Far too many Christians dismiss the reality and significance of the truth that we are “labourers together with God.” Significantly, Paul uses that expression at the beginning of his first epistle to the church at Corinth (3:9), immediately after excoriating them for their manifestation of a divisive spirit that suggests that they are anything but working in harmonious concert with God (see I Cor. 3:1-9). It is especially poignant, then, to read what Paul writes to this church in the second epistle preserved by inspiration.
Paul’s circumstances. “For when we were come into Macedonia,” Paul writes the Corinthians, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears” (II Cor. 7:5). Paul does not elaborate further on these difficulties. But the brief compounding of words—no rest, troubles on every side, fightings without, fears within—paints a picture of a man under fierce attack, completely besieged, surrounded by enemies from without intent on his destruction, and battling traitors (his own weak flesh) from within. Every imaginable natural and spiritual force seemed to be targeting Paul and his work for the Lord. His circumstances are worse than those faced by the defenders of the Alamo. For not only is he facing the massive forces of Santa Anna, so to speak, but unlike those within the Alamo, there are also treacherous forces at work inside the mission walls seeking his annihilation. He is a man in dire straits.
Paul’s succorers. Those at the Alamo were completely decimated by their enemies. What of Paul? “Nevertheless God that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus; And not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you, when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more” (II Cor. 7:6, 7). Paul writes that he has received three means of deliverance. (1) Ultimately, credit for any blessing belongs to the “God of all comfort,” who alone can genuinely refresh us and give substantial peace of heart and mind. And Paul attributes the comfort he received to God. But there is a secondary human comfort that Paul recognizes: (2) Titus, a spiritual son and pupil of Paul, had come. Being able to fellowship with a faithful minister, who had endured and withstood his own series of trials, brought joy to the heart of the afflicted apostle. But Titus was not the final source of Paul’s encouragement, for (3) Titus brought news of the Corinthians and their longing, mourning, and zeal for Paul. As a consequence, Paul’ spirits were lifted and his spiritual victory secured.
Personal application. Final credit for any ministry or service belongs to the Lord. But believers should never dismiss or downplay the significance of the role we play in spiritual service, nor especially the real privilege we share in being “labourers together with God.” Any other view of service either falsely exalts human endeavor or foolishly debases spiritual endeavor. Any true victory is wrought by “the sword of the Lord,” but God graciously assures us “and of Gideon.” And so, some of us are “Tituses,” serving formally, directly, personally, visibly. Many more of us are “Corinthians,” serving invisibly, indirectly, and in a “secondhand” capacity. And yet we get the impression that it was the secondary service that most buoyed the Apostle Paul. Though they did not visit Paul personally, nor communicate with him directly, though they had no opportunity to see firsthand the fruit of their spiritual endeavor, they were, nevertheless, instrumental in Paul’s personal and ministerial victories.
What does it matter where we serve if we serve where God would have us and as He would have us—with Him?
Previous Page | Next Page