21-Day Challenge, Day 13

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. (2 Corinthians 4:1-2)

th-1On our BlogTalkRadio show last week, we had two guests Marti and I have known since we first got married. Ralph and Sherrie Buffa were technically our first neighbors, and they both ended up being in our discipleship groups studying the new covenant together — Sherrie in Marti’s group, and Ralph in mine. I thought it would be great, since it has now been almost 40 years since they had first been exposed to the teaching of the new covenant, to have them talk about how significant this teaching has been in their lives, looking back on all those years. What I had forgotten was the fact that they were both brand new Christians when they started with us, so, in effect, this was the first Bible teaching they experienced as believers.

I found this unique because most people who come to the new covenant have been Christians for some time, and, as is typical for most, their early experiences of Christianity are in somewhat legalistic settings. The new covenant, set against most people’s church experience, is markedly liberating. Yet for Ralph and Sherrie, the new covenant was the first thing they received as new believers. In fact, it was the reality of this teaching that cemented their faith right from the start. They didn’t have to unlearn what so many Christians get wrong the first time.

The other thing that was surprising about our interview with these friends was how freely they talked about the content of their lives. We were a little concerned, going into this, that Ralph, being a relatively mild-mannered man, might not have much to talk about. As it turned out, he really had quite a bit to say. And the theme of what he and Sherrie talked about — how Ralph would sum up the new covenant in one word if he had to — was the word “confidence.”

I had never thought of confidence as central to this teaching, but he is right. In fact, the word “confidence” comes up at least three times, depending on what translation of the Bible you are using, and another related phrase that Paul uses is in our verse today means almost the same thing: “we do not lose heart.”

Why, I wonder? Why is confidence the natural result of taking the new covenant seriously in our lives? Because it uses God-confidence, not self-confidence.

Paul says we don’t lose heart because of this ministry. What is this ministry?

It’s God’s ministry, not ours. He is carrying out His plan in and through us. We don’t have to come up with this; we are just available to God to be used as a part of what He is doing in the world.

We receive it; we don’t create it. We don’t drum it up, dress it up, manipulate it, sell it, hock it or make it up. It’s His ministry and we receive it through Christ.

It’s based on the fragrance of Christ in our lives. We don’t create that; we have nothing to do with that. It’s not even for us or for others; it’s primarily for God. Others are the beneficiaries of what is going between Christ in us and God in heaven. Or as Jesus taught us to pray: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And where that happens is in us. We are the proving ground for the kingdom of God.

It goes on in spite of us, not because of us. Even our mistakes and human limitations (e.g., Paul’s missed opportunity due to his own anxiety) are woven into the plan of what God is doing in the world so we can always say we are being led in triumph.

It uses the worst life can throw at us, to bring out the best in us. (This part is coming up later in this chapter; stay tuned for this.)

We are not adequate in ourselves for any of this, but God has made us adequate in His Spirit. It’s actually in and through our own inadequacy that we experience His adequacy.

So, you see, we can have confidence because this ministry is all coming from God. Everything from God; nothing from us.

Therefore, since we have THIS ministry — not ours, but His: operating in Him, through Him, by Him and because of Him in and through us, conforming to His ultimate plan to make us more like Christ — we do not lose heart. That’s confidence — God-confidence — because it depends on God and not me.

Day 13 Challenge:
Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. (2 Corinthians 4:1-2)

  • What comes to mind when you think of a Minister of Christ?
  • A mild-mannered man standing before a mild-mannered group of people, exhorting them to be more mild-mannered.
  • A tall, good-looking and well-spoken presenter in a designer suit.
  • A man who knows the right way to conduct the Christian life and is going to dedicate his life to showing you what you need to do to be like him.
  • Someone authorized to marry and bury and other odds and ends.
  • You and me.

Action item:
Take and post a selfie of a Minister of Christ.


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3 Responses to 21-Day Challenge, Day 13

  1. Andrew P. says:

    “Confidence.” Good word. These thoughts echo, somewhat, the thoughts in Hebrews 10 (especially vv. 19-23), where the Greek is often translated “boldness.” Christ’s work makes us bold – even before the face of God, Himself! Clearly, that ought to issue forth in the aroma of our lives.

  2. Markus says:

    I think of somebody through whom God reaches people. Everything else is optional in this respect. BTW, I said “optional” and not “unimportant” for a reason. A certain type of preacher might be more useful in one setting than in another. That is why I do not have a problem with preachers in designer suits as such. Neither do I have a problem with preachers whose appearance would freak out most middle class Christians. What counts is how they are used in their specific setting.

  3. Robert Smith says:

    “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;
    I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” — Jeremiah 1:5

    Baby Scott was given up for adoption when he was just six weeks old. At age two, Scott developed an unusual disease that prevented him from growing properly. As a young child, Scott spent six years in and out of hospitals. Eventually he got a little better and began to grow, but he was always extremely small. While Scott dreamed of being a sports star in football, basketball, baseball, or anything really, his size put an end to those aspirations. With nowhere else to turn, Scott gave skating a try. With his slight stature, ease, and flexibility, Scott Hamilton went on to become one of the greatest figure skaters of all time.
    Later in life, Scott discovered that he had a brain tumor. Surgery proved that the tumor had been with him since birth – in fact it was the reason for his stunted growth. Recently, Scott reflected on his life and said, “the brain tumor that caused my growth to be stunted was the greatest gift I have ever received.” That once foreboding limitation was the key to Scott’s success.
    So many times in life we are discouraged by what seems to be our fate. Like Scott, we have dreams and aspirations that aren’t always doable. We make plans to be a famous football player, but God has another plan for our lives. Sometimes, we may be angry with our lot in life. It seems like God has gotten it all wrong. Why would God pick out such an unsuitable path for us to follow?
    These are the sentiments that the great prophet Jeremiah expressed…
    When God called Jeremiah to fulfill his destiny by warning the children of Israel that destruction was near, He knew that Jeremiah would protest (which he indeed did). So God started off with the following: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” In essence, God was saying, “I know you better than you know yourself! I knew you before you were born; I created you in order to fulfill a unique destiny.”
    Friends, the same is true for us, too. No matter how we may feel about our godly assignment right now, the truth is that we were born to fulfill it. God makes no mistakes. He gives us the job that our souls need most to fulfill and the one for which we are fully equipped to accomplish. Our response is to embrace our assignment and serve God with gladness. God has a plan for our lives and it is a good one – we just need to trust Him and follow Him faithfully – (and/or, as John, Marti, Ralph and Sherrie indicated: CONFIDENTLY- rfs).

    Excerpted from http://www.holylandmoments.org/devotionals/born-for-this

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