"Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamaties, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger, by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise." - Paul to the Corinthians
What a list! And what an intimidating passage. Does my life reflect anything of Paul's? Honestly, I'm not sure. Though I'm sure the Spirit is moving in me and taking me in Godly directions.
But what pops me between the eyeballs ("You're my creative writing hero Phil! I love your word-smithy. Bravo, bravo, applause, applause, fog-horn, applause." "No, no, I quiet down everyone...") in this passage is Paul's statement of putting "no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry." With so many people turned off from Christianity and the church these days, this statement and following description is truly a refreshing take on what it means to live.
In the list he mentions "the power of God." I'm glad he includes it, because without it it'd be a impossible list.
The question I want to challenge myself with is "Am I willing to follow God in such a way that I put no obstacles in peoples way?" The way being the "Way" by which the early Christians were called. Umm, no.
I'm a sinner. Duh! But the power of God is at work in me, and I make it my aim to reflect Christ, to live in the light of Christ and to enjoy God's companionship. I believe this will draw others. There's no better way to witness than finding your sufficiency in Christ.
I'll give you a recent example from this sinner's life. And I got a hug and a kiss out of this one from Melissa when I related it to her! ("Store up you treasures in heaven Phil." "But are we going to be allowed to get kisses from beautiful women in heaven? Hmm?") So, I am often tempted to spend frivolously on candy. And I had that craving yesterday. But I decided to test God's sufficiency for me and resist the temptation to wittle away at our finances, which are already tight. In doing so I suffered the "affliction" of being without chocolate, and showed kindness to my wife's wishes which are "I'll kill you if you spend any more money on candy!" It was no huge victory, no big affliction (I had chocolate waiting at home for me), but it was a step in God's way. And I believe it was a light to Melissa.
I hate it when pastors come up with illustrations like mine. "I really struggle with speeding" etc. etc. So I'm sorry for my poor illustration. But if we lived like my illustration all the time, not just giving up stuff that keeps people from seeing Christ in us, but pro-actively loving others in the midst of hardship and being mis-understood (slander) for our sacrificial lives, I believe we would find an intimacy with God that is not only sufficient, but could be best reflected with "my cuppeth runneth overeth."
In the west the bar is set pretty low for living a life that is different and Christ-centered. That's why it's sad that people are turned off from the church. It reflects that people are not living the Gospel. Living lives that are filled with the radical (yes I used the buz word "radical," which I hate) love of Christ. Perhaps the American church has fallen out of love with Christ. So we heap up obstacles that no one in their right mind can get over.
So I wax and wane, and whine! I am so grateful that we serve the God who climbed over every obstacle to rescue us. Out of this gratitude and joy let us clear a path of love toward this world that so desperately needs Jesus. After all Paul was just a dude. He was no saint. He simply knew "the Dude." Let's fall in love with Jesus again.
OK, enough preaching, you probably don't read my blog to get preached at. But sometimes I have to preach at myself. Sorry.