Serving God

Why We Must and Why We Don't

 

"in beatings, in imprisonments.in the word of truth, in the power of God, by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the leftas sorrowful yet always rejoicingyou are not restrained by us, but you are restrained in your own affections" (2 Corinthians 6:4-12).

I. Normal Working Conditions for Believers
Anyone who decides to dedicate his life to following Jesus should buckle his seat belt. This could be bumpy. There will be plenty of highs and lows in the Christian life-mountain peaks and valleys, grassy meadows and rocky badlands. There will be times of great harvest-"The Lord really blessed us!"-and seasons of barrenness when you will wonder, "Where is the Holy Spirit?" It's all part of the bargain.

In this passage the Apostle Paul is describing some of the working conditions believers may expect. Everything from beatings and imprisonment to enjoying teaching the word and seeing God's power, from sleeplessness and hunger to being honored and applauded, from moments of glory to months of pain. Anyone who finds the Christian life uneventful or boring isn't doing it right.

In the opening of this little passage, Paul says, "In everything commending ourselves as servants of God" (6:4). That's the idea. Serve the Lord in whatever ways and whenever He tells you. See what happens. 

We need not remind anyone choosing to follow Jesus that His steps led to a cross. So we must not be discouraged when our path also takes that kind of turn. But keep in mind that His did not end there. After the cross came a crown. "For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross" (Hebrews 12:2).

Of course, many of us shrink from that call and responsibility in the face of much lesser struggles, but the Lord (speaking here through Paul's pen) won't let us off the hook there either.

II. The Real Reason You Are Not Doing Your Job
I'd serve the Lord better if I just had a better job. Lived in a bigger house. Were married to someone different. Were married. Were not married.

I could witness to my neighbor if I had that kind of outgoing personality. I could teach a class if I were not so shy. I could tithe if I made more money. I could lead my family if I had more time. The list of reasons why we are not doing what we ought to be doing for the Lord is endless. Most pastors have heard them all.

The Apostle Paul is gently rebuking the Corinthians ("I speak as to children," he says in 6:13). He tells them, "I am not your problem." In fact, he said, "Our mouth has spoken freely to you; our heart is opened wide" (6:11). I take that to mean, "I'm doing everything I can for you. I'm on your side." "The problem," Paul says, "is you."

"You are restrained by your own affections." That's the modern interpretation of a word literally meaning "inward parts" and translated "bowels" in the wonderful old KJV. You and I might say, "The problem is with your unbelief." Or, "Your problem is your stinking thinking," as I've heard some put it.

We should quit blaming the devil. We must quit blaming God ("Why did the Lord put me in this situation?" "Why doesn't God hear my prayer?"). And we must quit blaming the preachers and teachers He has given us. Take charge of your own spiritual responsibilities. Get up off the couch and do what God has told you to do! Whatever that may be for you.

Immediately following, Paul tells the Corinthians to break some unholy relationships they've built with the forces of unrighteousness. God's people are His temple (vs. 16). They must be holy, must team up with His people, and must serve Him faithfully without making excuses.

Joe McKeever is a retired Southern Baptist pastor from New Orleans, Louisiana. He blogs regularly at www.joemckeever.com.

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