Ministry Progress in the Light of Difficulty.

God always and in every place enables us to carry on effective ministry despite difficulties.

2 Corinthians 2:12-17 gives 4 truths we can use to maintain effective ministry as a church during these providentially difficult times.

The Balanced Progress of Gospel Purpose (verses 12-13)

In the midst of difficulty, we still move forward. As we trust God's sovereignty as His children, there will be unavoidable ministry trouble, but that should never make Gospel progress expendable.

The word "door" is not common in Scripture, but it means 2 things: God allowed them to walk into an opportunity, and God was the one who opened it for them. In Colossians 4:3, Paul asks believers to pray that a door of opportunity would open for him after release from prison. When we pray, we can expect something to happen. God loves to answer prayers with Gospel progress and fruit that will remain.

In Acts 14:27, Paul and Barnabas acknowledged a door that God opened for faith among the Gentiles. They expected response to the message. This expectation could not be thwarted or even hindered by difficulty.

Paul's personal agony was coupled with the Gospel opportunity. Commentators described this as terror, intense anxiety, harassment of soul, and extreme unsettledness. He wanted to see how the Corinthians responded to his letter of correction, but Titus wasn't there to give his report. Spirit-filled Christians should be that concerned about the state of other believers who they disciple and their obedience to the Word.

Paul's experience illustrates the dual nature of personal ministry. Gospel opportunity never comes without difficulty.

Balanced Gospel progress requires trusted ministry partners. Paul calls Titus his brother and "true child in the faith" (Galatians 2:3, Titus 1:4). He was devoted to the Corinthian church (2 Corinthians 7:15, 8:16). Paul left Titus in Crete as a trusted leader (Titus 1:5). He was with Paul in his final imprisonment as a loyal partner even to Paul's death (2 Timothy 4:10). Church history tells us how his pastoral successor, Andreas Cretensis, eulogized him as "the first foundation-stone of the Cretan church; the pillar of the truth; the stay of the faith; the never silent trumpet of evangelistic truth; the exalted echo of Paul's own voice."

Titus was someone Paul could trust to endure ministry agony together. God never intended any saint to live the Christian life or enjoy Gospel progress alone. Refusing to do so is the epitome of arrogance and pride. Leaders aren't worth much if they aren't also learners.

When focused on balanced Gospel progress, uncertainty pulls us together and never drives us apart. The tougher the road to Gospel progress, the tighter the bond among God's people. We offend each other because we are human, but it is foolish to go alone as a result.

In following weeks, we will study the following points:

The Divine Influence of Gospel Purpose (verse 14)
The Holy Honor of Gospel Purpose (verses 15-16)
The Undiluted Purity of Gospel Purpose (verse 17)

Application Points

  • Paul was in agony waiting for Titus' report on the Corinthians. Have you ever been this concerned about someone's response to the Word of God? Are you keeping up with those you disciple in this time of disrupted connection? When you do face this same struggle, wait and pray and continue to pursue Gospel progress. Trust God's sovereignty.
  • Do you have a trusted Gospel partner? With whom do you share the joys and agonies of the Christian life?
  • Have you laid down the mantle of discipleship in the midst of this year's uncertainty? Please pick it back up. Reconnect with the person you have been discipling, or being discipled by!
  • When you join with another believer to study God's Word, pray that He would open doors of opportunity for the Gospel in our congregation and community. Expect Him to answer with a great work!