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Leaders are not meant to be everywhere at once. Nor were they ever meant to fix it all. This session calls us acknowledge our own limitations and be attentive to how Christ enters into the midst of ongoing difficult circumstances.
Comfort and Affliction
So I’m turning to 2 Corinthians 7 and as I’m turning there, I’m thinking about the moment in which our Lord Jesus was in anguish at the Garden of Gethsemane and He sought the companionship of His friends and He found them sleeping. And Luke tells us the reason that they were sleeping and that reason is that they were exhausted because of sorrow. Luke 22:45, “They were exhausted because of sorrow”. And I think about that as we come into Paul’s words here in 2 Corinthians 7, he’s telling us about being downcast and part of the difficulty of finding rest is our ambitions, which we hinted at in our first session, and our resistance or lack of awareness of a covenant rhythm, a Genesis rhythm that’s given to us by the Good Shepherd who makes us lie down and how that is to impact who we are and how we do a day and our way of being in the world as a people of God. But another thing that keeps rest from us is just a convergence of life and that’s happening here in 2 Corinthians. And the Apostle Paul is telling us about that. Hear these words, verse five, “Even when we came into Macedonia “our bodes had no rest, “but we were afflicted at every turn; “fightings without, fear within. “But God, who comforts the downcast, “comforted us by the coming of Titus, “and not only by his coming “but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, “as he told us of your longing, your mourning, “your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.” Let’s pray together. Lord here we are and we ask that your spirit by and with this word would show us the Jesus Paul loved. That you would reveal yourself to us and that you would begin to teach us the communion of this inseparable union of love that you’ve given us and the ways that you bring rest, pockets of true rest. We ask it in your name. Amen.
Affliction in the life of the Apostle Paul
Transparency through honest speech.
Now, to begin with, let’s notice the transparency of the apostle. If you were to say, “Hey Paul, “how ya doin’ today?” He would say, “Well, I’m wore out, I’m exhausted, “I’m afflicted and afraid. I feel threatened. “I don’t know how it’s all gonna work out. “How are you doin’?” What’s it like to encounter a leader in ministry like that? Does it make you afraid? Does it draw you? What’s it like for you to think of yourself as a person? Could you talk like this? Is there someone in your life that you can say, without qualification, “I’m exhausted. I’m afflicted at every turn. “Fears within, fightings without. “I have no rest.” And I mean say that like Paul would’ve said that to Titus and like he’s saying it to this church and to us. To say it without all the God qualifications. “I’m afflicted. “Well I mean, I know God is real and I know He’s my portion. “I’m just afraid. “I mean, I know I can cast my cares upon the Lord “so I’m not saying I’m … We’re just constantly doing PR, making sure the person listening to us knows we’re still faithful to the Lord. What does that tell us about the cultural climate of congregational life? That you would have to do PR if you talked like this to make sure people knew that you were actually faithful when in fact what the scripture is showing us is what faithfulness talks like. There is no breech between the Apostle Paul’s presentation of his gifts and his person like there was with my life and like there are in many of our lives. He’s speaking to us.
Transparency through life as a leader.
And secondly notice, not only is transparency as a leader and what that teaches us about sane speech but notice also he’s a leader, he’s an apostle, and so some of us think when you’re godly, you won’t talk like this and what we’re seeing is that that’s the opposite. Even the most godly, right, the most earnest, the most faithful, even an apostle has no immunity under the sun. He too experiences the limits of being human and the fragility of a fallen world so that even in ministry doing great things for God he’s sad. He uses the word “downcast”, it’s pressured. Where do these convergence of pressures come that we have to get real about and honestly name? They come from several places. Let’s look at them together.