Working to Win
Confident realism marked Paul's view of his uncertain future (cf Phil 1:12-24). He was not afraid to look at the worst, as well as the best, of what might come (in human terms); he was settled that whatever God allows is safe. Neither life nor death frightened him because Christ is central in both. However, Paul knew there was much work still to do. While not discounting the possibility that the Lord may call him home, he had been encouraged by the Holy Spirit to anticipate more gospel ministry.
Paul longed for the church to grow in Christ, and to enjoy their partnership in the gospel (cf Phil 1:4-5) once more. But, interestingly, he does not minimise the potential effect of his own ministry, out of some false modesty. He fully expects that God will work through him - and he wants to be part of God's answer to their spiritual need, producing progress in their faith and overflowing joy in the Lord Jesus.
This was no arrogant claim based on personal ego: it was born out of a proper understanding of the nature of ministry. When God calls His servants, He expects them to produce spiritual results. Because of this, the Apostle wrote in Col. 1:28-29, "We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labour, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me".
Christians, who have no expectation that their labour for God will make a difference, have missed the point of ministry. Faithfulness is essential, but without a conviction that gospel ministry will radically transform hearts and lives, it is incomplete. We must not let yesterday's disappointments or today's discouragements become a prescription for ineffective ministry. Yes, the final results are all of God, but the work is in our hands: unless we are convinced that the Lord has called us to work with Him, we will be half hearted or give up. So be encouraged to keep working and keep expecting God to bring in the harvest (cf 1 Thess 5:11). And encourage another believer too; look out for your opportunity today!
© Dr Paul Adams