Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham's descendants? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 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. (II Corinthians 11:22-28)
Paul’s message to the Corinthians regarding his suffering is remarkable in two ways. First of all, he had obviously faced considerable torment for his faith. Second, he refused to whine or seek pity – if this was the price for passionately serving Christ, Paul was willing to pay. In our own faith walk, we can learn from the apostle’s commitment.
We serve according to God’s will, not our own. In Acts 9:6, God told Paul on the road to Damascus, “It will be told you what you must do.” We are to seek the Lord’s direction and timing instead of choosing the ministry that seems best to us. Committing to do whatever He asks requires courage, but anything less is putting limitations on our obedience.
We serve according to our gifts, not our talents. A spiritual gift is the special endowment God gives us to serve where He calls. Talents may be useful in His work, but His gifts equip us for success. Natural skill wasn’t what made Paul a powerful preacher. In fact, he spoke of the uselessness of his abilities and pedigree in comparison to knowing and serving Christ. (Philippians 3:4–9)
We serve focused on God, not on the work. Paul excelled at remaining Christ – centered, but this is where many people fall apart. We get caught up in scheduling, responsibility, and accolades, which can make us lose sight of the true purpose – reaching the needy and the lost.
Doing “church work” can stroke the ego but drain the body. If we keep focused and serve out of our gifts, service will be satisfying, even when it is hard or painful.