are but vessels of the Lord. And, since is within us and working through us, we are alive in Christ. There is no suffering on this earth that will overcome us. There is no trouble too great for God to bear. It is for us to continue to run the race the Lord has set before us, firm in our faith, knowing that ultimately the victory is ours through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Maintain a servant’s heart – toward God and toward others. Keep your eyes on the prize. (v.7-15)
– “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” It is a process, a lifelong series of daily changes, that brings forth our sanctification. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” Serving God wholeheartedly is worth the price. Count the cost, but be sure to consider the return on investment in the Kingdom of God. (v.16-17).
We are jars of clay, pottery that easily chips, cracks, crumbles and breaks into shards. If we do not live this life with eternal purpose, we do no more than waste time. If we invest in the eternal, the dividends are incalculable. So, in the end, what really matters? Not the troubles we face. Not the promotion at work or the shiny new car or the amazing vacation. What matters is Christ – and Him alone.
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (v.18).