Do you get the feeling from today’s passage that Paul is sick and tired of being criticized, second guessed, and going unappreciated? Do you get the feeling that ministry has taken a huge toll on him personally, not from the world, but from the church, from those who he would expect to be his brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you sense the depth of his frustration?
I was playing Halo 3 the other day with my youngest daughter. It is a story of war between good guys and bad guys. As with every war, it takes its toll. There is a scene where one of the characters we had fought beside from the very first game dies. And you just get the sense that he has lost so much, he appreciates the mercy granted in his passing.
I think Paul could relate to that. He fought the good fight that came along with keeping the faith, and it took its on him too. But the surprising thing is that it was not the world which is causing him so much grief here. It is the church.
I am fortunate in that I serve a church that does a great job expressing love, support, and appreciation. But even so, ministry still has its painful moments and tough times. Yes, ministry brings with it some of the greatest blessings life has to offer. But it is important to realize that it will bring grief and sorrow and some of life’s greatest challenges as well.
That’s why we don’t let our ministry or service to God rise and fall on the opinions of others. Like Paul, it needs to be rooted in our understanding of God’s call upon us. I think Paul asks the initial questions in verses one and two as much of himself as does of the Corinthians. He is asking himself these questions not to call the answers in doubt, but to remind himself of the answers. Yes, he is an apostle. Yes, he has seen the Lord. Yes, the Corinthians are his work in the Lord. Everything else flows from there.
God has called us as well. He has called us to serve him. He has called us to continue to love his people. And so, no matter what comes down the pike, good or bad, we do.