The Test of Ministerial Integrity
Today’s reading: 2 Corinthians 6:3-10:18
My selection: 2 Corinthians 6:3-5
3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger;
My reflections: Paul was completely committed to the ministry of the gospel. He saw himself as a servant of God. His desire was to be sure there were no obstacles in anyone’s way.
What kind of obstacles?
We get a clue by what he says next (vss. 4b-10). If the attitudes, characteristics, and experiences he mentions were not descriptive of his ministry, there would be a basis for discounting the validity and authenticity of his life and work. If Paul’s life did not match his message, that would create an obstacle for those who heard him to believe what he preached. For example, he says that he and his fellow-workers have demonstrated great endurance. They did not give up when faced with opposition, even severe opposition, like: afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, etc. Furthermore, their lives were characterized by godly virtues, like: purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love, and truthful speech. He does not credit himself for this, but, rather, the power of God and the weapons of righteousness on which he elaborates in Ephesians 6.
In western evangelical Christianity today, there is a tendency to point to material success as a badge of authenticity of a ministry. Huge mega-churches with impressive music, exciting programs, and entertaining sermons are often considered to enjoy God’s presence and blessing. Yet Paul’s ministry was carried out under the worst conditions of opposition. Paul did not point to the success of his ministry as the badge of authenticity of his ministry. Enduring imprisonment and hunger, not successful TV ratings and the applause of man, was Paul’s proof of God’s blessing.
My challenge: How do you evaluate God’s hand upon a preacher or a church? Does that preacher endure opposition and buck the tide of popular opinion or does he flow along with the culture, telling people what they want to hear? Beware of being seduced by the superficial and temporary success of ministers and ministries that lack both the willingness to endure opposition and the godly qualities that combine truth and love. Beware of churches that succeed by human means but lack the power of God.
Tomorrow’s reading: 2 Corinthians 11:1-Galatians 1:24