By Mark A. Taylor
As I write this column on a Sunday afternoon, I’m thinking about the long list of tasks I must accomplish this week. I write such a list every week, and sometimes it makes me weary. On the wrong day it leads me to a prolonged bout of self righteous self pity.
Look how hard I’m working. Who else could handle all I’m trying to accomplish?
But earlier this week I came again across a familiar paragraph of Scripture that reminds me I have nothing to complain about. When we read the apostle Paul’s description of his ministry, you and I can rejoice that we have experienced none of this:
Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches (2 Corinthians 11:24 28).
Why should I demand a ministry without stress when Paul’s was filled with suffering? How can I complain about overtime in the light of Paul’s everyday dangers? When have I lost more than an hour or two of sleep? Or missed more than one meal? Or ever lacked a quick solution for “cold and naked”? (I wouldn’t want to show Paul my overstuffed closet.)
One thing I might have in common with Paul: “daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” We wrestle constantly here about how to produce materials that will meet needs and help churches. But, to be honest, my daily pressure and constant concern are too often about myself more than those we’re serving my schedule, my reputation, my security (or lack of it).
We Americans even those committed to Christian service have bought the advertisers’ pitch that we deserve a life of comfort. But coddling ourselves will never bring the fulfillment that comes from serving others.
Long before the end of his ministry Paul knew that. I’m only beginning to understand it too. “