Sorry for my breif absence from the blog. It has been a crazy couple of weeks with a lot to do, including the first preaching lab in the history of the The Expositors Seminary. And guess who was first on the list to preach… yep I got the not-so-coveted first draw. It was a bit stressful, primarily because I had to continually repent of desiring to please men instead of God, but now that it is over and done it was a great time. Ironcially, after missing some time here, I preached on endurance. I thought that it might be encouraging for you as well, so here are the notes (NOTE: this was preached to seminary students training to entire vocationaly ministry, but it applies to all Christians who involve themselves in ministry at any level-even cleaning toilets).
Endurance in Gospel Ministry
2 Corinthians 4:7-12
Theme: Endurance in Gospel Ministry.
When I received the schedule of preaching assignments for this class I began to think about what passage from the NT I might preach on. As thought through it my primary objective was to do something that would be particularly encouraging to you men here today. As I thought through what might encourage you I realized that those of us in the TES family have quite a bit in common. Maybe the most obvious thing that we all have in common is a passion for gospel ministry. This passion for gospel ministry is why we are all here, and whether you are a professor or a student you are involved in gospel ministry at some level.
This theme of gospel ministry is important for us to understand, and it is a theme that comes up quite frequently in the book of 2 Corinthians. As Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthian church he was under the sharp attack of certain false teachers. These false teachers had infiltrated the church teaching a message that contradicted the message of Paul. In order to build up their own credibility with the Corinthians, these false teachers had to discredit the apostle Paul. These men were willing to stoop to all kinds of dirty tricks in order to discredit Paul-even mocking Paul’s personal appearance (cf. 10:10). The most notable, as well as outlandish, charge these men had for the apostle Paul had to do with the difficulties that Paul had endured as a minister of the Gospel.
No one had been through more difficulties than Paul. Paul described a few of these difficulties in 11:24-28:
Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.
While most of us would look at all Paul went through and marvel at his endurance, the false teachers in Corinth had a different perspective. Their own lives and ministerial experience could not compare with Paul’s, and so they tried to discredit his ministry. Their accusation against Paul was that he faced so many difficulties because his gospel ministry was not effective. Apparently, they even attributed the trials that Paul faced to some sin issue in his life.
In light of this kind of opposition it would have been easy for Paul to compromise his ministry. Why endure all of this hardship if you are just going to be criticized for it? However, in 4:1Paul makes it clear that he had no intention of giving up:
Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart…
Paul was not going to give up. His ministry was totally Christ centered and Gospel oriented. He had no intention of letting any opposition change that. This is the nature of true gospel ministry, and it is an example for us of how gospel ministry is to be done.
The only problem is that this kind of ministry is usually “easier said than done.” Men, we would be right in thinking that the hardship and opposition that Paul faced was extreme, but it would be naïve for us to think that this kind of hardship and opposition was limited to Paul. We can be certain that as ministers of the gospel we will face difficulties, and we will face opposition (many times this opposition will come from those who should be our closest companions in ministry). Difficulties, hardship, and trials will always arise and make true gospel ministry backbreaking. We will be constantly pressured to compromise; we will face persistent stress that tempts us to quit; there will always be criticisms about our ministries; and on top of that we will have to face the constant internal struggle with sin that already hampers our progress.
In light of all these difficulties, the question is how can we endure in gospel ministry? We find the answer to this question in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12.
7But we have this treasure in (A)earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of (B)the power will be of God and not from ourselves;
we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.
Here the apostle Paul reveals to us how he endured in his own ministry. As we look at this passage we will see that if we want to endure the difficulties of gospel ministry we must understand the purpose for those difficulties. And here Paul gives us two reasons why we must endure difficulties in gospel ministry. First, we must endure difficulties in order to display the power of God. Second, we must endure difficulties in order to reveal the message of the gospel.
On Monday and Tuesday we will look at these two main points, and see how they are reavealed in the passage (tomorrow I have a quote to post).