Saturday, February 18, 2006

Doing Missions Paul's Way

I have loved 2 Corinthians ever since I first became conscious that God was calling me (me!) into the ministry. There are days when I feel so utterly inadequate to speak for Jesus (“we are ambassadors for Christ” 2 Cor. 5:20) that I, well, want to “give up”. But I’m in good company, for even the mighty Paul felt that way. The grammarians suggest that when Paul exhorts the Corinthians (twice!) not to lose heart (2 Cor. 4:1, 16), he is actually engaging in an example of litotes—the use of a negated antonym to make an understatement or to emphatically affirm the positive. In other words, he is saying, “I’m often given to losing heart, you understand.” Imagine!

2 Corinthians 4 is our text tomorrow evening. It is my contribution to the 2006 Missions Conference. As a church, we have the honor of hosting many missionaries over the next few days, missionaries who are (if truth be told) war-weary and in need of reassurance, rest and revitalization. However, we often do missionaries a disservice, thinking that what we want them to tell us are extravagant success stories of thousands of professions so that we in turn may think that our money is being well spent. It is a cruel expectation, liable to all kinds of abuse and decidedly not glorifying to God. What if Paul were to address us next week and tell us of the response to his ministry in Corinth: that he was the victim of abuse, one-upmanship, lies and jealousy. His last visit to the city required him to hot-foot it out of there. Would we support him?

My aim is to give three principles of godly service and ministry—doing missions Paul’s way. Actually, the title is: “Sovereign Seeks Helpers Unconcerned for Personal Gain: Must be willing to die for the Cause.”

As it happens (I love saying that as a Calvinist!) our good friends Tim and Sarah Horne, e-mailed me just as I was in the middle of preparation and needing an illustration of missionaries at the forefront of an intense spiritual battle who need our encouragement. So, Tim and Sarah—you’re my illustration! It is my prayer that God would uphold you in the midst of the war and that as you smell the burning flesh all around, your eye will catch a glimpse of the glory that shines in the face of Jesus Christ.

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