Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 2 Corinthians 11:23-28"Which of these might have discouraged you from serving Christ any more?" (Beth Crawford, Bible Studies as a Follow-Up to this Week's Sermon May 23-24, 2009, Vineyard Church of Columbus)
Why is it that I so desperately want to think the Christian Life is easy if I do it right?
Paul warns about false teachers in 2 Corinthians 11. These false teachers weren't teaching stuff that was easily recognized as bad. They were masquerading as "apostles of Christ" and were perceived as "servants of righteousness."
Paul calls them "super-apostles" which makes me laugh. Have you ever praised the messenger more than God who empowers the messenger? Some of us err on the side of wanting to learn how to be like that person. Others err on the side of thinking they could never be like that person. Few praise with the desire to be like the one they know has suffered greatly to be who they are.
I once idolized a person in my church - I'll call her Sandy. Every time she got up to speak, I thought, wow, I'd like to be like her. She was always smiling and positive. Her voice was perfect for a speaker. Her style of speaking was warm and inviting. She seemed to have so much wisdom. I wanted to be a speaker just like her.
The true servant of righteousness knows that his righteousness comes only from Christ - it is absolutely nothing that can be earned by human efforts. Therefore, the true servant of Christ boasts only in Jesus Christ whose life consists of great suffering from beginning to the end of this evil age.
I took Sandy out to lunch. I wanted to find out all I could about her so I could be like Sandy. Again, she impressed me by always turning the conversation back to me. She found out much more about me that day than I found out about her. She quieted every attempt to praise her by turning the conversation back to who God wanted me to be.
Right now, we are between two worlds. We are in an evil age with the power of the "age to come" available through Christ in us. The problem is that most of us want to live as if we are in the fullness of the age to come - no pain or suffering. Sometimes we attempt to smooth over the edges of this evil age hoping to make the two ages blend. They are not going to "blend."
Sandy spoke at a women's event - gave her personal testimony. I listened intently about the pain and suffering she had endured at the hands of others. I realized if I wanted to be like Sandy, I was going to have to be open to suffering.
"We suffer to show that the world continues to be hostile to Christ. It's not us they are against. It's Christ." (Rich Nathan, Vision for life: Seeing the Big Picture (Colossians) Series - Portrait of a Pastor, May 23-24, 2009, Vineyard Church of Columbus)
Are you discouraged by suffering? Sit down with the written history of Jesus Christ. Read through the book of Mark (or one of the other Gospels) in one sitting. Then check out Acts. Warning: you may discover your life is too easy to claim to have Christ in you.
Sandy's suffering had little if anything to do with being a follower of Christ. But her suffering led her to the wisdom of Christ's suffering. She learned to trust and depend fully on God regardless of her circumstances.
Suffering, boasting in weakness. I'm not sure I'm there yet. But I want to be.
Knowing the suffering of others who shine with Christ gives me hope. The hope of knowing that Christ in me - including his suffering - is the hope of glory, the hope of God's presence here and now in this evil age.
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9