Leave it all on the Field
Leave it all on the Field
Words of Faith 10-24-17
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2017
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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2 Corinthians 6
 We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.  Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;  in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger;  in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love;  in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left;  through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors;  known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed;  sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
Paul was concerned more about defending the ministry, the diakonia or "service", than defending himself. He was careful to live with transparency, but he also made the plea for reconciliation with absolute abandon. We see that here. He gave everything for this call.
A coach will sometimes give a team these final words of advice before a game, "Win or lose, leave it all on the field". Of course, Paul's ministry was not a game, but he certainly "left it all" on the field of battle. He gave all of himself that there was to give. He expended everything as he sought passionately to plead the offer of God before people. This was Paul's only other commendation.
Paul's commendation as an Ambassador was not with degrees, letters or religious credentials. Instead, his life and walk with God commended him both in transparent living and in his tenacity in the face of hardship. Paul simply would not quit. This is was his credential before all. "Who and what he was" was manifestly apparent. All one had to do was look and see an amazing array of circumstances that marked him for God.
These external credentials were hardly the sort the Corinthians would think of or his opponents would like to match. The endurance of Paul in the face of enormous hardship was previously unknown in any Christian circle or missionary effort.
Although it is not clear in most English translations including the NIV, verses 3-10 are directly related to the main assertion "we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain" in verse 1.
Paul's catalogue of suffering demonstrates the way in which he worked together with God in making the appeal so as not to have received God's grace in vain. All this reminds us that the Ambassadorship of the Kingdom is a call to live for others as an embodiment of the One who died for them. Such a call will involve endurance and disregard for the changing circumstances and opinions of others. Through this endurance the Ambassador for Christ exemplifies both Christ's love for his people and what it means to live for Christ in return.
For us the quality of one's life and one's willingness to endure suffering for the sake of the gospel are expressions of one's love for Christ. Paul did not shrink back from basing his appeals squarely on his character in Christ. Paul was not afraid to turn the spotlight on himself. Rather than needing to commend himself with letters of recommendation from others or with self-generated bragging, his life as a servant of God commends his message and confirms his calling.
In the end, the commendation that counts is the faithfulness of God in one's life, as evidenced in one's own faithful endurance. Paul could proclaim that the pattern of his life did not put a "stumbling block in anyone's path".
It is important to realize that affliction as such does not reveal God in the world. Suffering and oppression in themselves do not mark one out as representing Christ in the world. Paul had no romantic notion of suffering; he suffered too much for that. Indeed, by itself, suffering is the consequence of sin. To experience suffering is to participate in the evil of our fallen world. Left to itself, suffering is not a noble and purifying virtue.
What distinguishes the suffering of the righteous from the suffering rampant in the world is the transforming power of God's sustaining presence in their lives. Those whom God calls to suffer on behalf of others as an extension of Christ's love are not being called to masochism, but to a mission. They are not summoned to be miserable for God. God transforms their suffering into a platform for profound joy. They are called to be a mediator for the world. Self-denial for Christ's sake is not a sacrifice, but the pathway to gaining life itself.
At the end of the day, Paul left it all on the field. He had fought the good fight. He had given everything and the Lord had sustained him through hardship and suffering. In reality, we don't know how we will respond to hardship or suffering until we are there. We grow through it and He uses it and only He can get us through it. All that is a testimony to God and His unfailing love.
Father God, thank You for being with me in the hard times. Thank You for preparing me so that I might stand up to the hardships that come. Thank You for carrying me through and bringing me out. I trust You to get me through. Thank Your for Paul, his testimony and his commitment. Because of his faithfulness, I have heard the truth. In Jesus' Name.