Summary: We may not identify with Paul's physical sufferings as some of our international brethren can who are persecuted for their faith. But in this success oriented society we can identify with the inter-stress of which he speaks.
2 CORINTHIANS 11: 28-33 [GAINING PERSPECTIVE Series]
THE INTER STRESS OF INVOLVEMENT
Paul now changes from outward sufferings that he was called upon to endure as a minister of Christ to the daily pressure of concern that he bore for the churches and their leaders. These verses are the climax to the catalog of his ministerial suffering for his external difficulties seem insignificant when compared to the concern he has for the churches.
We as 21st Century American Christians cannot easily identify with Paul's physical sufferings as some of our international brethren can who are persecuted for their faith. But in this success oriented society we can identify with the inter-stress the Apostle speaks of here. Paul's stress though was not over worldly success but over spiritual concerns. His stress came from his devotion to Christ and His church (CIT).
Paul was deeply devoted to the Christ he worshiped and served and therefore to the ministry to which Jesus had called him. He not only was devoted to winning people to Christ, but to seeing them grow in the nurture and admonition of the true faith. Paul had deep seated faithfulness to his responsibility concerning the eternal outcome of each life. He knew they would not grow and reach others without the God’s truth and Spirit transforming lives. These and other eternal realities caused him to experience great stress. We also must not take lightly our ministry responsibilities but find strength in our weakness to care about the outcome of other lives. May we too live for the glory of God and work for the transformation of lives that also live for the honor and glory of Lord Jesus Christ.
I. INTENSE CONCERN, 28-29.
II. THE RESULTING WEAKNESS, 30-31.
III. ESCAPE FROM DAMASCUS, 32-33.
Paul seems to have been listing the sufferings that he experienced as they came to his mind [with no particular order], when suddenly he interrupts his train of thought. In verse 28 we learn that Paul's greatest burden is not without but within. “Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.”
Paul could have gone on with what he suffered to take the gospel to the world, but he chooses instead to describe the largest burden he carried. It is difficult to comprehend the pain Paul must have felt from these physical afflictions and deprivations. But the spiritual struggles of his ministry were an even greater burden. I know how very much energy, love, care, prayer, work, worry, study, waiting, meeting, and speaking is involved in the care of one congregation. And Paul had upon him all the churches.
So there is something more, something deeper than outward affliction and privations which Paul is called upon to endure as a minister of Christ. The suffering he has been forced to mention in order to put his opponents to silence are externals, thus he considers them incidental in their significance (Mt. 13:9). Daily Paul is spiritually pressed with concern for all the churches, many of them he had founded. That his concern was not lack of faith is shown over and over again by serious problems, defections and rebellions which occurred so distressingly in the various churches and which necessitated his visits and his letters and his constant prayers. This concern was based not only on the disturbing reports which came to his ears, but on his knowledge of the savage craftiness of the enemy of souls who is attempting to overthrow the work of the Gospel. To see Christ's name dishonored in the church of all places caused Paul the acutest grief. When the flock of Christ is ravaged by wolves the under-shepherd cannot stand by impassively as though uninvolved in what is taking place. It is his duty to immediately come to their aid and drive away the marauders both for love of the flock and for the honor of his Master the Good Shepherd, in whose strength he acts and to whom he is answerable for the work entrusted to his hands.
Oh that we today who grumble and find such fault with life could gain more of Paul's perspective which would shrink our external trials and give our spiritual ministry more significance.
In verse 29 the apostle speaks to his deep concerned for the weaker brethren. “Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?”
Paul was concerned for the individual in the churches he served. The concern which the Apostle experienced for persons was not generated by lack of faith but by compassion. Paul so identified himself with them that he could not detach himself from their lot in life. He could not hold himself aloof at a distance from his people’s problems for the compassion of Christ compelled him to care. He felt the weakness of any member as his weakness. Their frailty as his frailty.