What can ensure an enduring ministry?
Throughout the book of 2 Corinthians we see that Paul was a sufferer—overwhelmingly—both from outside and inside troubles. Yet at the end of his ministry he said that he had fought the fight, finished the course, and kept the faith.
How did Paul endure?
1) He embraced with all his heart the superiority of the new covenant. 2 Corinthians 3. Paul never lost his sense of the glory of God’s grace to forgive, sanctify and save his people.
2) He embraced the reality that ministry is a mercy. 2 Corinthians 4:1. Paul acknowledged that he was the chief of sinners. His own salvation was an undeserved gift, as well as the grace given him to proclaim the gospel. Burnout in ministry is a misnomer. The real issue is that ministers have unrealistic (and unmet) expectations of deserving better treatment. It is a mercy that pastors don’t stumble, that their wives and children don’t desert them, and that their congregations don’t abandon them.
3) He embraced the essential necessity of a pure heart. 2 Corinthians 4:2a. Paul had no secret sinful life. A hidden life of sin will be made known. Those who don’t battle against sin on the inside will ultimately disappoint all whom they hope to minister to. You must study the Scriptures so that when sin is near, your conscience will not let you down.
4) He was certain of his responsibility to accurately handle the Scriptures. 2 Corinthians 4:2b. He determined to never handle Scripture in an adulterated way. He had a relentless commitment to biblical fidelity. Those who manipulate the Scriptures and, therefore, the people of God, will not endure in effective ministry.
5) Paul embraced the reality that the results of his ministry did not depend on him.2 Corinthians 4:3-4. Consider how God has chosen the weak and lowly to preach his gospel to the ends of the earth. And consider how that gospel is, to the natural mind, foolishness. And consider, finally, that their audience is composed entirely of people who are blind, deaf, and dead. The only way that the gospel ever triumphs is by the sovereign regenerating grace of God! The Lord simply asks us to faithfully preach the gospel; he will take care of the results (verse 6).
6) He embraced the reality of his own insignificance. 2 Corinthians 4:7.The power of the gospel is not the product of human efforts or technique. We are “earthen vessels”—cheap, common, and replaceable. We are nothing in contrast to our message. This knowledge prepared Paul to expect hardship in his ministry, and thus it better equipped him to endure.
7) He embraced the benefits of suffering. 2 Corinthians 4:8-11. Success appeals to our flesh and fosters pride, obscuring the gospel. But afflictions, with their effect of shattering our self-confidence, can powerfully reveal Jesus Christ. Paul saw weakness as a means to the spiritual power needed to be effective and endure.
8) He embraced the need for bold conviction. 2 Corinthians 4:13. Paul’s message was not driven by fads. He was driven by what he believed, by conviction. A person of deep conviction is not hunting for something to say. He is hunting for someone to say it to. A person whose ministry is built on current trends will fade away just like them. Personal conviction is a staple of enduring ministry.
9) He embraced eternity as his priority. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.Paul forsook pursuing earthly pleasures and popularity and set his eyes on the “eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” He was able to endure because his hope couldn’t be shaken by present troubles but was fixed on things unseen.
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