2 Corinthians 12:11-21.
Someone seeing lots of miracles in their ministry could be in danger of getting swollen-headed. Okay, that shouldn’t happen, but it does. As John Lancaster pointed out in a recent message given at the ‘King’s Church’, Boston Spa, and based on Luke 5:1-11, the disciples’ fishing success nearly shipwrecked them! Pastor Lancaster was saying that this can happen in Christian ministry. So it’s interesting that right next door to the mention of ‘’signs, wonders and miracles’’ (12) there comes a line where Paul says ‘’even though I am nothing.’’ (11). It seems to me that the more humble you are, the more useable (to God) you are. As we have seen, Paul revelled in the things that made him weak, because they caused Him to cling to God for strength. Paul’s ministry called for ‘’great perseverance‘’ (12). In this there is a delicate balance of power and perseverance. There was a mixture of the spectacular and the mundane, ordinary, doggedly toughing it out through extraordinarily difficult experiences. Paul knew well the terrain of the mountain top and the valley and accepted both as part of normal Christian experience. If you are following Christ you will always need endurance. (It was another mark of Paul’s extraordinary humility that he did not burden this church by requiring from them the financial support that was his right as an apostle.) The Corinthians should have honoured Paul as the ‘real deal’, when they saw his ministry divinely authenticated, as it so obviously was (12), and not have been duped by the so-called ‘’super-apostles’’ (11).
Paul saw himself as a spiritual parent (14-17). As such, he didn’t expect his ‘children’ to take care of him. It was the other way round. Neither he, nor any of the men he sent to them, such as Titus, had exploited them. But the false apostles were fleecing them, yet they were quite willing to follow these brash talking men. ‘’ I have no interest in what you have-only in you. Children shouldn’t have to look out for their parents; parents look out for the children. I’d be most happy to empty my pockets, even mortgage my life, for your good.’’ The Message. Verse 15 expresses the heart of authentic spiritual leadership, and everyone involved in shepherding the flock of God will surely want to measure themselves against these words. They are deeply challenging. Every ‘good’ shepherd who wants to follow the Good Shepherd will give his life for the sheep. There are many ways in which this can be done. Alongside this deep love for the church at Corinth, there also went a fear of what he might find when he got to them (20, 21). Love for the sheep will always mean a hatred of the sin that stains and ruins their lives, and engender a desire to separate them from it.
Above everything, Paul was aware of living his life and conducting his ministry in the sight of God. It was not men’s judgment he feared, but it was the Lord’s approval he sought (19, 20). Again, the twentieth verse expresses how much Paul lived for others. ‘’I hope you don’t think that all along we’ve been making our defence before you, the jury. You’re not the jury; God is the jury – God revealed in Christ – and we make our case before him. And we’ve gone to all the trouble of supporting ourselves so that we won’t be in the way or get in the way of your growing up.’’ The Message.
Billy Graham once said that the smallest parcel he ever saw was ‘a man wrapped up in himself!’ Paul was not that man!!
Prayer: Help me to always walk humbly with you, my God; to persevere through difficulties; to know your power in weakness; and always put others before myself.