True Ministers

2nd Corinthians 6:3-10

3We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. 4In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. 5We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. 6We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. 7We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. 8We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. 9We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. 10Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.

We Are All Ministers

We are all ministers of God. Though Paul is speaking of him and his team as the ministers of God, in defending himself he is actually defending all the little guys. It might be hard to believe it now because Paul is held in such high regard, but in this letter was Paul was the little guy defending himself against those titled “super-apostles.”

Yes, Paul was the little guy. Paul was the failed guy. Paul was the one who didn’t look anything like a minister of Christ. The unqualified, the disqualified. Paul had no legitimate authority. When Paul says we are true ministers he is saying it in behalf of us all.

Paul planted the Corinthian church, and now this Church he birthed through two-and-a-half-year labor, that was how long he was there, was swayed by people who rode in and said, “Hey, did you even look at Paul’s resume?” The people he baptized questioned his ministry. The pain was horrible. It was as if a child said to his biological mother, you are not my mother.

In today’s world, he would be the one who not ordained, not in any denomination, without a Master Degree, who does not have a following in any social media, who does not have any backings.

He has a team, ragamuffins, stragglers whom he picked up along the way,  like half-breed Timothy who was always sickly, and uncircumcised, pork-eating Gentiles like Epaphras. He simply did not have any reputable person recommending him.

Heck, even Barnabas, who stuck out his neck and vouched for him when he was still wet with baptism water, actually left him. That split with Barnabas really hurt Paul. That is why on that second trip, doors were shut on his face. Barnabas, his greatest champion, left him. Paul is not to be trusted.

So with all those issues of doubt surrounding him Paul says well I am a true minister of God and I don’t care what others are saying about it. He is speaking in behalf of us! We all have the high calling to be the ministers and of God.

And remember what he says right before this. He says we are all ambassadors of Christ’s reconciliation. Just as others called us to Christ, so now we are to others to Christ.

How wonderful that truth. That it is not only the ordained, the educated, the learned, the recommended, the connected who are minister, but we all are.

We are all ministers. That is great news right! You are ministers!

True Ministry is a High Calling

Actually no. I don’t want to be a minister, doing Christ’s work 24/7. I mean that is what we pay you to do, to do ministry!

I understand that sentiment. The calling is high. If we are ministers than we have responsibility. We are representing Christ and our actions will bring people to Christ or push them away. I understand that.

There was a time in the beginning of my ministry when I thought even I myself did not want to be minister as a minister.

I thought: “Yes I get paid for ministry. But ministry is just another job. I get paid to put together a good sermon, pastoral care, and manage the organization. But my personal life, my moral life doesn’t have to be different. I am a sinner like any other person who sits on the pews. I have the same pressures and same emotional responses to pressures of bills, child rearing, house chores and spousal relations.

So let me go down the level of laity. So I focused on “we are all sinners.” To an extent this is true. I cannot deny my sinfulness. But “we are all saints.” I cannot deny my holiness, my desire to do good, my ability to do good, the standard of doing good because the God is in me. But this is true for all of us, and not just ministers. You are all ministers. And while you might not have the time to put together a sermon like me. Which is what you pay for me. You don’t pay for me to live a holier life than you.

We both are called to live a holy life, a life that is not a stumbling block to others. You and I are called to a holy life, a true ministry.

To be a minister is a high calling. So high that there is true ministry and false ministry. There can only be true ministry if there is a standard. We talk about whether this is a true Nike sneaker or false Nike sneaker only because Nike at least has the impression that it is high quality, and they ate about thousand dollars. We never say, “this is true Walmart sneaker” though I find their sneakers of decent quality.

Thomas Merton said:

The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little. 

I am a minister of God

As Ministers Our Life Matters

The truth of our message is in our life. That is a hard pill to swallow. I would rather say, “Do what I say, not what I do.” Because there is so much less on me. But a lot rides on you and me. How you conduct your life matters. You carry the name of Christ which means you are the proof of Christ’s love.

For some, their life long judgment of Christ is going to come down to their interaction with you.

I remember counseling one young woman, that as much as she wanted to try to come back to church and trust Christ again, she could not. And she gave all these historical and philosophical reasons, of how a man can be both finite and infinite. But I realized that all the arguments was her trying to say something without saying it.

And if finally came up that during college, she was dating a Christian man he met through varsity and he date-raped her.

Paul says “I don’t want to be a stumbling block.” I don’t want to soften the message here. We can be the rock that trips a person from going to the cross.

But this also means it can go the other way. That my life can open a person’s heart to Christ which no argument or good sermon can. It is going to be your life.

The only reason I am a preacher and even a Christian was because a college young man named “Joseph” who came to our small youth group of 20, and spent the summer doing a retreat for us, and then after a retreat, just taking me and my two brothers for an ice cream then driving us home just asking us about our story and what we wanted to do.

 “Live in such a way that people seek a gospel explanation.” Pastor Jeff Verderstelt says.

I will be a true minister of God

When We Minister God’s Power Works In Us

There is teeth clenching, sweat drenching, body disciplining hard work to the life of the Christian minister. But there is also effortlessness, an ease. You are rowing hard, but you also feel like the river is pushing you forward.

This paradox is actually experienced in any difficult work, from writing, to playing football, making a new program, designing chips.  That which you work hard at is also the easiest. That which you are in earnest is most effortless.

This is true for the Christian life. It is hard. But if you work hard it becomes easy, almost second nature.

It is daily work. It never means that at some point it becomes easier?

Anyone Jacob Degrom? A power star pitcher for the NY Mets. In an outing where he was near perfect he said, “It felt easy, I was throwing it exactly where I wanted to and every time I pitched it was like I wasn’t using up any energy.”

But he practices, throw, through deliberate practices, 40 fastballs, 40 curveballs.

G.K. Chesterton wrote:

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”?

2 Cor 6:7

7We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us.

In midst of all that he does, Paul says Holy Spirit in us, God’s power is working in us.

Thomas Merton

Perhaps I am stronger than I think.

Now there is a simple way to practice this, doing the hard work of Christian ministry and experience God’s power that makes it easy. To obey the Spirit every day when you heart her speak to your heart.

Billy Graham

Billy Graham shares in his autobiography how he struggled with Scripture, whether to accept it as God’s Word. One of his closer friend, Chuck Templeton, ridiculed him for not seeing that Scripture is simply collection of religious collections.

This shook him. He studied the scholars from both sides. More importantly he studied the scripture itself. The crisis was so great one August night that he left his hotel room and rove until he came to a forest.

He came to a tree stump, where he knelt down, with his Bible on the stump in front of him.

And he prayed —

O God!  There are many things in this book I do not understand.  There are many problems with it for which I have no solution … I can’t answer some of the questions Chuck and others are raising.

Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word — by faith!  I’m going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be Your inspired Word.

When I got up from my knees at Forest Home that August night, my eyes stung with tears.  I sensed the presence and power of God as I had not sensed it in months.

Not all my questions were answered, but a major bridge had been crossed.  In my heart and mind, I knew a spiritual battle in my soul had been fought and won.

To Minister is to Serve

The word here for minister is the word “diakonia” from which we get deacon. So another way to read this is to say we are all deacons. But if we only hear the church title then we miss the point. Paul wasn’t using it in that official manner. By “deacon” he was using it in the generic sense. It meant servant, specifically servants that wait on table. A minister is empowered by the one he represents. But the minister also lives for the people he is sent to minister too.

As much as I am called to serve you. You are also called to serve, your family, you neighbor, your workers.

And giving service means you have to take up with lot of crap. That is simply the nature of service. Anyone waiting on table will tell you. You are doing your best to make the dining experience but no matter how fast you go you are never fast enough. No matter how kind you are you are never kind enough. Now most diners are good. But then every diner has days when things just didn’t go there way. They are angry at the world, but they can’t express it to their boss, they get fired, not to their spouse because they will get the dog house, not to their children because they will be scarred. So who do they let out all their anger to? The waiter. Because the waiter service is really the one place where you can actually still order people around and for a time you have the master-servant relationship. We can basically say our dissatisfaction and the waiter can’t say anything.

That is not a situation we like. It seems to be powerlessness.

But that is the type of life we are called to live. Paul takes lot of crap from his own church. And he expresses it, but he knows that whether he gets honored or dishonored he must live and still serve.

And while that seems powerlessness but it is a place of power when a person treatment of you does not affect how you treat that person. You haven’t so much reversed the power position you have dismantled it. You are not overpowering them, you are free from that power play. This is why Christ says, “turn the other cheek,” not to get beat up, but to take away the attacker’s weapon, fear. You no longer fear the person.

A samurai went to a Zen Buddhist and asked him, “tell me what heaven and hell is.”

The Buddhist answered, “How would an imbecile like you understand what heaven and hell is.”

The sumarai went berserk, took out his blade and was about to chop off the smirk Buddhist’s head but couldn’t get himself to kill the holy man.

And the monk answered, “that is hell.”

And then it dawned on him. That hell is himself reacting to what others said to him or said about him. So he put his blade back, sat down lotus position and started breathing, calming his heart.

“And that is heaven.”

When we serve as minister so God there is then joy.

True Minister has Joy

The true ministry life is the truest life you can live. It is the life that we all long for.
We don’t long for life that is always full of good things. But good or bad we will would still be good. Not that we will always be healthy, but healthy or sick we will still be strong in our heart. Whether we have lot or little that we would always be generous.

I met a saint this week, lunched with him at Edward Mills Grill. He ran construction company, then consulting, and now retired, but not retired as a minister of God. He told me of one of the ministry he does, where during Ramadan he prays for Muslims and encourages others to befriend a Muslim, to pray for them because Muslims are our brothers.

He prays for their salvation but he knows the first thing is to love them.

He says that the power of prayer is first that it changes the person praying.

He says how many Muslim students come as international students but most of them never enter into an American home for a meal before they return. Can you imagine what would happen if every student had a friend and had meals with them.

And he did exactly that! Few years ago he had befriend some Turkish international students. He took them to the blue ridge mountains, rafting and camping.

When they said good bye one of the student said to him, “I don’t know about Christ yet, but I like Christians!”

He came with an image of Christians as unloving. This minister named Merl, was the first real Christian. Now he thinks real Christians are like Merl. Is that true? It should be. It should be.

We are all ministers. Let us me true ministers of God!

 

 

Readings

2nd Corinthians 6:3-10

3We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. 4In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. 5We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. 6We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. 7We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. 8We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. 9We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. 10Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.

Thomas Merton said:

The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little. 

G.K. Chesterton wrote:

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”?

Thomas Merton

Perhaps I am stronger than I think.

Billy Graham

Billy Graham shares in his autobiography how he struggled with Scripture, whether to accept it as God’s Word. One of his closer friend, Chuck Templeton, ridiculed him for not seeing that Scripture is simply collection of religious collections.

This shook him. He studied the scholars from both sides. More importantly he studied the scripture itself. The crisis was so great one August night that he left his hotel room and rove until he came to a forest.

He came to a tree stump, where he knelt down, with his Bible on the stump in front of him.

And he prayed —

O God!  There are many things in this book I do not understand.  There are many problems with it for which I have no solution … I can’t answer some of the questions Chuck and others are raising.

Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word — by faith!  I’m going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be Your inspired Word.

When I got up from my knees at Forest Home that August night, my eyes stung with tears.  I sensed the presence and power of God as I had not sensed it in months.

Not all my questions were answered, but a major bridge had been crossed.  In my heart and mind, I knew a spiritual battle in my soul had been fought and won.