“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.” —2 Cor. 4:1
During this particular time of year, it’s easy to become disheartened. The beauties of fall are faded, and winter is on our doorstep in Minnesota. Maybe you’re remembering a loved one you lost this year who won’t be at home for this upcoming holiday season. Maybe work has slowed down, and you are nervous about losing your job with the current economy. You might be discouraged by the current political climate, the attack on Israel in the Middle-East, or other world events. Or you’re disheartened even more by the lack of spiritual life and fervor in your community, state, or in this country. You might also be a student slogged with papers coming due at inopportune times. Maybe you’re a homeschooling mom whose kids just can’t seem to pay attention, no matter what you do. Maybe your ministry is not flourishing the way you would hope, and the people you’re ministering to are not experiencing deep satisfaction in Christ as you hope they would.
It is easy in these sorts of circumstances to lose heart. Our outward circumstances can easily weigh us down and make gospel ministry feel like a chore—like there is no point in continuing on in it. Paul faced similar circumstances when he wrote 2 Corinthians, though maybe even more so. In the letter, Paul is writing to a congregation who, at least in part, is questioning the validity of his apostolic ministry and message. He also has faced great hostility and suffering as he has sought to proclaim the gospel to the gentiles. Confronted with such opposition, it would be easy for Paul to lose heart, to give up. However, when we read the letter, we see Paul is not in that sort of state. In fact, quite the opposite. In 2 Cor. 4:1–5:5, we see Paul note emphatically that he does not lose heart but maintains his courage in gospel ministry (2 Cor. 4:1, 16; 5:6). I see at least ten reasons that Paul gives, whether directly or indirectly, for why he should not lose heart. While Paul is specifically speaking to his own Apostolic ministry, these ten reasons should stir us up, strengthen us, and cause us to not lose heart in our own gospel-ministry contexts.
- The ministry of the gospel we have received is from God (2 Cor. 4:1). If God has given it to us, then he can strengthen us for it.
- God alone is our judge, so we need not feel tempted to tamper with our message or alter God’s Word to make it seemingly more effective (2 Cor. 4:2).
- God is able to open the eyes of those that Satan has blinded (2 Cor. 4:3–6). He does so through the power with which he created the world. There is no greater power on earth.
- When God uses that power to open up blind eyes, he does it through weak vessels like us (2 Cor. 4:7). Such weakness magnifies that power and reveals it for what it is: surpassing all earthly power. Amazing.
- The life of Jesus is manifested in those to whom we minister the gospel through our suffering or even our death (2 Cor. 4:8–12).
- The resurrection of Jesus guarantees our bodily resurrection, and our faith in that promise gives us boldness to speak this gospel message (2 Cor. 4:13–14).
- Our message will bring grace to more and more, resulting in due thanks to God, which in turn, glorifies him (2 Cor. 4:15).
- Though our bodies decay and break down, our inner person is being transformed and renewed every day to reflect Jesus (2 Cor. 4:16).
- The afflictions we experience now are the simple and momentary means by which we receive unimaginable and eternal glory with Jesus (2 Cor. 4:17–18).
- God has prepared for us resurrected bodies (tents) that are guaranteed for us since God has given to us his Spirit (2 Cor. 5:1–5). We need not fear difficulties before us.
At Bethlehem College and Seminary, our prayer is that all of our students, whether in the seminary, the college, or our evening programs, would see truths like this in the Bible for themselves, that they would hold fast to them, by faith, and through them be transformed into the likeness of Christ and equipped for gospel ministry in whatever sphere of life they might be in.
In particular, as the Director of Evening Programs, I long to see each of our evening students grow as a disciple of Christ while studying our Sovereign God and Sacred Book. In light of this, I want to encourage you to consider whether or not you might be a part of what we’re doing here, not just as a supporter of the school, but of one who receives instruction and training in gospel ministry yourself. Consider learning more about our evening programs and how they might serve you, by attending our upcoming information night at The North Church at 6pm on November 27th or use one of the links below to learn more or apply to one of our evening programs.
Take heart. Be of good cheer. Do not let your present circumstances blind you to the eternal glories that await you as a child of God, that is, to the eternal joys and life that is yours forever with Christ. Let the truths above spur you on in your present circumstances to even greater faithfulness, greater fervor, greater courage in proclaiming the gospel. Whether you’re teaching the Bible to your children at home, seeking to faithfully work in the office, serving as a lay-elder at your church, or pouring into your family in the latter years of your life, don’t give up. The very gospel that we proclaim, which promises to us resurrection life, eternal joy, and relief from our suffering, is also the very means by which we continue to proclaim it. Because of it, we do not lose heart.
Lance Kramer, Th.M.
Director of Evening Programs
- Pray that our students, faculty, and staff would not lose heart at Bethlehem College and Seminary, but be strengthened for gospel ministry.
- Pray that the Lord would equip students in our evening programs to be faithful men and women who can endure hardship for the sake of the gospel.
- Pray that the Lord would guide you or others to consider taking classes at Bethlehem College and Seminary, especially in our evening programs.
- Pray that the Lord would bring in the funds needed to support The Serious Joy Scholarship for each of our students this academic year.
- Pray for those organizing and those planning to attend Serious Joy: The Bethlehem Conference for Pastors.