Having my (baby) theology rocked right now by Eric Mason. I listened to his sermon on Holy Spirit-empowered ministry tonight but it was probably from a year or two ago. Regarding what Paul said in 2nd Corinthians 6:3-10 about the credibility of and obstacles to the Gospel. I seriously cannot get over it.
Mason says Paul basically makes a list here of experiences that he has been through that lend credibility to the Gospel. (For clarification, they do not prove the credibility of the Gospel.) And it’s not the list that you or I would probably give, let’s be honest. It’s rough stuff, getting down in the dirt for the Gospel.
Interestingly, I used to believe (and preach!) that a maxed out bank account, huge house, a garage full of new cars and a really expensive wardrobe lent credibility to the “Gospel” and the goodness of God. So why is Paul’s list completely and utterly antithetical to what I formerly believed? But I digress…
3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.
A thought that Mason shared was this: an obstacle is anything in your life and ministry that eclipses or is in competition with the Gospel.
It’s almost impossible for an unbeliever to view afflictions, hardships, calamities and beatings (as examples) to distract from the Gospel because Paul was going through them because of the Gospel. It Paul had listed riches, long vacations, mansions, and a nice camel he would not have been able to say that they were not obstacles. Why? Because unbelievers serve and strive for all those things in lieu of serving Jesus – so why would God use distractions from him to bring people to him?
In short, at least according to Paul, he seemed to use the opposite.