The Trials and Results of Christian Ministry, part 1
In our passage today, Paul talks about treasure stored in “earthen vessels”—clay pots. The Gospel is a great treasure, and those who have the Gospel and who proclaim it are like clay pots. Unfortunately, clay pots are weak and easily damaged. Paul tells us in this text about some of the damage that he’s experienced in Gospel ministry.
One theme that is very clear in the book of 2 Corinthians is that Christian ministry is not easy. At the beginning of the church age, as believers were spreading the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire, they faced enormous obstacles. They endured persecution, harassment, and opposition. They faced imprisonment and death in many cases. Yet this opposition could not prevent the early believers from spreading the Gospel message far and wide.
Today, we are facing increased hostility from our culture. Large parts of our society have rejected the Bible, and those who still believe in biblical principles will face increasing opposition to our views. The Christian worldview is now counter-cultural. We live in a post-Christian world. Many today see biblical morality as old fashioned, odd, and even offensive. The majority in our country no longer values the Bible, the church, or Christian views of morality. Many promote and defend wicked, anti-biblical, perverse and profane ideas and behaviors. So we face considerable opposition and hostility to the Gospel message and to the Christian lifestyle—just like Christians did almost 2000 years ago.
This section of the text talks about the trials and the results of Christian ministry. Paul tells us about some of the troubles that he experienced, but also about the results of his ministry. And the obvious implication here is that the trouble is worth the costs because of the results. If people are being saved and God is receiving the glory, then all the trouble is worth it.
Likewise, if we engage in Christian ministry, we will experience some of the same afflictions, opposition, and trials listed here. We probably won’t face imprisonment and death, at least, not in the near-term future; but we will have problems. But these problems should not stop us from participating in Christian ministry. The work of God is costly, but the results are worth the efforts. It’s a great privilege to contain the treasure of the Gospel and to convey that message to others. That’s the theme of this great passage—containing and conveying the Gospel message. We have the message, and it’s our duty to speak that message to others.
Perhaps some here today who would consider pursuing Christian ministry as a vocation. I would highly encourage you to contemplate that option in spite of the high costs of vocational Christian ministry. Any efforts that we expend for Christ and for his people are worth the accompanying trials.
Let’s consider what Paul says about the trials and the results of Christian ministry. Today we’ll look at the trials and hardships often involved when we engage in ministry, and then next time we’ll look at the positive results that make the costs worth the effort.