2nd Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 15
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2006|
|The last time we saw the symptoms of one who has lost heart. But now we’re going to talk about the secret of one who has not lost heart. How to Live Without Losing Heart – Part 2|
The Secret of Not Losing Heart
I want you to turn to 2 Corinthians 4. Today we’re going to look at verses 1-5. We’re really going to pick up where we left off the last time. We’re going to talk today again as we’re in a little mini-series here, “How to Live Without Losing Heart.” The last time we saw the symptoms of one who has lost heart. But now we’re going to talk about the secret of one who has not lost heart. I don’t know about you but I’m so encouraged by verse 1 of chapter 4, when Paul says, “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart.”
The reason that encourages me is because we can live without having to lose heart. How many of you besides me have lost heart sometimes in the ministry and in living your life as a Christian? We all have. It’s a bummer, isn’t it? Nobody wants to go there. It’s not a fun thing to happen when a believer loses heart. It’s the word ekkakeo that means lose heart. It’s associated with being weak and faint-hearted, but it really has more of a deeper meaning of “fleshly”; of a person who has turned back. That’s the root idea of the word, to go back to the evil wicked ways of his flesh, trusting his flesh to do what it cannot do. It’s going back to doing things one’s own way instead of depending upon Christ who now lives in us. It was used of a soldier turning coward in the midst of battle and going backward instead of forward. Paul says he does not lose heart.
You know, if you put that in context with what he’s been teaching, of the fact that he’s a minister of a new covenant, he doesn’t lose heart. He said, “‘I’m not going to go back to the way I’m used to doing it. I’m not going to resort to my old fleshly agenda of trying to accomplish a ministry for God. I’m going to live in the light that God has given to me.”
Chapter 3:5-6 he said, “I’m now a minister of a new covenant, a servant of a new covenant.” In verse 5 he says, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills,” he’s talking about the law and how it puts to death every fleshly effort to please God, “but the Spirit gives life.” Now because he’s a servant, and, by the way again, I said minister, but that’s inter-changeable; that word “servant” can be translated “minister.” Because he’s a minister of a new covenant, Paul has discovered a brand newness of life as he talks about in Romans 6. He’s found his adequacy is no longer in himself as we just read. His adequacy is in Christ. It’s not up to him anymore. It’s up to Christ who lives within him. The law says say no to sin. Grace said say yes to Christ, and it’s a huge difference of the focus of the believer. It’s about what Christ has done and what Christ is doing and what Christ wants to do not only in Paul’s life but others as well.
In fact, he told us in chapter 3, the last part of it, he is daily being changed from glory to glory as he lives practicing the very presence of Christ. He will not burn out because he’s not going to depend upon his flesh anymore. Now, he may be worn out, but he’ll never burn out, because when you live this way depending upon the One who lives within you, you don’t burn out. You’re living in His strength, not your own.
We looked at the symptoms last time of what it means to lose heart, and I’m going to hit them very quickly as we review. Prayerlessness is the first one, found in Luke 18:1. It’s a symptom of a person who is no longer depending on God. Prayer is the symptom of a person depending upon God, and prayerlessness is a symptom of a person who has stopped depending upon God. And we saw that when life overwhelms us, and circumstances gets our eyes off of Jesus, and we go back to trying to figure everything out and trying to come up with a solution ourselves without depending on Christ, we’ve lost heart.
We saw that the symptom of trying to achieve a ministry instead of receive it is a person who has lost heart. He’s turned coward in battle; he’s not going to trust God, he’s going to go back to producing what he thinks he can do and he’s not trusting God, and that’s in chapter 4:1 of our text. We’re actually going to look at that verse again today. True ministry is something received from God, not achieved for God, and a person who is trying to achieve has lost heart. He’s using his flesh; he’s depending upon his flesh.
Well, we saw in 2 Corinthians 4:16 when we lose sight of our future hope, we’ve lost heart. This has happened so often, especially when age creeps up on us, when we start focusing on the physical presence, we’ve lost hope. You see, we’ve lost heart. What he’s trying to say is when you look ahead you see the great things that are ahead for us. This life is a vapor—it’s here and it’s gone; but the eternity that we will spend with Him. Paul says that our outer man is decaying and our inner man is growing stronger. You know, getting older is not for sissies and all of us understand that. Paul said that these very Corinthians, back in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If we have only hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” You see, we have something great that’s ahead of us.
We saw in Galatians 6:9 how that when we grow impatient waiting on results we’ve lost heart. We’ve taken our focus off the law of the harvest, and he tells us, in Galatians 6:7-8 he talks about sowing and reaping and sowing in the right field, and then he says in verse 9, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” That law of the harvest I have to remember every day. And I’ve asked you to pray for me, it’s helpful to me, that the law of the harvest, if you sow the right seed you’re going to get exactly what you sow, so keep sowing the right kind of seed. Make the right choices, sow in the field of the Spirit by saying yes to Christ. But not only that, you reap more than you sow. Every time you plant seed you’re going to get more than you planted. But then thirdly, you’re going to reap a whole lot later than you planted, and God’s timing has to figure in here. You can have a squash plant overnight, but it blows away in the first storm. But an oak tree takes a long time to take root and for it to come up and be what it ought to be.
Paul taught us in 2 Thessalonians 3:10-13 that when we grow undisciplined in the ordinary practical mundane things of life, we’ve lost heart. It was so good this past week to tell the young people who were at camp, paying our bills, getting a job, doing the things that we’re supposed to do is just as spiritual as going on a retreat or mission trip. This is part of life. And we are to be good citizens of this earth not only of heaven, but we’re to do the things we’re responsible to do. And when a person just slacks off of that responsibility it’s obvious that he’s lost heart. And somehow his focus has changed away from Christ.
Well, today we want to look at the secret of one who has not lost heart. And this is not a formula, and I don’t want you to understand it as such. Perhaps my title may mislead you. It’s almost as if “you do these three things.” No, these things are the results of something else. Paul’s life could be centered and explained in the fact that Christ was his life and he lived yielded to Christ, chained to his chariot, as we saw in chapter 2. And the things that we’ll see today, they are the secret of his life but, again, don’t think of them as a formula. Think of them as really a symptomatic type of thing. The real secret is that he lets Jesus be Jesus in him. Living grace is what it’s all about.
But let me read the verses to you, verses 1-5 and then we’ll jump in. “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.”
Paul did not lose heart because he was grateful for his ministry
Now let’s look very carefully at these verses and let’s just see if we might be encouraged, challenged, about a man who did not lose heart. Let’s just see what God might say to our hearts. But first of all, Paul did not lose heart because he was grateful for his ministry. Boy, that’s a great word, isn’t it: gratefulness. He was grateful for his ministry. This is something that God had done. There is so much spiritual pride in ministry today, but you didn’t see this with Paul. Paul understood something. It says in verse 1, “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart.”
Now what ministry is he talking about? Well, certainly the ministry of the new covenant, servants of a new covenant. But you have to go even further than that. Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles. Remember Galatians? Peter had the assignment to the Jewish world and Paul had the assignment to the Gentile world. He was an apostle, but also he was a preacher. He took a message; an apostle is one sent forth with a message. And the message that he had was the message of that new covenant. That was his life; that was his calling; that was his assignment.
It’s unfortunate that there is a chapter break here, chapter 4, verse 1, because when this letter was written there were no chapters or verses and somebody put those in. And sometimes when you come to a new chapter you think Paul is changing subjects but he’s not. It’s a continuation of what he’s already said. In fact, we’re helped here because he put the word “therefore” in the verse. That’s the first word of chapter 4. Anytime you see a “therefore,” look to see what it’s there for. And he’s already told us what it’s there for. He’s a servant of a new covenant, a minister of a new covenant. Paul was continuing his thoughts on being a servant of a new covenant.
Yes, he’s an apostle, yes he has a ministry to the Gentiles, but the real thing he’s talking about is that he gets the opportunity to preach the message of grace to a world that has never heard it. It was a gift from God. In fact, you can tell that in the verb tense of the phrase “as we received mercy.” It’s in the aorist indicative passive. Aorist tense means that the same time I got saved, God assigned me; indicative mood means that you can take that to the bank; and then when you put it in the passive voice, passive voice means somebody else initiated this action. I’m benefiting from it, but I didn’t initiate it. In other words, Paul didn’t go after a ministry. The ministry came after him. God’s the One who initiated it into his life.
Now, when you add the word “mercy” into this equation, knowing that Paul didn’t seek this ministry, Paul didn’t even really seek God, God sought him and found him on that Damascus Road and God gave him the ministry. Well, you add to that the word “mercy” and you’ve got exactly the understanding. That ministry here was totally undeserved. Now, for whatever reason, there are a lot of Christians that don’t see this. They still think they can do something for God. They don’t understand that the ministry is even undeserved. Not only does it come from God, we don’t deserve it to begin with. Mercy is when God gives us what we don’t deserve.
Paul’s salvation, Paul’s ministry, Paul’s message were all given by the grace and the mercy of God. His ministry was a gift out of the very loving heart of God and he didn’t deserve it. And if anybody understood that Paul did. That was the secret of his not losing heart. When you realize that God gave you the ministry, when you realize that what God initiates God sustains, you’re not going to lose heart. And what this does is it begins to frame an attitude of gratitude. And that’s what you see in Paul. That’s the secret of a person’s life: he understands that his ministry is not from himself, his ministry is from God; and if God wants to do something through him, then he’s simply a vessel to accommodate that work.
Paul’s even mentioning the mercy of God, as I said, in connection with his ministry, shows again he has a deep appreciation. It’s a privilege for him to do what he does. The fact that his ministry was preaching the awesome good news of the covenant, which had transformed his own life, produced such a gratitude in his heart. This old legalist man; can’t you see the council of God in heaven when they said, “We need somebody to preach the message of grace to the Gentile world but he’s got to be a legalist, he’s got to know the law to his toes. And before he was ever born, in says in Galatians, in his mother’s womb, God already had decided it was going to be Paul. Here’s that little boy growing up thinking he was going to do something for God, if you’ve ever read his pedigree, and then finally, on the Damascus Road, God just wipes him out. And he sees it. I know when it hit me, I cried for three days. Paul was blinded for three days. It’s incredible how when God reveals to you what grace is, how transforming it is in your life, and then what a thrill, what a privilege to take that message to people who have never heard.
This is why in chapter 3 it said he spoke so boldly. It said, “Therefore, having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech.” Here’s an old legalist that’s been changed through the message of grace and he said, “I speak with boldness.” The hope that Paul was referring to is the that the glory of God has now come to live in him and it’s changing him every day and will come to live in anyone who bows and trusts Christ as their Savior. He’s being changed from glory to glory. What a privilege was Paul’s thought. You can see his heart coming out in the verse. What a privilege, what a gift to preach a message that literally sets people free. No wonder he didn’t lose heart. No wonder. Daily he lived in the presence of God and drew upon His adequacy for his life.
So we won’t lose heart when we live in that attitude of gratitude, that gratefulness, when we’re humble enough to admit that the ministry that God has given to us, the gift that He gave to us to accomplish that ministry, the results, they’re all of God and we don’t deserve one ounce of any of it. It’s such a privilege. It’s such a privilege. We won’t lose heart when we finally realize that ministry is received, not achieved.
You know, I don’t know what Paul felt. I know the ministry God’s given to me. Do you know the ministry God has given to you? I’ve heard people say over the years, “You’re the minister and we come to hear you but we have other things we do.” Now, that’s in the book of Hesitation, folks. It’s chapter 13:5! You can memorize that one. Every person who is saved, with it came a gif; with it came a function, a ministry; and with it came the effects that God is going to bring out in that person’s life. Every single believer, none of us deserve it. God said, “I’m going to include you with what I’m doing down on earth.”
Now, it may be the dilemma this morning that we don’t even know what our ministry is. I can’t help you there. But I can say to you that whatever it is, it’s a gift and it’s a privilege. Like I said, I don’t know what Paul felt. I know a fraction. But I’ll tell you one thing, you may think I preach a whole lot, but I want to tell you something: you don’t know any better the great joy that I get in fulfilling the assignment, the ministry God has given. When I see children grasp it and I see their lives transformed, there’s nothing that touches me anymore than that, other than just being in the presence of God. It’s a joy, it’s a privilege.
You know I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that move “Chariots of Fire.” Every now and then they’ll rerun it. I like that man that’s a Christian; he had such convictions. And it came out how that guy gave him the note “if you honor God, God will honor you.” I’m not so sure how biblical that is. God honors us when we don’t honor Him, but anyway, that’s alright. But I liked one statement he made in the movie. And he said this, he said, “When I run, I feel the pleasure of God.” And I have to identify with that. I’m not so sure theologically where we can anchor all of that, but I’ll tell you one thing: I can identify with what he’s saying. When you realize you don’t deserve anything—I don’t deserve anything—and there’s a gratitude, there’s a gratefulness in your heart, you’re not going to lose heart. As a matter of fact, your whole focus is on depending on Him. You know that your ministry was received, not achieved. That’s a secret of somebody that doesn’t lose heart. Life in that attitude of gratitude and receive what God has given you as a deep loving privilege that He’s given to you.
Paul did not lose heart because he was careful about his manner
Well secondly, not only was he grateful for his ministry, he was careful about his manner. I could have said method. The way he went about his ministry was very important to Paul because he was grateful that it came from God. And if God gave it, only God could sustain it. He didn’t lose heart because he had that carefulness in his character. Ministries are a dime a dozen. And he knew that. In verse 2, “but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”
Now Paul knew that in Corinth there were a lot of people calling what they were doing ministry. And it was fake, it was false and he knew that. Like I said, they’re a dime a dozen. And he said, “I’m very careful in my ministry not to put anything of me into it. I want God to get the glory for it and therefore the way I preach and what I say is different from the way they do what they do.” Now, he’s already mentioned these folks before, if you’ve been with us. In 2:17 he says, “For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.” Paul understood who his audience was and he says it again in our passage here.
Paul’s ministry and Paul’s message were entirely different than the false ministries and the selfish, proud ministries, because he was so grateful he was careful to make sure the One who initiated it got the glory for what he was doing in his life. He says in verse 2, “but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame.” Now what is he talking about? The word “renounced” has the meaning of “to speak against, to denounce, to renounce, to put away.” We don’t incorporate their methods at all. There are other people in ministry, but it’s all about them, it’s all about their own twist they have on the Word. It’s all about their agenda. But we don’t incorporate those methods at all. The tactics practiced by the false teacher were not practiced by Paul.
Verse 2 illustrates for us the deceptive message that they used. If you just keep reading the verse it explains itself. He says, “not walking in craftiness.” One of the methods that were hidden and nobody could see it right up front was because they were ashamed of it, the people that did it, and that was walking in craftiness. The word craftiness is the word panourgia. It means cunning, shrewd, crafty. Every now and then I’ll take my garbage out and here comes that coyote, comes down the street and I can tell that animal is crafty. He’s watching me. You know how they’ll circle their prey during the day and then attack them at night. They wait until the darkness of night, the cover of night to do a lot of their killing. It’s kind of that idea of crafty, shrewd, cunning. It refers to the unscrupulous ways of false teachers who would stoop to any level to get their message across.
Now we know that from Galatia, they stooped to a level and tried to put law back on the people. They did it in Colossi with Gnosticism. Any second epistle that you read in scripture usually deals with these false teachers in some way. This is 2 Corinthians and he’s dealing with it here. He further clarifies this craftiness by another phrase. He says, “or adulterating the word of God.” The word “adulterating” is doloo, and in this context it means to deceive by mixing error with truth. This was a common practice. One of the crafty things that they did, one of the things that were hidden from the people up front because they really were ashamed of it but they did it, was that they would put error right beside truth. Now, they wouldn’t put the error first; they’d put the truth first and they would disarm the people by the truth and then they would slip in the error and nobody was paying attention.
I was out in California several years ago and as I looked at the television, a guy was preaching. And I knew this particular individual, and knew where he was off theologically, but yet I watched him, and on faith he was absolutely astounding. For thirty minutes, twenty to thirty minutes he was just, I mean, as good as anything you wanted to hear.
And, you see, when he had disarmed everybody by them thinking he must be good, then he slipped the error in, and the people were yelling and cheering and clapping and the place was just packed with people. And I’m thinking, “Does anybody understand sound doctrine any more?”
But that was going on, nothing new under the sun; that was going on in Paul’s day. Listen to what Peter says about it. He says the very same thing in his second epistle that deals with false teachers. In 2 Peter 2:1-3, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”
That little word “false” in that phrase where it says, “and in their greed they will exploit you with false words,” that little word “false” is interesting. It’s the word in the Greek that we get the word “plastic” from. I don’t know if you know about it, but you can take plastic and heat it and what can you do with it? Anything you want to do with it. And you know how a false teacher can heat up a crowd. They can get them emotionally charged. They’ve got to have that going first, and once you heat up the crowd you can take anything that you want to say, change the meaning of it, and get people to believe whatever you believe, if they do not understand sound doctrine. He takes his words, a false teacher will, change the meanings of them and you don’t know that, and use them to manipulate a crowd like nothing you’ve ever seen.
But Paul is not that way. Paul understands what they did. The apostle Paul said, “Wait a minute, that’s not us. First of all, I don’t even deserve the ministry I have. And secondly if the One who initiated it and sustains it, He’s going to have to be the One doing any. We don’t employ those kinds of methods.” Look at the contrast, “but by the manifestation of truth.” I love that. The word “manifestation” is the word phanerosis, which means to make something so clearly visible everybody can see it. Nothing is hidden at all; everything is seen, everything is open. Paul’s manner of preaching of the message of the new covenant was so open, so honest, and so clear everybody knew what he was saying. It either offended or they responded to it, but everybody knew exactly what he was saying. He had no hidden agenda, and they knew that.
He says, “commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” Now the word “commending” here doesn’t mean commending ourselves in the sense of who we are as much as it does the message that we’re preaching; because he’s commending the message as the word of presenting something that is worthy, a message that is worthy. Paul says that his preaching was so honest and truthful that it was committed to the verdict of every man’s conscience. You see, where the false teachers appealed to the flesh of man, Paul appealed to the conscience of man, the deep area of man that is where the spiritual discernment was. And the people could discern whether or not they could hear truth.
But the reason he did this—and it all builds together—is that the most important audience that Paul felt that he had was God Himself. He says, “in the sight of God.” Paul knew that every time he spoke he was speaking in the presence of God. Christ lived in him. I wish I could tell you, but there’s no way to tell you. If you’re a teacher or preacher you know what I’m talking about. Right now my hands are sweaty. I noticed right before I came up here I had a nauseated feeling in my stomach. It doesn’t matter if I’ve had breakfast or if I don’t have breakfast. It’s always there. It’s there if there are ten people, it’s there if there are 1,000 people, it’s there if there are 5,000 people. It doesn’t matter. You know why? Because it’s been drilled in my head a long time ago: God is in this place this morning.
And I’m not just speaking to you as an audience, I’m speaking to Him as an audience. And I want to tell you something. James says that anybody who stands up and takes the Word of God will stand in a greater judgment one day for how he accurately handled the Word of God. And Paul understood that. How can there be a hidden agenda when you’re standing in the presence of God? God lived in him.
And then he says in verse 3, after clarifying that, he says, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.” You see, what Paul is saying is, “My message is so clear and it’s such a manifestation of truth, some people will reject it but it is a veil to them and they can’t understand. It’s not because of my preaching, it’s because of their perishing and unwillingness to believe.” There’s a big difference there.
Like Roy Hessian told me years ago, “Wayne, God will never judge you for whether people responded to your message or not. He will judge you, however, for how you set the table. So you better get in the Word and get before Him and make sure when you stand up you’re speaking in the presence of God.” That’s what Paul was talking about. And Paul says, “It’s clear that there’s no way anybody can misunderstand it, so if there is a veil that has blinded them in any way, it’s not because of the preaching.”
Now he had said this earlier about how the veil would be there and he even says it more succinctly in verses 15-16 of chapter 2. He says, “For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?” Paul says, “I don’t know how to figure this out. I can just be who I am. I can just be clear and honest. I can’t make decisions for people, whether they see it or not, that’s God’s business. No man is adequate to figure that one out.” So he continues in verse 4 and he talks about those people who were perishing and he talks about the veil on their eyes, which is nothing he put there, but somebody else has put there. He says, “in whose case the God of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
But what about the Gentiles? What do we do with that? How can they be blinded? Well, we know that he says in another place, “To the Jews a stumbling block, to the Greeks a foolishness.” Maybe it’s just the message itself and to people who have to figure everything out. Maybe that’s part of it. But you know one of the thoughts I had? One of the thoughts that came to me as I was studying this is that the false tactics of the false teachers could be one of the things that has veiled people from hearing the true gospel. You turn your television set on and you might have three programs that are solid as a rock; you will have 30 that are not. And when people see the shenanigans and they see the obvious deceit, they can see people exposed for what they are, get off the air, come back on three years later on and have a crowd that will just knock your eyes out and there’s the money and everything that goes in to it, could be one of the tools that he’s suggesting that causes the unbeliever not to see.
Well, I know that there are many more, and I understand that the world has been blinded in many ways. But I tell you what, when you see that health, wealth, and heresy around, it doesn’t have anything to do with scripture, it makes you wonder how people just turn it off to start with even though the person they’re listening to might be solid. Well, whatever.
So we see how Paul kept from losing heart. It was all Christ in him, but there was an attitude of gratitude. He was grateful for his ministry. He saw it as a privilege; he didn’t see it as a job, he didn’t see it as a drudgery. He saw it as an awesome privilege and he did not deserve that privilege, but in that gratefulness caused him to be careful, careful in the manner in which he went about that ministry because he was up against others who were doing it a fleshly way. And he wanted to make sure God was honored and that he did what he did in the sight of God.
Paul did not lose heart because he was humble about his message
And then thirdly, he was humble about his message; a humility that you don’t see many places, but he had it. In verse 5, “For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.” Paul was not in love with himself. He didn’t have the virus that some preachers have when they stand in front of a mirror and sing “How Great Thou Art.” He wasn’t in any way thinking more highly of himself than he ought to think. The fact that Paul had received the ministry from Christ, the fact that he didn’t deserve it, the fact that he saw the false ministries all around him; it just caused him to be humble about his message. He didn’t have people walk away impressed with Paul. He had people walk away impressed with who Jesus is and what Jesus wanted to do in their lives.
He said that to the Corinthians. He said, “I didn’t come with superiority of speech or wisdom. I didn’t come with methods and I didn’t come with a message that would in any way overwhelm what the Word of God has to say. I want people to leave impressed with one thing and that is Christ.” That was his heart in chapters 10-18. But I’m just going to read two verses. Verses 17-18 of chapter 10 really captures his thought and when he compares himself to these other ministries. He says, “But he who boasts, let him boast in the Lord. For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.” In other words, that’s the man who is approved. In other words, if he’s pleasing men he’s not pleasing God, so he said, ‘I live my life to please God and if He commends me, if He approves of me, then I’m approved. It doesn’t matter what men think.’
Paul is such an example of true humility. He did not in any way trust in himself as we saw in 2 Corinthians 1:9; he didn’t in any way commend himself as we saw in chapter 3:2-5; and here he doesn’t in any way preach himself. He just simply preaches Christ and the fullness that Christ offers to individuals who will bow before Him. So he only wanted to preach the message that had overwhelmed his own life. “For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.” Christ was his life. Colossians 3:4, “When Christ, who is our life;” Paul wrote that. Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain;” Paul wrote that. Galatians 2:20, “It’s not me, it’s Christ living in me;” Paul wrote that. In fact, it’s through every one of his epistles.
And the apostle Paul didn’t have anything to interject; there was nothing about Paul that would be impressive to people or especially to God. So he just preached Christ. He just preached Christ. Did he share illustrations out of his own life? Absolutely. Very honest about himself, but he simply preached Christ. Christ was his life. He was a true bond-servant to Christ. The word is doulos, a slave, and he was truly a servant to people. But it was all for Jesus’ sake. Everything he did was for Jesus’ sake. No wonder he didn’t lose heart.
No wonder he didn’t lose heart. Why would he go back to his flesh when he had this kind of attitude that was spawned by the transforming work of God in his life? Grateful for his ministry, knew he didn’t deserve it. Careful about his manner, his method of going about, making sure that his agenda or anything about him wasn’t interjected into the message to twist it. And he was humble in his message. It wasn’t about him, it was about Christ.
What about you today? What about you today? What is your ministry? What is it God is saying to you today? I wonder if many of us have retired from ministry? You know, you don’t retire from ministry, you just re-fire. As long as your heart is beating, God’s got a purpose. How do you feel about that purpose? “Lord, You’re letting me live but I’m filled with pain.” And God says, “I know, because I’m not through with you and you’re one of the few people I can trust to suffer.” “You mean to tell me as long as I’m on this earth, God, You have a purpose for me if I’m a believer?” Absolutely. Do I deserve this? Absolutely not. But He loves me enough that He wants to use me until that day.
There was a little lady, and she couldn’t get out of bed. And she said, “I just want to go on and be with God.” I said, “Why? He’s not through with you yet.” “What can I do but pray?” I said, “That’s not bad.” And, buddy, she became a prayer warrior. I told her one day if she ever prays for me to die I’m going to crawl in the box! And finally God was finished and said, “Okay, come on over here. You’re closer to My house that you are to yours. Come on over to My house.” And she’s with Him today.
Isn’t that awesome? That’s life. Why would anybody want to get discouraged or depressed knowing that Christ is their life, He is eternal life and we are in Him and with Him forever? I don’t know, but I’ve done it, and you have to, and it just makes us go back and be perplexed, doesn’t it? The flesh is a lot stronger than we thought it was. But we don’t have to lose heart.