Many times in American history, thousands of soldiers have boarded ships on the east coast of America preparing to travel across deep seas leaving weeping mothers, brow-raised fathers, teary-eyed siblings, wives, husbands and sweethearts in route to distant lands. They were called to serve the land of their upbringing without the privilege or promise of cancellation. They had signed their names on a smooth piece of paper indicating their acceptance of and for the duration of their obligation. They were on active duty, and the ships were keeping their course.
Vividly, Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians a word of concern for those who are ministers (servants) of God. Indeed, it was an acceptable time and a provocative disclosure for Paul’s hearers as they heard the words of his letter. Paul’s journey had not been an easy walk toward the kingdom of God.
If you had known him well, he would have told you about the days he was abased in the bowels of a boat breaking up on all sides. If you had known him well, he would have told you about the numerous lashings and beatings he had received in and near Asia Minor outside and beyond the seaside towns of the Mediterranean shores. If you had known him well, he would have shown you the legion of scars on his back he received in Lystra and the warm blood dripping from his lips when he preached the next day in Derbe. If you had known him well, he would have told you about a messenger who hand-delivered his mail while he was in jail. If you had known him well, Paul would have told you all these things because he was on active duty for the Lord!
Paul was on active duty because he had a sentence of the life and death and resurrection of Christ in his evangelistic missions; therefore, he never was crushed with the despondency that death whispered vigilantly in his ears. He never was crushed with the admission that he had a thorn in his flesh. He never was distraught with the evil that would not let him do good. It was that active duty of Christ mightily and faithfully manifested in Paul’s life which characterized his ministry as an active and dutiful servant of the Lord.
How, then, should the life of ministers on active duty for the Lord be manifested?
I. Manifesting the Grace of God (
Paul emphasizes to his hearers that they are to be reconciled to God before they could be reconciled to Him. As ambassadors for Christ, our appeal is to present ourselves first to God and acknowledge His salvation and grace. Paul’s ministry of reconciliation appealed to the righteousness of God that exudes in the life of one who has been reconciled to God. A ministry of reconciliation removes the guilt and stain of sin through God’s atoning grace. God’s grace is free, and His salvation is available to all.
II. Manifesting the Virtues of God (
Paul left us with his heartaches and seething pains. His blood splattered from the tattered fringes of his life. He had spent a night in the deep, shipwrecked. He had lost his bearing. Yet in everything he labored for the cross.
There will be times in our ministries when we will endure the verbal lashings of those who do not know Christ. There will be times in our ministries when sleeplessness will become our pillows of despair.
III. Manifesting the Love of God (
In our Christian journeys, we will have to go down into the wells of God’s love if we are to become true ministers of reconciliation. There we shall taste and know His goodness and righteousness. There we shall know Him as He is. There we shall know God is still on active duty.
Must Jesus bear this cross alone and the whole world go free? No! There is a cross for you and a cross for me!