Doubts about fruitfulness
Weariness from overwork
Personal burdens or family tensions
Those are just some of the reasons we get discouraged and our motivation for ministry wanes.
Here are three insights from 2 Corinthians 4 that sustain me when people or situations threaten my resolve.
1. We exercise all ministry “in the sight of God.”
In reference to his motivation for gospel ministry, Paul commended himself to every man’s conscience “in the sight of God” (2 Cor. 4:2). Later in the same letter, as part of a defense of his ministry, Paul insisted that he had been speaking “in the sight of God” (2 Cor. 12:19). God was his—and He is our—primary audience when we serve.
How does that truth block discouragement? Even when we’re disappointed in outcomes of a program initiative, or others’ attitudes threaten our stamina, God sees that we gave it our best effort. He remembers our faithfulness to the task and rewards us accordingly. Though others may fail to recognize or to appreciate our efforts, that isn’t the case with God. Hebrews 6:10 reveals His keen memory and offers a hint of divine compensation: “God is not unjust so as to forget your work, and the love you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.”
Only if we settle for mediocrity should this truth convict us. But if we’re faithful to our calling, He’s pleased. (Besides, our Lord is easier to please than some people whom we serve!)
2. Frailty doesn’t disqualify us.
Paul described the human body in which God’s Spirit and the gospel message reside as “earthen vessels” (2 Cor. 4:7), a term describing plain, fragile containers in first-century homes that concealed precious commodities, such as gold currency (a place where thieves weren’t likely to look). In verses 11-16, three times he referred to the limits and inevitable decay of the body.
Why should this acclamation of frailty encourage us? Paul provided a providential reason for our weakness: “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves” (v.7). God uses us despite limitations so He, rather than we, look good in the process. He gets more glory because the only explanation for our accomplishment is that God did it.
Instead of stemming the flow of God’s power, frailty of any kind merely creates a dependence on it.
3. A “focus on forever” provides a heart-massaging perspective on temporary troubles.
Limitations, opposition, spiritual warfare , weariness—they’re all temporary! Paul anchored his hope in, and was buoyed by, a future beyond the realm of time and space. He cited our ultimate resurrection (2 Cor. 4:14). He viewed current stressors through the lens of eternity: “Momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison…” (v. 17-18).
We won’t be pummeled by temptation forever. Our bodies won’t always ache. Tears generated by the devastating effects of sin will one day dry up (Rev. 21:4). Like a distance runner who concentrates on the finish line perseveres through muscle-cramping, lung-gasping pain, we know that the discomfort we face is temporary and a joyous future awaits us. God’s Spirit whispers, “Hang on a while longer. Focus on forever.”
I’ve read my Bible all the way to the end, and those who know and serve Christ win.
What Bible truths instill resiliency in you?
The insights in this post are adapted from a chapter titled, “Don’t Lose Heart,” in Terry’s book Serve Strong: Biblical Encouragement To Sustain God’s Servants.
Amazon Book Link: http://www.amazon.com/Serve-Strong-Biblical-Encouragement-Servants/dp/0891124322/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1461532591&sr=8-1&keywords=serve+strong+by+terry+powell