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The Pain of Gospel Ministry

2 Corinthians 11:27-29
I have laboured 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. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? (NIVUK)

Paul experienced physical, mental, emotional and spiritual exhaustion.  In this rare personal insight into his heart we get some flavour of his passion for serving Jesus Christ despite the huge personal cost.  The apostle was fully convinced that the gospel must be proclaimed: he knew that announcing God’s grace in Christ and calling people to repentance is God’s powerful way to bring sinners to salvation.  Therefore, Paul was willing to give everything and endure much for the sake of the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:23).  He encountered spiritual opposition from religionists and pagans who did not want their lives disturbed.  As he travelled long distances, he encountered violence from people and dangerous conditions as he crossed bandit infested country, raging rivers and wrecking seas (2 Corinthians 11:23-26).

Not only did Jesus’ commission (Acts 26:15-18) echo through his heart and mind, but the inner voice of the Holy Spirit compelled him.  “For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” he wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:16.  And yet his obedience brought him near to death several times and eventually to his martyrdom.  Fulfilling Christ’s calling demanded everything he had.  Often fighting tiredness, the pangs of hunger and the distress of being brutally cold – but he did not give up; he carried on because he loved his Lord.  

He also loved the people.  He was passionate that they must not miss the opportunity to be saved (1 Corinthians 9:22).  He persisted with ignorant, arrogant and wayward churches like Corinth, wanting to build them up … and to do so at his own expense wherever possible (2 Corinthians 11:7).  When he heard that churches were being attacked, he grieved over them as a mother whose child is being hurt (1 Thessalonians 2:6-9).  When the believers turned from the truth, he was deeply distressed (2 Corinthians 12:21).

True gospel ministry is still very hard work.  Paul commended believers for “… your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:3).  For the apostle that was normal Christianity – work, hard labour and teeth-gritting endurance.  Wherever the church is growing securely today, you will find men and women with the same conviction and commitment to whole-life sacrifice in their gospel service.  But in some places the gospel minister is comfortable and unstressed, unmoved by the lack of revival.  Some believers treat their faith as an emotional bolt-on to their normal lifestyle, without any care of those they live and work among who are on their way to hell.  Paul’s attitude of heart and mind was like Christ’s.  Is yours?  

Lord God. Thank You for the Bible’s clarity in showing the sacrificial service of Jesus and the apostles. I am ashamed that I do not have the same passion or commitment, preferring a more comfortable lifestyle. Please forgive me and help me to have the faith, love and hope of the Thessalonians so that I may be a true gospel witness to my workplace and community, and a godly encouragement to the church. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams