1 As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. 3 We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. 4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; 6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 8 through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (2 Corinthians 6:1-10 NIV)
If you were applying for a ministry position what would you put on your resume? Most people begin with their education, especially if they attended prestigious schools and obtained advanced degrees. Next comes the summary of experience. Beginning from most recent to some years in the past the position titles convey achievement in terms of position. If ministry has been in churches and they have grown, then a resume will certainly include beginning and current attendance numbers. None of these things communicate anything about the character and spiritual maturity of the person filling out the application.
I am struck by what Paul does not include in this description of his team. No mention is made of the number of congregations they have started. A significant portion of the New Testament was written by Paul, yet he does not list the number of letters he has written. We know that Luke also wrote letters that we greatly value today. We do not know what was written by Timothy, Titus, and others who were part of Paul’s team. By this time Paul had trained and sent out many who would carry on and expand his work. In our day we would expect a reference to Facebook friends and Twitter followers.
Anyone desiring to experience success in the Christian life should read this passage carefully and often. There are certainly exceptions, but I think Paul describes the typical life of someone who desires to be used of God to make a difference in the world. Christian celebrities existed in Paul’s day and the Corinthians were drawn to them just as we are today. Anyone reading this in the United States could reel off a list of megachurch pastors. I am certain that many of them share some of Paul’s experiences and many of them are having a positive impact on their communities.
Instead of focusing on the famous, I would like to turn your attention to someone in our time who I think exemplifies the Christian life that Paul is describing. John Perkins has lived his life putting into action the message of the gospel. There are several video documentaries of his life. The one we recently watched is Passion for Justice from Vision Video. It was made in 2015. The video is available on YouTube here. I encourage you to watch the documentary and then come back to this passage in 2 Corinthians.
I think we do ourselves and new Christians a disservice when we hold up Christian celebrities as the examples to follow. I am grateful that they exist and that their valuable teaching is so widely available. I am concerned that they distract us from what we should expect if our heart’s desire is to love God and love people. I am convinced that at this time in history our world needs more people who are seeking to follow Paul’s example defining success as looking like Jesus and suffering like Jesus.