Sermon by Daniel L. Sonnenberg | July 19, 2015
But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.”
14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. 16 That is why we never give up. (2 Co. 4:13-16 NLT)
Last time we learned that God has ordained that people involved in the ministry of the gospel, who live by faith in Jesus, will suffer in various ways, and that God’s purpose in that suffering is so that we will discover and demonstrate to others that any power or glory or working of the Spirit in us comes from God, not us. Also, that tho we will suffer, God will always deliver us from those sufferings. Also this suffering points us to Christ’s unique manner of salvation, and that our suffering gives life to others.
This time we learn about what motivates us to keep going in ministry in spite of trials. We continue because of what we believe, because of what we know, and because of the promised results of continuing.
Have you ever become burned out in ministry? Or more likely, have you ever become disenchanted with the church – with the leadership of a particular church or the members of a particular church – or with God himself because of something that happened in your life?
It might seem strange or even mean, but God often allows such things to happen to us – as we said last time – to show us and show others that his power is perfected in our weakness. So that we can say with Paul, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”
The question is, when we are in that weak position – hurt, disenchanted, discouraged – how do we go on? What motivates us to continue? How can we say with Paul in vs. 1 and 16, “…we never give up…?”
We continue because of what we believe, because of what we know, and because of the promised results of continuing in the ministry of the gospel.
- Because of what we believe – that God delivers his people
King David, in spite of his weaknesses – and he had many – was a man of faith. Paul recognized that fact when he quotes the David from Psalm 116 here in v. 13, “I believed, therefore I spoke…” David had been critically ill, but God delivered him from death and to this he bears testimony. He ‘believed’ God had done this, and therefore he ‘spoke’ of it (see Ps. 116.12-19). David testified to God’s saving actions because he believed that God had healed him.
Though Paul was in a different circumstance he imitated David, continuing to speak, to preach the word of God because he believed God, specifically, that God delivers his people through trials. Paul himself has seen God deliver him from all kinds of trials – shipwrecks, dangers… – so he too could testify to God’s delivering power.
When Beth was going through a period of depression over 20 years ago because of some things that had happened to her in the church, she discovered that a number of other women, mostly older than she was at the time, had gone through a similar depression earlier in their lives. They were able to say to her, “God brought me through it, he will bring you through it too.” And in time, she too came through it, and now she can testify to that fact to others. When we’re in the midst of such difficulties, it’s hard to believe that we’ll come out of it. That’s why we need others to testify to God’s delivering power to us. And why we need to testify it to others.
- Because of what we know – that God raised Jesus from the dead and he will raise us justified in the final resurrection
Why, besides our own experience, do we believe that God delivers his people? It’s because of what we know. We know that since God raised Jesus from the dead, he will raise us from the dead as well, and that we will stand justified in the judgment. This is the essence of the gospel, the good news. Because of Jesus’ substitutionary death, all who trust in him by faith will stand justified on the Day of Judgment. Look at v. 14. “We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you.”
The res of Jesus and believers is one eschatological (harvest-like) event of which Jesus’ res was the first fruits. (1 Co. 15:20-22) “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”
Missionaries and pastors must, like the apostle and the psalmist before him, FIRST be believers in G’s saving actions for them, and THEN, on that basis, speak. Those who speak must have a FIRSTHAND, not a secondhand faith in the G who delivers his servants.
Have you reached that place in your life yet? When/how did that happen?
We speak – we continue the ministry of the gospel – because of what we believe – that God delivers his people; and because of what we know – that because G raised Jesus he will raise us justified.
- Because of the promised results – others will benefit and God will be glorified
Others will benefit
It’s one thing to trust in God’s saving promises based on our own experience and especially based on the experience of Christ. But it’s another thing to believe that God will save others THROUGH us. But that’s what we are promised here, that through us others will benefit from our continuing in the ministry of the gospel.
Look at the first part of v. 15. “All of this is for your benefit that God’s grace may reach more and more people…” God’s grace became concrete to the Corinthians through Paul’s suffering and preaching. P’s speaking and suffering for the Corinthians EMBODIED and GAVE ACCESS TO, the grace of God, in order that a greater number of Cors would believe and trust in the saving work of Christ.
When we look back on what feels like an unsuccessful period of ministry in our lives, we shouldn’t be content to look only at the visible results – how many people did we apparently impact, how much did their lives apparently change – because there’s more to the story than that. There are invisible results that we may never know. God’s word produces spiritual fruit in people’s lives just as rain produces fruit in the natural world. (Isa. 55:10-11) “The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.”
Grace is what comes down vertically from God to and among his people. And it comes down often through you and me to others.
Glory to God
Thanksgiving is what goes up vertically from his people to God. The second promised result is that God will be glorified. As God’s grace flows to more and more people, “there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.” (v. 15)
Paul’s mission in life since his conversion on the Damascus Road was to glorify God for his saving grace. Every true believer’s purpose in life is to glorify God. No matter how angry or discouraged we become because of the trials, we still desire to glorify the God who sent his Son to save us.
Paul longed that men and women who ‘neither glorified [G] as God nor gave thx to him’ (Rom 1.21) would, in ever-growing numbers, ‘turn to the Lord [Jesus X]’ (3.16) and express thankfulness to G, and so glorify him. The glorification of G is the APOSTOLIC AIM, but it is also the PRIVILEGE AND DUTY OF EVERY BELIEVER. The Westminster Shorter Catechism reminds us that the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.
Ps. 34:3. Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together.
Ps. 69:30. I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.
Ps. 86:12. I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.
Rom. 15:6. with one mind and one voice you…glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Pet. 2:12. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
So Paul can conclude in v. 16 “That is why we never give up.”
Serving in ministry or burned out in ministry. Renew your purpose in the ministry of the gospel. Be encouraged, as you continue or resume serving, God’s grace will reach more and more people, and God will be glorified.
Do you need to be renewed in your motivation for service to others and to God right now? How can we pray for you tonight/today?
Considering serving – find your purpose in the gospel. Make grace concrete for others and for God’s glory. How can we help you get started? You continue in the ministry of the gospel by supporting the local church and its ministry of the word and sacraments. Those who just stay home neither support the public reading and preaching of Scripture so that others might hear and believe, nor do they participate in “proclaiming the Lord’s death and resurrection till he comes” as we do corporately in the Lord’s Supper. And you continue in the ministry of the gospel by utilizing your spiritual gifts in order to help one another.
Being served. Not yet ready to serve overtly. Give thanks to God for grace received through service of others so God will be glorified.