“Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord” (10.17). Paul knows where his confidence should be, when life gets tough, and he recommends that the Corinthians shift their own allegiances away from mere men to their Lord. We need the same challenge. It’s so much easier to put our trust in people who look impressive, and who seem to offer immediate solutions to our problems, and hope in our discouragement. Paul would counsel a little realism: a slavish devotion to leaders, however gifted they are, will lead ultimately to a deep, deep disappointment. It will only be a matter of time.
Until this church gets that important lesson, Paul cannot rest. Foolish, jealous, afraid (vv.1-3). Not words we associate with an Apostle, perhaps. Maybe we think of swan-like serenity, the appointed man of God gliding through his problems without any ripples. No, this leader is a Christian, not a Buddhist. He cares very deeply for those he serves. And care costs us emotional peace. He sees in them an alarming gullibility, as they are willing to look for and trust in the impressive, rather than the authentic (vv.4-6). Could we share their foolishness in this?
So here is authentic ministry: it refuses to put burdens on others (vv.7-12). A worldly, self-seeking leader is looking at the size of salary, and with it, the kudos of the position. A servant of Christ is looking to live without putting financial strain on others, even working to alleviate them further, and cares very little for titles or prestige. He does care, though, passionately about the work of God. Paul is not afraid to call out the Corinthians’ favourite leaders as insincere men, more the agents of Satan than of Christ (vv.13-15). And he doesn’t shrink from pulling back the curtain on just how much he has endured in the service of the Gospel (vv.16-33).
Here’s the recommendation: read vv.16-33 out loud, slowly and carefully. Let these sufferings sink in, and challenge you. They are the marks of authentic ministry. It’s your time, your comfort, your savings, your health, your status, your emotional equilibrium. It costs. It always will. The seed must die, Jesus said, of His own life. He was speaking about you, too. And like Him, your death will bring life to others. Let’s get living, like Paul, by dying.
A Prayer to Pray
Lord, I am so Corinthian, in what I want, and in how I look at others. Forgive me. Fix my eyes upon Jesus. Fill my vision with His love-driven sacrificial life. Teach me its beauty, and shape my life in its image. That others might find life in Him. Amen.