Refreshment for Biblical Workers
II Corinthians 4
The ministry in all forms is challenging. There are frequent roadblocks from the culture. There are frequent “well-intentioned dragons” that show up on church elder/deacon boards. There is the reality of being on call 24/7. There is often economic hardship at home and challenges at church. There is always tension with political realities—to speak or not to speak. For the conservative, there is the consistent pressure of three or four preps a week to peach and teach a sophisticated congregation. For the conscious man (or laywoman) there is a personal matrix of conviction regarding being a husband, (lover leader), a father (teacher, coach,) and cultural expectations, time, and energy. Yes, the ministry is fraught with challenges 24/7
For the individual whom God has gifted and led into the specialty of biblical counseling, there are additional challenges that generate wearisomeness. The specific cultural demands of being conversant with the mental health community, a good knowledge of current theory and practice, and a thoughtful apologetic so that one is always ready to make a defense of the biblical counseling approach. Another wearisome challenge is the frequent failure of counselees to implement biblical counsel. The one spouse who gives up about the time the other begins to respond in repentance.
When God Calls God Works
The Apostle Paul dealt with all these issues other than that of being a dad and husband. In II Corinthians 4 he develops the thinking that brings great comfort to the faithful minister. Most readers familiar with Paul’s writings would expect him to write “we received grace” whereas, he chose mercy. This brief comment on mercy and grace is helpful. “Mercy and grace are closely related. While the terms have similar meanings, grace and mercy are not precise synonyms. Mercy has to do with kindness and compassion; it is often spoken of in the context of God’s not punishing us as our sins deserve. Grace includes kindness and compassion, but also carries the idea of bestowing a gift or favor that is underserved.” Paul expresses grace when he says, “…since we have this ministry” and now he is in effect telling us that with this grace comes the kindness and compassion of God to sustain us in the execution of this ministry. He concludes that since the ministry has been gracefully assigned to us and with it the kindness and compassion of God, the fact that God understands the challenges and is engaged with us. Hence, there is no reason to lose heart—give up and yield to wearisomeness.
When God Works, We Make Commitments 2-4
But we have renounced
First, the shameful things of our lives before Christ. Old intellectual commitments. Old indulging in the illicit passion of life. Old idol worship whether idol was oneself, prominence, that is prideful self-regard, seeking fulfillment going to another person or pleasures rather than God.
Second, is the adulteration of the Word of God. Here I think Paul is being very personal and illustrating from his own life how as a Pharisee he had adulterated the Word of God. For us, this would include renouncing secular humanism.
We have committed to
Comfort in the Christian life and in ministry begins with these renouncements. We commend ourselves to the community by our commitment to TRUTH over against these announcements.
Rejection of those we attempt to serve is their responsibility. Verses three and four will be interpreted differently depending upon one’s theological commitment and this is not the place to investigate these differences. Suffice it here that we can agree that Paul is affirming it is our responsibility to faithfully teach the truth and live the truth while it is the responsibility of the subject to believe and act on the truth. While yes, we should always evaluate our counsel to be sure we have been biblical including being a biblical lister, compassionate, caring, lamenter, and questioner. Ultimately, the counselee or simply a person we are attempting to coach through a difficult time in life is responsible. In that proper division of responsibility, we can take comfort.
When God Works It Is His Glory 5-7
We present Christ, not our theory.
My theory about what is wrong with a soul, or any anthropological and psychological theory is faulty at best and completely antithetical to Jesus at worst. If I am depending on these theories, I am failing to assist the counselee, that is on me. Paul sets the example—”We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord. If the counselee understands the Lordship of Christ, the prescriptions of Christ, and acts upon them whether adultery, anger, idolatry of any form, or pornography, becoming more than a conqueror is possible (Romans 8:37).
Second, God must do the heart work 6-7
Ultimately, we do not heart doctors, but we are instruments in the hands of the Heart Doctor. Paul draws upon a creation illusion to illustrate this point in verse six.
The pressures on us bring benefits to others 8-12
In verses seven through eleven, Paul is painting a verbal picture of his life of ministry in his culture. You will note how similar it is to the verbal picture I described in the introduction of our lives of ministry in our culture. The similarity is the reality.
These pressures, typified by death, produce benefits for others. When I see folks walk away from counseling with a “new lease on life” or a student comes and tells me, “I needed this course for my degree, but I did not realize I needed it for me. This semester has changed my marriage,” then all the pressures dissolve into grateful rejoicing.
Five more components of this comfort 13-18
- The work is accomplished by the same Holy Spirit. Whether you have a Ph.D. or are a lay counselor/Sunday School teacher or whatever, it is the same Holy Spirit that gets the work of God done through the Word of God using us as instruments of God. God gets the glory!
- Our confidence is rooted in the resurrected Savior
- The purpose of God to spread the Gospel is happening through us
- Hope is a relevant reality though we are dying, that same Holy Spirit keeps renewing us internally 16-17
- Clarity in thinking results from a biblical worldview that focuses us on the eternal rather than the temporal. Yes, the temporal is under God’s control and what we do with it is important. But it is the eternal that gives meaning to the temporal and not the reverse.
I am currently experiencing success in several counseling cases where repentance and genuine godly actions have brought a renewed commitment by the offender to the Lord, forgiveness by the wife, and a refreshment of a marriage grown stale, in one case, and the other is well on the way to reconciliation.
It would be so easy to find temporary comfort in this success. When we do, we make the “successes” idols, and we rob God of His glory. Always find your comfort in God, your Father, through the resurrected Christ mediated by the same Holy Spirit.