Knocked down but not knocked out – 2 Corinthians 6:1-11

3 We put no stumbling-block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.

Paul’s defence of his ministry
To defend his apostleship Paul shares his own experiences of ministry. From those I could use this passage then to talk about the nature of Christian ministry and specifically about the work of ministers and missionaries, pastors and teachers. In particular these verses and many other parts of 2 Corinthians challenge and condemn the health, wealth and prosperity teaching of many prominent preachers and televangelists. Actually these verses show up flaws and weaknesses in the ministries of many mainstream preachers and teachers as well. Even if the content of their teaching is entirely biblical, some preachers find themselves lured into the contemporary culture of entertainment and celebrity. They can find themselves pursuing popularity rather than truth, and the illusion of success rather than faithfulness and holiness,
So these verses are about the practice of ministry and mission. That was their original significance as Paul wrote to the Corinthians defending his own ministry and I will make those points as we go along. But the things Paul says here also apply to all of us, to every Christian in all our experiences of being followers of Jesus the Servant King. So I will comment on that as well. In his defence Paul talks about three things

PAUL’S SUFFERINGS
4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:
For ministers: Paul cared what other Christians and what the world around thought about him. Many ministers do not.
For every Christian: equally we all need to be careful about how we conduct our lives so that we are giving a Christlike example.
Do you remember this old Mission Praise song?
Though the World has forsaken God
Treads a different path, leads a different way
I walk the road that the Savior trod
That all may know I live under Jesus’ way
Refrain:
They are watching you, marking all you do
Hearing the things you say
Let them see the Savior as He shines in you
Let His power control you every day.

Men will look at the life I lead
See the side I take and the things I love
They judge my Lord by my every deed
Lord set my affection on things above.
4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:
That is the challenge we all face!
in great endurance;
For ministers: keeping on going. So many ministers leave pastoral ministry and go on to do other kinds of things.
For every Christian: keeping on with the work God has given us to do until he tells us to lay it down.
in troubles,
For ministers: the reality of ministry and mission means that we will face troubles of all kinds. In this case I think Paul is meaning particularly opposition and persecution but trying to stand alongside people and help people and stand up for justice and truth will always bring all kinds of trouble. It will be hard and ministers who think they can organize themselves out of such difficulties are just deluded.
Do you remember that scene in Yes Minister where Jim Hacker is a candidate to become Prime Minister? Now Cabinet Secretary Sir Humphrey makes it very clear to Jim’s Personal Private Secretary Bernard Wooley that his job is to make absolutely certain that Jim does nothing incisive or divisive in the next few weeks, avoids all controversy and expresses no firm opinions about anything at all. To which Bernard replies, “I think that is probably what he was planning to do anyway.”
Some Christian ministers follow the Jim Hacker approach Their highest goal is to make no waves, and rock no boats. To avoid doing or saying anything controversial or unpopular. But when you are preaching the Christian gospel, that is an impossible goal. As Spurgeon said, “the gospel comforts us in our afflictions but it also afflicts us in our comforts.” The gospel declares that Jesus Christ is Lord and that simple statement is a rebuke to the status quo and to all the rich and powerful people in this fallen world.
For every Christian: following Jesus the servant King will bring all kinds of difficulties.
Remember these words of Jesus. They are not just for the apostles but for all of us, for every Christian.
John 15 18 ‘If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.
Following Jesus will bring us troubles! And hardships and distresses!
If we have never experienced any kind of opposition or persecution for being Christians, we have been doing it wrong!
Hopefully we won’t have had to endure the same difficulties as Paul could talk about from his own experience. 5 in beatings and imprisonments.
But we may in our small way have caused a few riots
and riots;
For ministers
I love this extract from the diary of John Wesley
From the Diary of John Wesley
Sunday, A.M., May 5 Preached in St. Anne’s. Was asked not to come back anymore.
Sunday, P.M., May 5 Preached in St. John’s. Deacons said “Get out and stay out.”
Sunday, A.M., May 12 Preached in St. Jude’s. Can’t go back there, either.
Sunday, A.M., May 19 Preached in St. Somebody Else’s. Deacons called special meeting and said I couldn’t return.
Sunday, P.M., May 19 Preached on street. Kicked off street.
Sunday, A.M., May 26 Preached in meadow. Chased out of meadow as bull was turned loose during service.
Sunday, A.M., June 2 Preached out at the edge of town. Kicked off the highway.
Sunday, P.M., June 2 Afternoon, preached in a pasture. Ten thousand people came out to hear me.

If a minister has not caused a few riots they have not being doing their job properly.
For every Christian: we cannot hope or expect to go through life without making some waves and rocking some boats. Just keeping our heads down is not an option for Christians. We cannot be secret disciples. Either the discipleship will kill the secret or the secret will kill the discipleship.
in hard work,
For ministers: working hours for ministers. Discussions in minister’s groups about “work-life balance”.
For every Christian: Living the Christian life will be hard work – fitting everything in. Doing the jobs that need to be doing behind the scenes. Going the extra mile.
sleepless nights and hunger;
For minister and for every Christian:

PAUL’S VIRTUES

6 in purity,
For ministers: concern for holiness e.g. drinking
For every Christian: – place of holiness
understanding,
For ministers: declining importance of growing in understanding, Bible knowledge, continuing ministerial development. Focus instead on management and leadership and publicity
For every Christian: growing understanding
patience
For ministers: we all need patience – some try to run church like a big business and delegate pastoral care so that the ordinary people never get to see “the big man” at all. Perhaps that same tendency built into the institutions of some denomination
For every Christian: “Lord give me patience, and give it to me quickly”. We all need to learn how to be patient with other people, with God, with ourselves
and kindness;
For ministers: ministers can be known for many things, wisdom, preaching. Not enough are known just for being kind.
For every Christian: we all need to work at being kind.
in the Holy Spirit
For ministers: you would think that learning to be open to the Holy Spirit was an essential element of being a minister or a missionary. In practice that is less and less a part of the training ministers receive.
For every Christian: the Holy Spirit is absolutely vital for each one of us in every part of our Christian living and Christian service in the church and in the world.
and in sincere love;
For ministers: again – so few ministers are known for their love.
For every Christian: they will know we are Christians by our love!
7 in truthful speech
For ministers and for every Christian: we should be known as people who will always tell the truth !
and in the power of God;
For ministers and for every Christian: everything we do should be done in God’s strength, not our own efforts. Depending on God and not on our own skills or experience or human wisdom
with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left;
For ministers and for every Christian: weapons for attack and for defence – the armour of God, the Word of God, the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, the weapons of prayer and love and holiness.

HOW WE RESPOND IN SUFFERING IS WHAT MATTERS

The paradoxes of ministry – the difference between the outward appearance and the inward reality. So often two opposites are in tension.
8 through glory and dishonour,
For ministers and for every Christian: it is only by sharing the dishonor of the suffering servant that we will also share his glory. If you will not bear the cross you won’t wear the crown.
bad report and good report;
For ministers: Time was that people respected clergymen. It was seen as an honourable profession. I have seen that change even in my years as a minister. Nowadays preachers are seen as just another dodgy salesman trying to trick you into buying something you don’t want.
For every Christian: Time was Christians were respected in society. Now people are mostly suspicious of Christians.

genuine, yet regarded as impostors;
For ministers and for every Christian: everybody suspects our motives. What’s our angle? What’s in it for us?
9 known, yet regarded as unknown;
Paul experienced this. Appointed by God to be the Apostle to the Gentiles he had to start again from scratch everywhere he went. In a way that is true for every minister or missionary when we move to a new situation.
dying, and yet we live on; For ministers and for every Christian: we have talked about carrying about in our bodies the dying of Christ so that the life of Christ may be seen in us.
For Paul that meant coming close to death on many occasions.
beaten, and yet not killed; Hopefully that will never have to be our experience.
= “knocked down but not knocked out”
But we may all have to experience what it means to be
10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;
Here is the challenge, to know the joy of the Lord in the midst of all the sorrows of life
poor, yet making many rich;
For ministers and for every Christian: that would probably not be the lifestyle we would choose. But we are followers of the Son of Man who had no place to lay his head, no home in this world who gave up all the riches of heaven to share in our poverty so that we might become rich..

So here is Paul’s defence of his ministry. An example and an inspiration to ministers and missionaries and indeed to every Christian.

4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

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