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A Little Ocean Ambiance
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Doctrinal Writings
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Dr. Richard Flanders
Juniata Baptist Church
Vassar, Michigan
"Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God." (II Corinthians 4:1-2)
This chapter in the Bible (II Corinthians 4) tells us that folks who have a New Testament ministry must guard against the temptation to quit! That's what the word "faint" means in verse 1-to throw in the towel, to quit doing what we ought to do! You can get tired of doing the right things. Remember what Galatians 6:9 says.
"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."
That verse teaches that a person can "be weary in well doing" (tired of doing the right thing). Yet if he will not "faint," God says that "in due season" he shall "reap." It's hard to labor unrewarded, and we can grow weary of it. Certainly we ought to keep on doing what we ought to be doing even if we see no positive results, no visible fruits of our labor. But God says that "in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." In other words, every one of us must keep in mind that the harvest doesn't come the day after planting. Farming requires patience, and patient continuance in well doing! Results will come, but it will often take time to see them. But we will see them "if we faint not." We will have a harvest if we don't quit first!

It is a great privilege to have a New Testament ministry. The chapter before the one we are studying describes the glories of ministry under the New Covenant. Verses 6 through 8 of Chapter 3 call it the ministry "of the Spirit" which "giveth life." Verses 9 and 10 call it the ministry "of righteousness." The truth is that preaching the grace of God produces righteousness in people's lives far more effectively than any legalistic system. Verses 11 through 18 call New Testament ministry "glorious," and that it is. All the elaborate and beautiful Old Testament rituals were but types and figures of what we can do in reality! They had the oil; we have God's Spirit. They sprinkled the blood of animals; we preach the redeeming blood of God's Son. They cleansed ceremonial uncleanness; we have part in cleansing souls from sin! How strange that we are tempted to quit.

There is real harm in quitting a ministry. Some men enter into a work for God with the idea that they will "try it out." They start, but they don't finish, because the results they want to see do not come soon enough. Or they quit because continuing requires enduring hardship. But when they quit, people are hurt, faith is discouraged, and the glory of God is not seen. Verse 1 says, "as we have received mercy, we faint not." We perform our ministry for the Lord because of His mercy toward us. Remember Romans 12:1.

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."
Quitting a ministry is therefore a very bad thing. It shows ingratitude for Christ's mercy. Quitting is both harmful and sinful, and we all need to guard against it!

Please understand, however, what "quitting" is. It's not changing, because sometimes the Lord directs us to change ministries. Quitting isn't stepping down from a ministry because sin has disqualified us. Preachers whose moral failure has destroyed their credibility to pastor should not hide behind the "don't-quit" message as they refuse to do the right thing. Resigning is not "quitting" if the reasons are Biblical. Quitting as opposed in II Corinthians 4 is stopping a ministry work because of frustration, disappointment, difficulty, or weariness. It is cutting short the doing of God's will for one's life and service. Some have done it, and some have done it often. We need to quit quitting! In this wonderful chapter we are told three things everybody with a New Testament ministry ought to do in order to keep from quitting. Actually, every Christian has a ministry from the Lord, although not all of us are fulfilling it. Some are not fulfilling their ministries because they have quit. Don't fall into that trap. Here is what to do in order to stay at it.

Hold to the highest standards of ministry.

Paul was an honest, sincere, and selfless servant of the Lord, and his high standards kept him going. Notice what he said.
"Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God." (verses 1 and 2)
His not fainting was directly connected to his renouncing dishonesty. Believe it or not, people ministering for Christ are tempted to be deceitful. I never suspected this until I got into the ministry. Some preachers exaggerate in their illustrations in order to create an effect. Some who minister exaggerate in the reports of their results. Some missionaries deceive in their prayer letters. Some churches stretch numbers. Some in the ministry are not upright in the handling or reporting of their finances. Some lie to cover up their misdeeds. There are works going on in the name of Jesus that are built upon dishonesty, craftiness, and deceit. Sooner or later sincere servants of God run into situations like this, and sometimes there is the temptation to be drawn into it. Let me suggest however that deceitful ministry won't last. For one thing, serving sinfully never has the blessing of God. We can't fool God, even if we can fool His people! Those who lower their ethical standards have a real problem staying at it because the Lord isn't with them. Paul had "renounced the hidden things of dishonesty" as a working principle in his ministry.

For another thing, everybody has a conscience! Violating one's conscience from day to day as one goes through the motions of working for Christ will wear down even a hearty soul. "Walking in craftiness" is a wearying business. Beyond these reasons, some are forced to quit because they have been caught at "handling the word of God deceitfully." The fact is that if pastors, missionaries, and evangelists, just maintained themselves as decent men, many more would stay in the ministry. The Book of Job is about a man who retained his integrity through many trials and temptations (See Job 2:9-10 and 31:6). Are you such a person? Decent, moral, and ethical Christians overcome the greatest obstacles to staying in the service of the Lord. Paul's high standards not only related to ethics, but also to sincerity. He and his co laborers worked with open faces and transparent lives. Their rule was "by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God" (v. 2). Verses 3 through 6 go into how the light generated by an open and sincere ministry pierces into the darkness of Satan's realm. In I Thessalonians 2, Paul further describes the sincerity of his ministry.

"Our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: but as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness: nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ." (verses 3-6)
Paul's ministry was not only honest and sincere, but also, following in the footsteps of Christ, it was selfless and sacrificial.
"For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake." (II Corinthians 4:5)
In this world of con-men in every field and on every level, people are looking for the real thing. Some have despaired that such a thing even exists. If our ministry is "on the level" and truly Christlike, it will touch many hearts and lives. Also it will last. Maintaining high standards make a ministry durable. Understand the role of trials in the ministry. In verses 7 through 12 of II Corinthians 4, the Apostle Paul reveals the fact that troubles and trials play an important part in making a ministry effective. Many years ago, I preached a sermon to a group of preachers in Canada on the subject, "Troubled on Every Side." Of course it came from II Corinthians 4, and the title is found in verse 8. The idea was that preachers will always have big problems. Battles you fight in the early years of a pastorate you will probably have to fight again later. Trials that almost killed you one year will probably be followed by a different kind of trial the next year. Let me say that I didn't receive a good response from the men at that meeting, but let me also say that I told the truth! Study carefully what Paul was saying.
"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body." (verses 7-10)
We are like the soldiers in Gideon's army, with "a trumpet in every man's hand, with empty pitchers and lamps within the pitchers" (See Judges 7:16-20). When the trumpets sound, the earthen pitchers are to be broken and the lamps held high. This was the key to victory over the Midianites, and it is the key to victory in the Christian ministry. We have the "treasure" of "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God" within "earthen vessels" (II Corinthians 4:5-7). The Holy Spirit of God lives within our bodies of clay. When those vessels are broken by troubles, perplexity, persecution, and seeming defeat, the light of the life of Jesus can be seen in us (verses 8-10). Christians who are not distressed by trouble, nor in despair about perplexities, nor forsaken when persecuted, nor destroyed by defeat, show to the world that Holy One which is in them. It is part of the ministry! It's the part that makes it effective in touching others.
"For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you." (verses 11-12)
When you understand that trouble comes not only from the devil and bad people, but also by the design of the Lord, this knowledge will help sustain you in your trials and keep you from quitting. Many quit because they don't know this truth. Some start God's work thinking it will be easy. It never is, as far as the occurrence of difficulty is concerned. But the Lord Jesus assured us that His "yoke is easy" (Matthew 11:29-30) in the sense that working with Him lightens our load. He helps us carry it.

Attend daily to eternal things.

This admonition is the theme of the last part of Chapter 4, verses 13 through 18. Those with New Testament ministries need to renew "the inward man . . . day by day" (v. 16). "For this cause we faint not," Paul said. The daily renewal of his spiritual life kept him going. Many quit a spiritual task for the same reason that certain vehicles are stopped on the side of the road: they ran out of fuel. Quality time alone with God is the source of power for anyone performing ministry. Jesus said that we need to renew our discipleship daily (Luke 9:23). He also said that we need to pray daily (Luke 11:2-3). Get up early in the morning and renew your spiritual life in the Word and in prayer. Do it daily. II Corinthians 4:17 says that daily renewal will minimize present afflictions and maximize future rewards in our minds. This effect will keep us from quitting. Verse 18 says that we should look at invisible, eternal things and not at visible, temporal things. This will happen as we cultivate a healthy inner life through daily experiences with God. Servants of God with strong spiritual lives endure, and their work has eternal effects.

These three principles will help workers in God's harvest to quit quitting. Have you quit? Are you about to quit? Remedy the situation and revive your ministry for the Lord by adopting high standards, by learning the purpose of trials, and by improving your daily communion with God. Let II Corinthians 4 get you and keep you in the center of God's will.

Monthly Article
November 2002
by Dr. Rick Flanders
currently Pastor of
Juniata Baptist Church
Juniata Baptist Church
5656 Washburn Road
Vassar, MI 48768
(517) 823-7848

Dr. Rick Flanders Biographical Data

Converted in 1963 through a radio ministry.
Earned B.A. and M.A. degrees from Bob Jones University.
Honorary D.D. from Pensacola Christian College.
Pastor at Juniata Baptist Church since 1973.
On BCPM Board, (Baptist Church Planting Ministry)
and also MACS. (Michigan Association of Christian School)

Articles published in the;
Sword of the Lord
Baptist Preacher,
Christian View of the News,
Pulpit Helps,
Maranatha Watchman
Church Bus News,
and other national periodicals.

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