I have recently been mulling on the words that Paul wrote to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 6:3-10 and their implications for Christian leaders everywhere. The Corinthians were not an easy bunch to minister to. They were full of themselves it seems and rather ungrateful for Paul's ministry to them. He had opened his heart to them but they not to him (2 Cor. 6:11-13). All of us can relate to that at times in leadership.
Read carefully what he said about how he ministered to them.
"We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be descredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of god with weapons of righteousness in the right and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as imposters; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed: sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything."
These themes stand out:
- A life and ministry that are above reproach
- Kindness and patience toward those he ministered to
- A life lived in the presence and power of God
- A willingness to suffer hardship for the sake of the Gospel
- A spirit of joy in spite of those hardships
There was no sense of entitlement on Paul's part. Rather, there was a willingness to endure hardship, misunderstanding and physical deprivation for the Gospel. He did not envy those who had more (the Corinthian church was wealthy) because he understood what he did have in spite of all his difficulties. He took a humble posture even toward those who had a posture of pride.
This is evident from the last sentence which is profound: "having nothing and yet possessing everything." He fully understood that whatever his personal circumstances he actually possessed everything in Jesus.
It is very easy in ministry leadership to feel sorry for ourselves, to think about what we do not have that others have and to feel a sense of entitlement and pride. But the heart of a true Christian leader is one of sacrificial service that gets its true satisfaction from the One we serve.
I want the heart of Paul because it is the heart of Jesus.