Paul’s confidence in Christ and the cross enables him to cope with challenges and change.
2020 has been a year of challenges, change and uncertainty. These are impacting us, our ministries, and our families. It’s likely the level of challenge change and uncertainty will increase in 2021.
I’m struck by the depth of suffering, the amount of change, and level of uncertainty faced by Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:22-33. I’m also struck by how he faced these and why he was able to.
He knows prison time, beatings, floggings and stonings. He faces danger at sea and on rivers. On land he faces danger from bandits, and from Jews and Gentiles.
In the city, in the country, in the church, and in the synagogue he faces danger. He experiences hunger, thirst and sleep deprivation. He feels the daily stress, pressure, and responsibility of caring for local churches. In communicating the gospel he encounters political opposition locally and regionally.
The constant changes in places, provisions, and in types of suffering is staggering. The different amounts and nature of pain, persecution, and pressure is relentless. The range of damage and difficulty faced by Paul beggars belief. The increasing political pressure is non-stop.
Navigating our changing circumstances
We sense New Zealand is rapidly changing.
Some commentators are suggesting that 2020-2021 will bring a decade’s worth of cultural change to New Zealand. The pandemic will accelerate the cultural, political, and economic trends already underway in New Zealand.
These changes will bring with them increasing uncertainty, challenges and change to the people of God in Aotearoa.
In the face of profound uncertainty I’m struck by Paul's quiet confidence. There’s clearly frustration, disappointment, and exhaustion, but there’s no tantrums, retreating, or petulant whinging. This quiet confidence preserves him against an onslaught of external pressure.
What’s the source of this quiet confidence?
Come with me to 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, for Paul:
It’s the certainty of knowing Christ and his crucifixion.
It's experiencing the reality that Christ has died in his place, as his substitute.
It’s knowing that Christ has broken the back of every social, economic, political, and spiritual power and has set the clock ticking on their ultimate demise.
It’s his experience of the Spirit’s power validating the message of the cross.
It’s knowing that through the message of the cross, validated by the Spirit, that God himself is working out his powerful purposes.
How do we experience this quiet confidence?
In an age of accelerating change, intentionally reflecting on Jesus and his death and resurrection is the best place to start.
Let’s soak ourselves in 1 Corinthians 15. Print it out and keep it in your pocket, get it out and chew on it during the day--just one week of reflecting on Christ and the cross could have a profound impact on your heart.
Can I invite you and your leadership team to consider reading a book on the cross over the summer?
Here are some options for different appetites:
Simple, powerful and practical
In an age of increasing challenges let’s invite the Spirit to magnify the reality of Jesus’s death and resurrection to us, and through us, as leaders.
In an age of growing uncertainty, may we rest in the fact that through all of this God is working out his gospel purposes… so we can continue pointing people to Jesus, through the gospel, from the Scriptures.
I can’t help but think Paul’s “self care” was rooted in his “cross care”. His careful understanding and experiencing of the cross and resurrection of Jesus.
Can I invite you and your leadership team--whether you serve a local church, regional campsite, or national support ministry--to rest and renew yourselves for ministry in this new New Zealand in and through the cross of Christ.