”We try to live in such a way that no one will be hindered from finding the Lord by the way we act, and so no one can find fault with our ministry. In everything we do we try to show that we are true ministers of God.” (3, 4a). Here you have a fine personal mission statement for every church leader to adopt. Paul recognised that it’s not just about speaking, but ‘living’, ‘acting’ and ‘showing’. If what people see in your conduct contradicts what you say in your sermons you are going to have a big credibility problem. Here, then, are some hallmarks to be found in a ministry of integrity:
- Patience in troubles (4b, 5): Hardships will be faced by every faithful leader. It ‘goes with the territory’ as they say. Very few of us in the West know anything of the intensity of the difficulties faced by Paul and certain of his colleagues. But whatever comes our way will still be painful to us. Even if you are only run over by a single-decker bus (whereas Paul got hit by a double-decker), it’s still a bus and it will injure you. But patience in trying circumstances shows a vital connection with the Holy Spirit, as He grows His fruit in you.
- Commitment to holiness (6): These character traits all speak of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit within you and show you to be the genuine article. It is possible to translate part of this verse as: ”We have proved ourselves by…the holiness of spirit.” It’s good to remember that no-one drifts into holiness. (Note in verse 7 how ”righteousness’ ‘ is both an offensive and defensive weapon. See Eph. 6:13)
- Faithfully preaching God’s Word (7): There could be a temptation to go quiet and seek out a hiding place when you suffer so much for what you say.
- God’s power at work in you (7b):
- Serving as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (7c): You are willing to engage in the spiritual battle. You are not a ‘chocolate soldier’ who melts in the heat of the fight.
- Serving whatever comes your way (8-10): Even though a gale is blowing against you, you keep on going into the teeth of the biting wind. Nothing can stop you because God has called you.
We can’t reproduce for ourselves the context in which Paul lived and served, nor would we want to. But where we are, where God has called us to be, let us determine, as leaders to be faithful in the way Paul was, so that the way we live is never a stumbling block to anyone.
Prayer: May my life never become a blockage, getting in the way of others who are seeking you Lord. I pray rather that I may be a clean channel through whom you can flow.