2 Corinthians 12:11-21
Paul’s Deep Hurt
I heard long ago, and perhaps I’ve gotten the details a little jumbled, that a pastor’s wife once wrote a book entitled, They Cry, Too, a book about the pain that pastors often endure in the course of pastoring churches. And I remember an associate of mine once telling me that nothing hurts worse than the bite of a sheep. These are true words. Oh, I’m not saying that pastors are angels and there have been many who were more a detriment to the ministry than an asset. But I suppose because ministry in and of itself is by nature so deeply personal that words cut deeper, and hints, suspicions, and gossip (not to mention backroom deals) are all the more painful and so very difficult to endure. No wonder given the low pay and the stress many men walk away from the ministry. It’s sad but true.
In this passage, we see as in none other which Paul wrote, the pain he suffered on behalf of this church. For introducing them to Christ, for teaching them the word of God, for serving as midwife that they may pass from children of wrath to children of God, for not receiving pay for his services and instead providing for his own needs, for confirming the word he spoke through mighty deeds as the Holy Spirit worked through him, in short, for loving them, weeping for them, and praying for them without ceasing, he is rewarded with doubts of his apostleship, insults about his physical stature and lack of eloquence, accusations of being deceitful, and comparisons with false apostles which in the eyes of the Corinthians he comes up short! Yes, Paul is upset. And now, even though he began this letter praising God for the good news he received from Titus about their renewed affections for himself, he is still worried about his upcoming visit. Will there still be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder? Will the same people still be engaging in sexual sin as they were before? Will Paul go there with the intention of building them up only to upbraid them and call them to repentance while they look on jeering and mocking?
Men and women get their hands dirty in ministry. It can be the most rewarding AND the most painful work, both at the same time. And this is because of sin aided and abetted by the flesh, the world, and the devil. In ministry worlds collide—the sacred and demonic, the Kingdom of God and the prince of the air, heaven and hell. Ministers are often caught in the middle of this, even in the church, and sometimes especially in the church. But we fight not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). So if you’re a minister, try not to take it personal and know who the true enemy is.