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Paul's ministry, a challenge
- Jacob Ninan
The apostle Paul was an unusual man, who went from being an enemy of the gospel to the most prominent apostle of his days (1Ti.1:13;1Co.15:10). God chose him to bring the gospel to a large part of the world, and to write a great portion of the New Testament. But it was not a charismatic personality, oratorial skills or organisational abilities that made this man accomplish all that (2Co.10:10;1Co.2:1). There are many now who impress millions with their natural abilities, but how few have what Paul had!
1Th.2:1-12 is very illuminating on the subject of becoming a spiritual 'father'. "Our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit" (v.3). He did not talk whatever came to his mind or what he thought would impress people. He sorted out error from the teaching or practice he saw around and took care to present a sound and wholesome gospel. He didn't use tricks to work up emotions, exaggerate facts to convince people, play down reality in order to give a rosier picture for people to hold, avoid painful subjects so as not to lose any in the audience, etc. He was true to God, and he chose to be true to people in every way, believing that truth will stand, and also that he would have to give an account to God one day.
"Just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts" (v.4). Isn't this an area where we can easily fail, and not even realise we have failed God? It is God who has made us stewards of the gospel, and instead of being faithful to Him and to the calling He has given us (1Co.4:2), do we seek to keep everyone happy? It is not just our works that God examines (Ro.2:6), but mostly the motives and intentions of our heart (1Co.4:5).
"We never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed--God is witness" (v.5). Flattery involves exaggerating things or telling 'white lies' to please people in order to get some favour from them. Even when we need to honour someone, we don't have to stray from the truth. But sadly many consider this as what everybody does or what everybody is expected to do. 'Pretext for greed' is so rampant among preachers that it is pathetic. Paul stands out. Even when he had to take some offerings from one church to another he made sure that everything was impeccable in the sight of God and man (2Co.8:21).
"Nor did we seek glory from men" (v.6). If we seek honour from man, that will be all that we get, and no glory from God (Mt.6:1). But how much more focus, time and effort people give to impress people than to what God thinks about them! There is a strong urge within us to appear great before people, and this can be overcome only by focussing on God.
Paul worked night and day giving himself to those he served and doing everything he could to bless them. He desired their benefit rather than his own gain and did everything for their sake. Challenging!