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We do not Lose Heart (1)


We do not lose heart (1 of 2), Marvin Bryant

Do you ever feel like giving up? Do you ever lose heart?

Perhaps you've already learned that when we feel down, it is good to do something for someone else. But even when we do this, we still get down fairly often. Sometimes ministering to others seems to involve us in more troubles and discourage us even more. Is there a way to avoid losing heart and giving up?

In 2 Corinthians 4:1, Paul shows us a way. He states directly that he did not lose heart, and he also tells us why. It's not that everything was going smoothly for him, because it wasn't. In fact, he probably had more trouble in his life than most of us. Why, then, did he not lose heart? His answer may surprise us. It was because of the ministry he was involved in (v. 1).

My first response is that, if I had a ministry like Paul's, I'd be encouraged too. But as is, my ministry seems piddly and powerless compared to his. My ministry often discourages me more than encourages me. Perhaps you can relate. But a closer reading of his words has led me to reconsider what he's telling us.

First, Paul's not saying his ministry was trouble free. In fact, many of the troubles he faced were a direct result of his ministry (4:8-12).

Second, he's not talking about "his" ministry, at least not in the sense we often talk about "my" ministry. Though the NT occasionally uses a possessive pronounce (my, his) to describe ministry, it does not do so with the emphasis, possessiveness and "my-ness" that we often do. Sometimes we think about "my ministry" with some self-centeredness or even self- importance that are not present in Scripture. Paul's ministry was not about Paul. He knew well that he was not adequate for his ministry but rather that his adequacy came from God (2:17b; 3:5). He also knew that he had not decided and determined to build a great ministry but rather that he had received the ministry, and that, by God's mercy (4:1). He was also clear that any good that resulted from his ministry meant glory for God, not for himself (4:5, 7, 15). There was very little "my" in Paul's ministry.

In fact, the ministry that he was referring to was not really his ministry at all. Rather, he called identified it the "ministry of the Spirit" (3:8; cf. v. 6). It was the Spirit's ministry. The ministry that kept him from losing heart was not his ministry but God's. It was the ministry of the New Covenant. It was the Christian ministry.

He described the nature of that ministry in chapter 3 (the "therefore" of 4:1 tips us off that there is a connection between that verse and the preceding chapter). Notice what all the ministry of the new covenant is and does: gives life, is glorious, brings righteousness, and is permanent (3:6-11). It also gives freedom (from blindness, in context), and allows each of us, by the power of the Lord and of the Spirit, to personally share in the image and glory of the Lord himself in ever-increasing amounts. It also provides for us call others into that same process of glory (vv. 14-18). Regardless of how we may feel about "our" ministries, God has mercifully invited us to be a part of his ministry, which is magnificent and glorious!

If I think in terms of "my" ministry, I'm more likely to notice and be bothered by the weaknesses and problems I'm having in it. I'm more likely to compare it to what other people are doing. I'm more likely to feel slighted if I don't get noticed or get credit. And, back to the point, I'm more likely to lose heart. But if I think in terms of God mercifully inviting me to participate in his grand and glorious ministry, I am much less likely to lose heart. After all, his Spirit works in this ministry and transforms people (including me) into the image of Christ, to the glory of God. And I get to be a part of it!

There are many kinds of needs around us right now, and so this is a very opportune time for us to serve others. Find out who needs help and help them. Think of who might need encouragement and call them. Find a new, different, creative way to continue to use the gifts God has entrusted to you and use them. When you do, you are a part of the glorious ministry of the Spirit. So get your mind off of yourself, take heart and continue to serve!

--Marvin Bryant