2Co 6:4-5 “But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings;”
In the previous verses, Paul has instructed that, as workers together with God’s help, we are to not give (intend) offense in our ministry. In these next verses, Paul exhorts us as to what we are to do in this ministry of reconciliation we have been given. We begin by exhibiting (approving) the proof of our ministry regardless of the circumstance or situation. This is why our labor must be with God; in our own strength we could never exhibit at all times and all circumstances behavior consistent with our ministry.
As ministers of God, we must display much patience. Patience is more than simply enduring. Enduring anything with loud complaint and much disfigurement of our countenance is not being patient. The definition of the word translated as “patient” is to have a “cheerful or hopeful endurance or constancy.” Patience is to endure the trials we face with the certainty that Christ has already overcome every obstacle we may face. He told us Himself that we would have tribulations in this world, but that we should be of good cheer because He has overcome the world (Joh 16:33).
Jesus has already told us we will have tribulation in this world. We should not be surprised when we find that we are called on to be patient in afflictions. Today we most often think of affliction in terms of having some health issue. However, the use of the word in this instance refers to trouble, persecution or burden. We may be perfectly sound in the physical body and still suffer affliction.
We may from time to time find ourselves in need in this world. Particularly if that need impacts our family, we may be greatly distressed by it. We may find ourselves wounded (in stripes) in emotion and spirit, caged (imprisonments) by doubt and misunderstanding, and confused (in tumults) at the world around us. We may toil to the point of physical, mental, and spiritual exhaustion (labours), spend sleepless nights (in watchings), and be called on to abstain from things (in fastings) that others freely partake of.
Remember that all these things just mentioned are in connection with our approving ourselves as the ministers of God. To be called to minister to God’s children is no light undertaking, and is totally beyond the strength of man. So we may rejoice in the truth that His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2Co 12:9). When we understand to our core that this ministry is only by His grace, He receives the greater glory from those who receive this ministry.
We can expect to find ourselves in all these various circumstances as the ministers of God. As we continue to look at this chapter, we will find there is also much joy and wonder in this ministry. It all abounds unto our ability in God to approve ourselves as the ministers of God.
May we always, with cheerful expectation, share this blessed ministry of reconciliation!