21-Day Challenge: Day 1

Missed Opportunity

Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said goodbye to them and went on to Macedonia. But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. (2 Corinthians 2:12-14)

What is John doing here?

What is John doing here?

The new covenant begins in human failure. It begins at a place we can all claim. This opening example from the life of Paul, in itself, is a terribly freeing bit of good news. The new covenant operates in our lives, in spite of ourselves.

Who would start an important argument about winning his respect and favor with the people he was writing to with such a story of human frailty and inadequacy? Who would lead with a story of his or her own weakness, if it wasn’t someone who wanted to show that the new covenant doesn’t depend on us, it depends on God and His purpose in our lives, and He will accomplish His purposes even if we falter in delivering our part of the bargain?

It’s not a little bit from us and a little bit from God. It’s nothing from us and everything from God. This is and will always be the battle cry of the new covenant: Nothing from us; everything from God.

Do you think you can handle that? Do you see why this passage is so life-altering?

Paul’s first illustration is a story about human anxiety and missing an opportunity where God had clearly opened a door. Paul, on his journey to Macedonia, stopped in Troas for the sole purpose of preaching the gospel.  But did he ever preach that gospel? No, he didn’t, even though the Lord had paved the way for him to do so.

There was a plan. Titus, his co-worker, was going to meet him in Troas and they would travel on together from there. Paul arrived in Troas and saw a wide-open door for ministry there, but his anxiety over not finding Titus made him unable to follow through with that ministry.

And here is the shocking part. What does Paul have to say for himself after revealing his error? “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.”

What? Are we reading from the right Bible here? Didn’t he just say he blew it when it came to ministering in Troas, and yet, in the next breath, he is praising God for always leading him in a sort of victory parade that spreads the fragrance of Christ wherever he goes? Doesn’t that sound like a disconnect to you?

It is a disconnect, except for the fact that the new covenant operates on an entirely different basis from how we would operate if we were in charge of things. How would I write it? I would have Paul apply his own words in Philippians 4:6 about not being anxious about his brother Titus, but by praying about it and “giving it to the Lord” he would have gone on to preach the gospel and thousands would have been saved, precisely because he had been filled with the peace that passes all understanding. That’s not only what should have happened; that’s biblical!

But our lives aren’t always biblical. We aren’t always able to do what the Bible says. Sometimes we can be overcome by human emotions and distance ourselves from the right answer. But never mind. God gets His will done anyway — with or without us. And not only that, He is still able to affect people through our lives anyway — even when we have taken ourselves out of the game.

Recently, Jered Weaver, ace pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels, an extremely competitive guy who hates to be taken out of games, took himself out of a game in the middle of the sixth inning because he knew he was out of gas — he didn’t have his usual stuff — and if he had stubbornly stayed in, he would have decreased his team’s chances of winning. Besides, there was a whole bullpen of fresh arms to come in and do the job.

He was expendable, and so are we. But get this: God uses us anyway, so that even in our failure and human limitations, we can thank God anyway.

Day 1 Challenge:
Briefly identify a time when you worked and worked on something, only to see it begin to unravel before your very eyes. How did you feel? (Like a failure? Anxious? Troubled?) What did you do? (Try to make right what was wrong? Stood frozen? Became sick to your stomach?)

Were you as frustrated and anxious as Paul was when looking for his friend so that you walked past an open door of someone needing understanding and insight?

We can all identify with Paul. Nothing is going well. I am frustrated. I am concerned. I am worried. And yet, Paul immediately reverses his position and rejoices.

Action Item:
Write about a time, or send us a picture of what you looked like, when you were so anxious about someone or something that you walked past an open door that you knew was meant for you to walk through.



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3 Responses to 21-Day Challenge: Day 1

  1. Markus says:

    I’m stubborn. That is probably one of my best, and one of my worst characteristics. It is a good, because it helps me to get things done, and it is bad because, at times, it tends to cloud my judgement. I have to thank my stubbornness for becoming a Christian for instance (long story), but I also blame it for a couple of things where me being less stubborn would have changed a couple of things for the better. Unfortunately, both situations feel very much alike to me, and I cannot always say whether stubbornness is a good thing in a given situation, or not. I simply feel clueless. And when I realise that stubbornness is not such a good idea in a particular situation, then I tend to push away this realisation, even though I can feel that I should not.

    In this I can relate to Paul here. His stubbornness made him an effective preacher, but it also kept him from using a chance when he had it simply because he was stubbornly focused on meeting a friend. I wouldn’t be surprised if Paul should still have felt that preaching to that city would have been a good idea, but his stubbornness was focused on finding his friend.

    I can also understand Paul’s praise for God though. Maybe I am wrong, but I think that Paul knew about his stubbornness, and he knew that this stubbornness was still something that God used for good. In the long run at least.

  2. TimC says:

    This is one of many areas where if you have never been there, you just don’t understand it. Someone can explain the situation to you, but if you’ve never been thru that kind of situation, you just don’t get it. It’s so easy to be a Monday morning quarterback and say that Paul should have done such and such. But none of us were there and being a Monday morning quarterback is just like being one of Job’s stupid “friends”.
    Unfortunately, so many Christians have read the Bible and think they know it all, and can tell other people what they need to do, when all along, they haven’t been there, and they haven’t got a clue.

  3. Robert Smith says:

    What are you living for?

    People may have some abstract idea that it’s important to live for God, but what does that really mean? How do we translate that into our everyday actions?

    To help us get a clearer picture about what it is that we want to live for… ask yourself another question: What would I die for? Though seemingly harsh, this is a more practical question that can give us some clarity. What would you willingly give your life for? Once you know what you would die for… [then] you should live for those very same things.

    There is a difference between dying for something and living for it.
    Many are very happy to die a “martyr’s death”, but not willing to live a moral, ethical, God-centered life on a daily basis.

    We can be clear about what we value so deeply that we would give up our life for it, but that doesn’t automatically translate into living a life in accordance with our values. That’s much more difficult. For example, most of us would be willing to sacrifice our lives for the sake of our children. However, many people who feel that way often don’t live as though their children are their highest priority. In our fast-paced world, we sometimes forget to make time for family and dear friends. If we truly value them, it should be manifested in our daily actions.

    Another example is that while many people would offer their own lives to save others, they often go through daily life without lifting a finger to help even one person in need. How many people are dying of hunger? How many lives could we save through life-giving charity? Our lives and our actions must reflect what we value.

    Ask yourself the all-important question of what you would willingly sacrifice your life for. Then, go out and live that way. Remember, though, God doesn’t want you to die for Him – He wants you to live for Him.

    Excerpted from:

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