Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 6:3-7:1, Ezekiel 37:26-28, Philippians 2:12-13
Salt and light, stewards and servants—these are among the descriptors used to define the people of God. Like so much about faith, they feel like square pegs that refuse to be shoved into the round holes of the world’s expectations.
And yet, these are more than pretty platitudes. Church, this is who we are. This is how God’s Word calls us to live. Having our paradigm for identity and success shifted so radically by the gospel can feel disorienting. There’s a temptation to use all the wrong litmus tests to gauge if we’re getting it right. In our homes and our churches, our culture and our community, how can we know if we’re building a ministry without fault? If success cannot be measured in accolades and “Atta girls!”, what rewards are given to faithful servants? These questions make me grateful that Paul provides us with a new set of gold stars to aspire to from today’s reading in 2 Corinthians 6. And they are: great endurance, purity, truthful speech, and the power of God (vv. 4, 6-7).
Paul identified these as hallmarks of a ministry no one could fault (v. 3). He surely knew a thing or two about measuring ministry successes all wrong. His former colleagues in the religious elite considered his ministry a heresy. His fellow Christ-followers often questioned his methodology. Even his co-laborers questioned his decision-making on occasion. Yet, we find in Paul a minister unmoved. Though still sinful, Paul was steadfast. Paul knew why he ministered (to spread the gospel), and he knew how to measure his success. This, friends, is liberation.
We, too, are free to stop measuring our success as Christian parents by how our children behave in any given moment. We are free to stop considering the wishes and whims of culture as an indicator of the Church’s effectiveness. We are empowered to use our gifts to share the gospel and build up the body of Christ without fretting if no one seems to notice. We are set free from the doubt that inevitably comes when we worry God has our ministry under a microscope.
Since none of this can be measured by human standards, we are free to throw out the measuring stick altogether. When we look to God alone to reward our faithful service, we find that He is the true reward. “For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).
The invitation Christ extended from the cross must bleed over into our concept of successful ministry. Christ does all the heavy-lifting, and thus He deserves every iota of glory. Our job is so simple in return. We keep serving, never tiring of doing good. We keep clinging to God’s Word, refusing to let other voices pollute the truth we know. We keep telling the truth, again and again and again. We keep bragging on our weaknesses, confident in how they bend the spotlight away from us and toward the indisputable power of God.
Successful ministry rarely looks like we think it should. Paul reminds us that this, too, is grace.
Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.