Grace For The Journey
The boy should never have been hiking at that hour of the night in that neck of the woods. At 14, he was already an experienced hiker, having grown up in the mountains. But it was rainy. The ground was slick and the night was dark. He should have been in bed, but his father, an elder and an usher in the church, had gone on another rampage, yelling, screaming, threatening, throwing things and blowing up his family. The boy, listening to all in his bedroom, climbed out through the window; and he was still hiking at midnight, trying to figure out why his father, a professed Christian, was always so angry, violent, and out of control. In the darkness, the boy didn’t see the fallen log. He stumbled, tumbled, grabbed a branch, and swung to his left. The next moment, he was plunging through the air down the side of a quarry, all the way to the grave.
Today we’re continuing to consider the topic “Am I A Stepping Stone Or A Stumbling Block.” The passage of Scripture that we will be looking at warns Christians to live so as to never cause anyone to stumble on their pathway to Christ by our negative behavior.
We’re to be stepping stones,
Not stumbling blocks.
Everyone who professes Christ as Savior carries around a certain influence. We identify as a Christian. People are watching to see if our faith is real and if we live according our beliefs. None of us are perfect. But whenever we grievously or repeatedly fall into sin or create a scandal, it can be stumbling block to another. It can make people cynical and cause them turn them away from the Lord. The Bible calls that being a stumbling block.
We cannot let that happen to us personally – and that’s the subject of the passage we’re coming to today. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 6;3-10, “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships, and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as imposters; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we love on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
The theme of this passage is in verse 3: “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.” In the verses that follow, Paul gives a list of 28 behaviors he is committed to follow. His list falls into three natural sections.
- In The Way We Handle Pressures of Life.
Verses 3-5 says: “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships, and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger….
He begins with the word “endurance.” Today this term designates an entire field of athletics – endurance sports, like marathons or triathlons. Endurance is the ability to bear up and keep going despite pain, hardship and fatigue. Paul was saying life was harder than he expected it to be. People are watching us to see how we handle adversity and problems.
When people see us coming apart at the seams, collapsing in depression or exploding in anger – it’s a poor recommendation for the Christian life. Paul says that he has endured through troubles, hardships, and distresses, including beatings and imprisonments. He endured riots. On several occasions in the book of Acts, Paul’s preaching, or his very presence, caused crowds to riot, threatening his life. These are not riots like you see on television, in which demonstrators are protesting a political issue. These are moments when large crowds become so enraged by Christians that they surrounded them, attacked them; and on one occasion Paul was nearly killed and left outside town for dead.
In the middle of verse 5, Paul goes on to talk about “hard work, sleepless nights, and hunger.” Many years ago a teenager I asked Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth, “Does Dr. Graham realize how great and glorious his work is around the world?” She responded, “Oh, it’s not that at all. It’s just hard work. Bill works to exhaustion, and there’s nothing glorious about it. God doesn’t share His glory with another. We would have been just as happy to have been assigned to an obscure place on some forgotten mission field. Wherever God puts you, it’s simply a matter working hard for His glory.”
We can learn a lot from that answer . . .
Serving the Lord
Fame and fortune;
It’s just hard work
And being faithful.
For Paul, that sometimes included sleepless nights and hunger.
The point of
- In The Way We Maintain Purity of God.
In verses 6-7, Paul shifts gears. He said that we should be a good representatives of Christ, not only in the way we handle difficulties but in the way we maintain purity. Verse 6 says, “(We commend ourselves) in purity.” Nothing can damage our testimonies more than failing to maintain personal holiness in our lives. If you’re allowing something to violate your personal holiness and purity, it’s bound to negate your testimony and bring some degree of reproach to the cause of Christ.
Is anything contaminating your body, mind, words, or your spirit? That could be a stumbling block for another person, so let’s endure in purity and holiness. The Bible says we must endure in holiness and purity.
The passage goes on to say we must endure in “understanding.” This word can also be translated, “knowledge and spiritual insight.” When we encounter struggles in life, we have an advantage. We have God’s Word that sheds light on whatever we’re going through.
Verse 6 says we must continue in “patience and kindness.” All of us could agree that we need more patience and kindness in our responses to others. Not being that way with others creates stumbling blocks that hinder others from coming to Christ.
And then verse 6 goes on to say that commend our lives and ministries in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love.” We have presence and power of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit will help us grow in our faith and live in such a way that will always glorify Christ. So, when we go about our day in the Holy Spirit, we’re lifting up Christ.
Verse 7 continues with, “truthful speech and the power of God,” and with “weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left.” What does that mean? We can cross-reference this verse with Ephesians 6 about the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. A Roman soldier kept his shield in his left hand for defense, and his sword in his right hand for attack.
This is the way we keep from being a stumbling block to anyone else – by the way we handle pressure and the way we maintain purity. But there is more . . .
3. In the Way We Embody the Paradoxes of Faith.
There’s another series of words here, and that leads to the final thing. Look at verses 8-10: [We are] genuine, yet regarded as imposters; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we love on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
The apostle Paul gives us a list of seven paradoxes of the Christian faith. Jesus said in John 3 that His followers are as mysterious as the wind. No one knows where the wind comes from; no one knows where the wind is going; but everyone can sense His presence as He passes by.
I don’t have time to dissect each of these seven phrases, but I’ll give you an illustration of them. In spite of advancing age and declining health a Christian woman shared God’s love through giving out Bibles to doctors, nurses, everyone that walked in to her room. Even when she could no longer speak this past week she would point and people knew she wanted them to have a Bible. Over 60 Bibles were given out – when the last one she had with her was gone she knew God was ready to take her home. A nurse was impacted by this women’s last days ministry. She shared the news to her family that God had touched her life in such a way that upon reading the Scriptures she was saved and her life was different because this ladies’ prayers and ministry. . She did exactly what God calls each of us to do. Do it well and do it until your last breath on this Earth.
I would call that 2 Corinthians 6 living!
Here is what the Lord is telling us in today’s passage. He doesn’t want us to create any scandal in our life that would cause others to be disillusioned with Him. Instead, He wants us to live in such a surrendered and special way that the Holy Spirit can use our life to commend ourselves and our message to the world. We do that by handling the pressures of life, maintaining the purity of holiness, and embodying the paradoxes of Christianity.
This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.