2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart
Paul had no bigger struggle than the church at Corinth. A church that had more potential to make a kingdom impact than any other he dealt with, yet they were a constant source of frustration for him. He writes his second letter to the church he spent the most time defending his calling and ministry to. As you read all that Paul went through with them it would be easy to understand if he did give up. Fortunately Paul didn’t and from that we can learn some valuable lessons. I want to show you three things from this verse that we can apply to our ministry.
Ministry is a Privilege: Paul says “having this ministry.” As he speaks this he is saying it with the attitude that it is a great honor to serve the role God has given him. He doesn’t take it lightly but you also get the sense that he is blown away that God would even choose him. If we lose this awe as a minister we start down a path that often leads to burnout or quitting. We can’t lose that sense of awe and humility that God chose us to do what we are doing. If we get a attitude of entitlement, like the church owes us something, we are in danger of ministering for the wrong reasons. Paul, after all he has been through, still considers ministry a great privilege.
It’s by God’s Mercy: Notice how Paul uses mercy here instead of grace. Not sure why but it is interesting because we usually say that Grace is getting what we don’t deserve and Mercy is not getting what we do deserve. Mercy can also mean undeserved favor. None of us deserve to be in ministry. We can’t take credit for our calling. God is the one who calls us and for that we should have a sense of awe. Paul says that his calling and ministry is by the Mercy of God. That means what we do is only by and through the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul recognizes this and we need to remember it. The fact that we get to stand in a pulpit and teach God’s word, or counsel people in need, or sit with someone who has just lost a loved one is all possible through God’s mercy. We need to be grateful and walk with an attitude of humility. For some reason God chose us and that alone should bring praise to our lips.
Don’t Give Up: Paul says “do not lose heart.” David Guzik says “The idea behind the ancient Greek word for “lose heart” is of the “faint-hearted coward.” The ancient Greek word has the connotation of not only a lack of courage but of bad behavior and evil conduct.” Maybe Paul is telling the Corinthians “I’m no coward!” or maybe he is goading us “Don’t be a coward by giving up when it gets hard.” There were a lot of super apostles in Corinth who were all about making life easy for themselves. They criticized Paul because of his struggles saying that God’s blessing wasn’t on him. Struggling and suffering are actually badges of perseverance in ministry.
I don’t know but if ministry is a privilege and we are chosen by God can we really truly quit? So many ministers give up before God can truly do something. Ministry is hard and will knock you down time and time again. Success often isn’t determined by how many times you get knocked down but by how many times you pick yourself up. Don’t give up.
So what do we do if we are in a place where we are worn out, feel totally defeated, and want to give up? Look only to the rest of the chapter for our advice. Verse two says to preach the truth and refute underhanded ways. Be forewarned if you do that it will open a whole bag of trouble. Verse 8 says “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed.” It never gets easier in ministry. After twenty years of doing this full-time it only gets harder. Paul shows us the source of strength to make it through. First he messes with us a little bit by repeating “do not lose heart” in verse sixteen and then in verse seventeen he calls all of the struggles “light momentary affliction.” So basically he says don’t be a coward because all of this affliction is but a passing moment. That wasn’t true in his life but it is how he looked at it. Comparing our suffering to his or Jesus Christ’s should put it all in perspective.
Paul reveals how he was able to go on. Verse sixteen says “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is renewed day by day.” Paul was renewed by Christ on a daily basis. What he needed he received from Him everyday. Yesterday’s renewal wasn’t enough for today’s tests. Last weeks encouragement doesn’t last for today’s troubles. Last years blessings won’t get you through today’s trials. We need a fresh filling everyday otherwise we are flailing away under our own power. It is in those moments where the thoughts of giving up and doing something else always creeps in. Get what you need from God today and fight the good fight. Don’t lose heart.