A Faithful Ministry (2 Corinthians 3-5)

Suppose you were on a pastor search committee. What qualifications would you look for in a new ministerOutdoor sanctuary without pastor

  • Knows, lives, and proclaims God’s word
  • Loves people
  • Integrity
  • Faithfulness
  • Servant-leader
  • Heart for sharing the gospel

These are all great qualities for a minister. But what about you? OK, you say, “I am not at all a minister – I am just a regular person.” Is that so? If you are a believer in the LORD Jesus, then this is not a correct view of yourself. You may not be a pastor or minister in a church, but you are indeed a minister of God:

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:16-21, NIV)

So in Christ you are a minister of God with the message of reconciliation for every person in the world. The question then is how can you be faithful in your ministry?

Main point

Every Christian can be faithful to God and others through relying on God, the source of our ministry and power to serve.

Outline

  1. Our competence is from God (2 Corinthians 3:1-6)
  2. Our confidence is in the gospel of our God (2 Corinthians 4:1-6)
  3. Our power comes from God (2 Corinthians 4:7-18)
  4. Our hope is in God’s heavenly promise (2 Corinthians 5:1-10)

1. Our competence is from God.

Q: What kind of letters did you receive in the mail this week?

  • Complaint letter
  • Local gossip letter
  • Sales letter
  • Junk mail

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Corinthians 3:1-3, NIV)

Paul was contending with people who were in the ministry for the wrong reasons: money, power, influence, position. These are the same reasons we find the wrong people in ministry today. And why should that surprise us since the same is true of other profession?

Many people of his day bore letters of introduction to commend them to a town or a church. Paul himself bore such letters before he became a Christian:

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. (Acts 9:1-2, NIV)

But after he began following the LORD Jesus, Paul had a different set of letters in mind. His “letters of introduction” would no longer be written by people but by the Spirit of God. I think this was rather important to Paul given his earlier life spent persecuting the church. He wanted people in Corinth to see the difference that Jesus makes in the lives of people impacted by his ministry.

Think about what kind of letter you are to your spouse or your neighbor.  The kind of letter you are indicates the one whom you serve.  A letter from our God is full of grace and truth – is this your letter?

Rather than claim any personal pride or boast from his “living letters,” Paul explains that his competence as a minister is all from God:

Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:4-6, NIV)

Your ability to be faithful to God comes from God Himself. Your ability to minister to others in the various ways that God has called you comes from God Himself.

In the marriage vow you take before God, the commitment is until death do you part – do you think about whether you could stay with one person for that long? Do you think about whether the two of you could make it or not?

  • The minute you start wondering whether you can do it is the minute things start to go downhill.
  • God is the source of our ability to stick with a relationship.

If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. (2 Timothy 2:13, NIV)


2. Our confidence is in the gospel of our God.

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:1-6, NIV)

To be faithful any ministry, you need confidence in what you are called to do. The gospel of Jesus Christ is at the forefront of any ministry. It is the gospel that gives life to people who are dead. It is the gospel that brings forgiveness to people trapped by sin and shame. It is the gospel that changes lives into something beautiful for all to see.

Yet we see people today making money off from false gospels – the gospel of prosperity, the gospel of physical health, the gospel of political power, the gospel of condemnation (people who are against everything and everyone who disagrees with them). Why are people fooled by such things?

  • The true gospel says that you can do nothing to save yourself. You are totally dependent on God’s work through His Son, the LORD Jesus.
  • People have a natural inclination to want to do something to make things right.
  • People also have a natural inclination to do what they want rather than what God wants.
  • Satan who is called “the god of this age” (v4) uses this to distort the true gospel into a perverse trap.

A faithful minister preaches “Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Corinthians 4:5, NIV)  A minister who is unwilling to serve others for Jesus’ sake (and not his own) does not deserve the title or the office.

Does your ministry to your spouse or neighbor include serving them or just telling them?

  • It must be both. The gospel of Jesus Christ is powerful when people see you as a servant of the most high God.

How does the gospel of God’s grace to you impact how your relate to your spouse/neighbor?

  • The grace you have been shown by God should be poured out on other people.
  • The forgiveness freely offer to you by God should be readily available to other people.

And we do not lose heart when people fail us because of God’s mercy toward us.


3. Our power comes from God.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 4:7-15, NIV)

Have you ever felt this way – hard pressed on every side, crushed, perplexed, persecuted, struck down?

Times had been hard on Paul. He was not a minister who enjoyed a life of luxury. Indeed, Paul relates these things to indicate that he is being faithful in ministry in spite of these things:

When difficulties arise in your relationships, why do you ask the why me question? The Bible explains that one reason we go through trials as a Christian is to reveal the power of God at work in us:

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. (2 Corinthians 4:10, NIV)

Paul explains that the treasure we have (the light of the knowledge of the glory of God v6) is in “jars of clay” (v7). As human beings (actually made from clay), we are fragile and easily breakable. Yet this very fragile nature is used by God to reveal His power at work. God empowers our ministry through any and all circumstances.

Do you believe you have the power of God at work within you?

How does believing versus not believing you have this power affect you ability to minister to others?

  • Not believing is like unplugging a lamp from the wall and wondering why it does not light up.
  • Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6) much less serve Him faithfully.
  • But with the faith that the same resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work within you, you can make a difference for time and eternity.

4. Our hope is in God’s heavenly promise.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NIV)

An eternal perspective is the final key to faithfulness in ministry. Things just get too crazy on this planet! Whether it is your relationship with your spouse, your job, your children – things can get tough and even tragic. If we look only at our circumstances, we will despair and lose heart.

Think of the last major trouble you had in your marriage or family. Did you consider it to be “light and momentary troubles” (v17)?

  • Well, no. Not my usual thoughts about major troubles.

What does it take for you to consider major difficulties to be “light and momentary troubles” (v17)?

  • Confidence that God is at work in you during your troubles (v16).
  • Confidence that God has something far greater for us in Heaven than we can possibly imagine today (v17).
  • Confidence that troubles last for a time, sometimes a long time, but God and His promises are eternal (v18).

This is not meant to diminish your grief over a difficult time at all. You will still grieve. But you can also rejoice in the midst of your grief. In fact you need to rejoice – so that you will not lose heart.

After all, what is the worst that could happen?  You could die or be killed.  But consider:

Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.  Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:1-10, NIV)

Even if the worst happens and you die, you have an eternal home and future with the LORD Jesus. When you first trusted in the LORD Jesus, you were born again. You were made for Heaven. You were destined to be in the presence of the living God forever!

And nothing can change that, no matter how difficult or tragic it may seem. We have an unshakable hope in the God who makes all things possible (Mark 9:25).


Conclusion

Faithfulness in ministry to God and others is the result of God’s work in us and through us. Never is there room for confidence in ourselves. Our ability and power to serve others comes from God. Our hope in God’s incredible future will sustain us through the trying times. As you engage in ministry to others, stay faithful by the faithful hand of our mighty God.