Monday, January 4, 2016

We Don't Lose Heart

"Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart."
- 2 Corinthians 4:1

The Apostle Paul's letters to the Corinthians are two of my favorite books in the Bible. They have ministered to me time and again, by reminding me of the gospel, and what it means for my life as a believer and pastor.

Our Weakness

I don't suppose many of you who read my blog are pastors, but you have your own life to face. And unless you're one of the few souls who lead a "charmed life," your life is complicated, difficult, and messy. But if the problem were only outside ourselves, it might not be so hard to bear. But the truth is, we ourselves are complicated, difficult, and messy, because we're often weak, unwise, fragile, confused, and most of all, sinful. We may have friends and counselors, but they will never be able to meet all our needs or compensate for our inadequacies.

Sure, we might not always feel this way. But such times are only just around the corner. In fact, for some people -- those in particularly difficult circumstances, or with a naturally gloomy disposition, or with a troubled personal history that has left deep marks, for example -- the feelings of inadequacy, disappointment, fear, and anger can be overwhelming and can linger for a long time, despite their best efforts to deal with them.

The Importance of Trials

Such times are crucial to our own growth, the encouragement of others, and ultimately, God's glory. It's an immense blessing for a believer to prove to himself and to others that his faith, and the gospel he professes, are real and substantial (Rom. 5:3-5). And that is most clearly seen in the midst of trials. That's why the Apostle James tells us to "Count it all joy... when you meet trials of various kinds" (Jam. 1:3).

Trials present great opportunities for growth, as well as great danger for our souls and ministries. A lack of faith or selfishness can cause a believer to "lose heart" during such times. This, in turn, can have not insignificant consequences.

Focusing on God's Grace

That's why Paul's example is so important to believers. Given the burden of his ministry and the troubles that he continuously faced, he had more reason than anyone to lose heart. Why didn't he?

In 2 Corinthians 4:1, he tells us one reason. Engraved upon his heart was the truth that his ministry -- and his entire life, for that matter -- was only by the grace of God.

We become disheartened when we don't get enough appreciation for our hard work and sacrifice. Grace says we don't deserve any of it.

We become disheartened when people don't respond the way we hoped they would. Grace says it's a privilege just to be used by God at all.

We become disheartened when we feel alone, forgotten, and neglected. Grace says God will never leave His child alone, God will never forget, and God will never neglect.

May the Word of God enable all of us not to lose heart.

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