16 November 2009
Our 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. (2 Corinthians 6:10 NLT)
All the way through 2 Corinthians Paul contrasts joy and pain, blessings and trials, hope and despair. As I read Paul's words to the Corinthians, I think, “Come on Paul! You're the greatest apostle of all time! You wrote most of the New Testament, man! What does it matter what these immature Christians in this trouble-filled church think of you? Who cares how these ‘super-apostles’ strut their stuff and flaunt their ‘revelations’ and build a following for themselves? Who cares? What does it matter? You’re the man!”
But then Paul had no idea that he was writing part of the Bible – God's Holy Word. Paul had no idea that the Corinthian trouble makers he was trying to get through to and the ‘super-apostles’ he was being unfavorably compared to would be lost to history and that he would be the definer of Christian doctrine and practice for all time.
Paul was living it out one day at a time. His highs were prompted by the faith-victories he saw and his lows were as real as a heart attack. He did his best to be obedient, to live his values and faith, to hold on to the confidence that his labor was not in vain. He didn't know how it would turn out. (2 Corinthians 5:6-8) So Paul wrote these words to the Corinthian church and felt like a fool even as he dictated the words to Timothy. Thanks, Paul. I wonder if you know how much it helps me – how much encouragement I draw from your honesty about how you were feeling.
I remember when Patrick, an Irish student at East London Bible Training Centre, said to me half way through his first year, “Jim, you've got a great life!” He had listened to the stories Jean and I told from our experiences, illustrating the principles we were teaching the students – stories as much about our failures as our successes – and he concluded that our life of faith and attempted obedience was a “great life!”
That's how Paul makes me feel. He writes about the highs and lows, the joy and pain, the disappointments and encouragements, and it makes me want what he had. It gives me courage to keep on going. And I think, “I've got a great life!”
Father, I am so thankful Paul’s honesty about the highs and lows, the ups and downs, the “both-and” of the life of faith. Thanks for the great life you have given Jean and me. Help me to be as honest with others about the “both-and,” the highs and lows, the battles and victories, of a life spent in your service. Thanks. Simply thanks. Amen.