2 CORINTHIANS 4:1-22
This letter is a special passage when we think of Christian ministry. We pray that, in the name of Jesus, You would cause the miracle of preaching where mere human beings may speak as we have asked You, called by Your Spirit to unveil You for the benefit of Your people. We pray that God's name be glorified, and all the plans and purposes of the devil may be nulled.
Bill Borden died at the age of 25, and left behind the phrase., "No reserves, no retreat, no regrets." He was a 25-year-old that was so fired up the gospel, that he had a burning heart to proclaim the gospel and to bring the people.into the knowledge of grace.
This tradition of "No reserves, no retreat, no regrets" is one that we find in the apostle Paul, reflected in these verses, a tradition in which nothing must stop the work. Nothing must prevent me from pursuing this gospel ministry of grace. Borden's slogan lives on as a means of inspiration today, a tradition that is the living faith, the faith that was also present in people that are now dead. But it is alive now; a faith of resolve. Nothing is going to stop us. Everything is going to be left on the field. No reserves, no retreat, no regrets.
Our reading today is pregnant with the resolve of this kind of faith, the resolve of people who are prepared to stop at nothing, even in the face of their own challenges, to make sure that the gospel goes forth. So the whole chapter is full of useful reflection.
I would like to lift from this passage some apostolic musings.from the ajpostle Paulv on Christian ministry. I would like to lift four ideas for us.
1. The privilege of Christian ministry. There is a privilege that we always have to be mindful of The privlege, then, of Christian miniistry (verse 1):
"Therefore, since through Gods mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart."
It is through God's mercy that we have this ministry. Nobody is helping God. God does not look at outward appearances. He looks at hearts. Those people who have a calling must have a prevailing sense of privilege. God, in His mercy, has chosen hiim.
2. The preaching of Christian ministry. There is a prescribed preaching. It is not up to us to preach what we like. Paul tells us that what we preach should not be ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord. There is a script--Jesus Christ as Lord. The apostle continues by saying that there must be a clear understanding of ourselves in our preaching. Our teaching is not about our prowess. It's not really up to you. If by God's mercy you are given this privilege to preach, the One who has given you the privilege has set the script. We preach Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as the servants of the people of God, with a basin and a towel.
3. The power of Christian ministry. There is power and very seriously a concern to understand the source of this power. Verse 7 tells us:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surupassing power is from God and not from us." We should not make the mistake of thinking that the power of God is in the perfection of the pastor. There is, in fact, a strategy that is deliberate, that God uses people who are imperfect. Flawless perfection would be like God and we would be disappointed. The perfection that the Bible speaks of is perfection of function. God can cause you to be what you ought to be for His purpose.
4. The promise of Christian ministry. There is a motivationg promise that we must be aware of. In the absence of the awareness of this promise, there is the possibility to lose heart, to be half-hearted, to retreat, and to even have regrets. No reserves, no retreat, no regrets. A tradition that must be kept alive, a tradition that must be the experience of the people of God in this time, when there are so many things that threaten more people to lose heart (verse 18):
"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."
There are persons who are focused on temporal things that are jpassing away. This passage has to do with the Spirit that gives life. As you look on the face of Christ, not on the things around us, temporal things will fade away in importance. The promise of this ministry is that, while you are looking on Jesus, you are being changed from glory to glory into what you are.
Why is it that there is no reserve, no retreat, no regret? It is where we have our eyes. Because if our eyes are on Jesus, we do not lose heart. From glory to glory, He is leading us.