1 & 2 Corinthians: Day 31

God’s Ministers

by

Today's Text: 2 Corinthians 6:3-18, 2 Corinthians 7:1, Ezekiel 37:26-28, Philippians 2:12-13

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.

SRT-Corinthians-Shareimage-Day31

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.

  • Amy Rinta

    Very well written Erin thank you! Wow!! Paul’s words and description of ministry so good and so challenging.

  • Renae Pearson

    I’ve always heard the verse about do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers, but never really considered the context. It comes right after Paul talks about the difficulties they go through for the sake of the body.

    Maybe a lesson is – pour your life into the body and open your heart wide to your brothers and sisters, but that shouldn’t also apply to unbelievers. They are different. Still love them, but not the same way.

  • Heather Ward

    I question sometimes how to continue in ministry through hardships. People are hard, God is worth it. When I read about Paul’s ministry I see that nothing is new under the sun and yet he persevered. I am especially struck by “through slander and Good report; regarded as deceivers yet true; as unknown yet recognized” ministry is hard and people are fallible and sometimes we work hard with the right intentions only to be misunderstood. Paul continued on with persecution I can hardly fathom and will likely never experience in my lifetime. God is worth it.

  • This was so good! Encouraging to know that our rewards are from God, and Him alone!

  • As a lady still single & in her early 40’s I find Paul’s message within these verses. I too, like several of u said need to look for God’s approval & not the approval of others!!

  • ❤️

  • Jennifer Martin

    I fall into the trap of looking to the world for approval instead of looking to God. God, may You change my heart and my mind so that I can look to You for all things instead of to the world. ❤️

  • Lizzieb85

    This is liberating for me as a parent. My “success” is measured by my faithful service, teaching, love, discipline. NOT by how my kids turn out. That is God’s work. I can do everything right & have a crappy kid. I can do everything wrong & have a wonderful kid. It’s God’s work in the end. The difference is, is MY heart serving faithfully & lovingly? That’s all I need to focus on. My greatest desire is that my kids will love God & trust Jesus. But only God can do that heart work. He can use me, but my willingness to be used is the personal success, the results are not. God gets ALL the glory for the results! But I receive no condemnation for “poor” results of I am faithful.

    • Lisa

      As a parent of adult children I have said over and over again, I spent my life planting corn, and I seem to be harvesting peas. There isn’t anything wrong with peas, I love peas, but it’s not what I planted. I love the truth that the results are not up to me, but up to God, that I don’t have to feel like I failed if I did what He asked me to do, by faithfully “planting corn” (to use my analogy). God is responsible for the outcome, for the harvest. What a freeing, liberating thought ❤️

  • Churchmouse

    How does one measure the success of ministry? Is anyone else weary of the numbering that seems so common in church today? Vacation Bible school just finished and every person was counted and every penny counted and the church applauded at the announcement. The church bulletin reports the numbers of those who attended and how much was given, not just the past Sunday but year – to – date. The number of small groups is counted and how many are in each group. The number of ministries and the number of ministers and the numbers within those numbers… There is a lot of counting, so it seems, in ministry. I know numbers are necessary for planning purposes but numbers are not necessarily indicative of growth. Or depth . Or understanding. Or commitment. Or love. Or effectiveness. Does the counting invite competitiveness to creep in alongside it? Does the counting cause value and worth to rise and fall? Is numbering accurate of much of anything of importance at all? What exactly is being applauded? When I read the characteristics of Paul’s ministry in today’s Scripture, I note tremendous hardship and tremendous faithfulness, tremendous persecution and tremendous perseverance. I applaud Paul’s focus on promoting the Gospel to whomever, wherever, in the midst of whatever. No matter the numbers. May we as the church do the same.

    • LT

      Amen!

    • J

      Amen to that!

    • PamC

      Amen

    • Tanya

      Amen

    • Amanda

      I agree that counting can become a serious pride issue within the church. But I also have to say that I like it when people are counted. In a children’s ministry, for example, when we count the number of children that attend it holds weight and much value. This is because they are not just numbers…each number represents one precious child that is being reached for Jesus. Counting isn’t all bad. Especially if your perspective is shifted.

    • Eva Holsinger

      With summer here counting heads counting commitments counting results is a huge issue in short term mission trips too. As a long term worker I struggle with all the things the short termers seem to accomplish in a few short days while on the ground the fruit seems so much longer in coming…I stopped counting long ago and instead look at the relationships and people God has led me to and we journey together, all of us growing and serving each other, learning together who God is and why he chose us.

  • Kathy Valentine

    I agree. Being a people-pleasing, middle child peacemaker, my eyes often stray in the wrong direction for approval, when in reality I should be focusing on my audience of One.

    • Kelly Chataine

      I am a people-pleasing, middle child peacemaker, as well. I agree with you and I will pray that we both are able to focus on our audience of ONE.

    • Alexis

      I too am a people pleasing, middle child peacemaker. I am joining you guys in that prayer to focus on God’s approval alone <3

  • “Christ does all the heavy-lifting”… So thankful for this profound truth in all things!

Further Reading...