OVER WHAT CAN I BE PROUD?
In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. Romans 15:17
If you heard your pastor say that he was proud of the job he was doing, would that be a red flag? Probably, the answer is yes. A toxic kind of pride is so rampant that when we hear the word ‘proud’, it has negative connotations. Paul says that he is proud of his work. What’s up?
1.) Paul is at the end of his life. He is reviewing his ministry. Just after writing Romans, he will be arrested and die as a martyr. As he looks back, he is proud of what he sees. But only because what he sees was done ‘in Christ.’
I think of a child who has been asked to clean his room. When he’s finished, he comes and gets his mother to show her. He stands proudly in the doorway and proclaims, “And I did it all by myself!” This is the problem in ministry. I can call myself to noble things, label it a ‘holy calling’, and because I have some natural gifts, I can do it ‘by myself’. I have not had to live ‘in Christ’. The results are really wood, hay, and stubble. Paul is proud of his work because there is no way he could have faced imprisonment, beatings, floggings, confrontations by emperors, and angry mobs without the love, grace, and spiritual dynamite provided by the Spirit of God.
2.) This leads to the next point. Paul is proud of his work but to most, it appeared that He failed. He didn’t usually win over crowds. He spoke; they stormed him in anger. He preached; he was imprisoned and beaten. If I measure success by receptivity, then I should doubt Paul’s calling and ministry.
The more we travel toward end times, the more difficult it is to find receptive audiences. Recent talk among well known pastors reveal a suspicion that only 30% of most congregations are actually believers. Biblical teaching grates and only the minority really embraces Jesus.
On the other side of the cross, only thirty gathered in the upper room. Where were the masses? Weeded out by persecution.
Here are the bottom lines for me this morning. 1.) If I live through my connection to Jesus, then I can say that I am proud of my work. And, 2.) My work is a success if it only wins a few. If most are repelled, I follow in the footsteps of Jesus and the likes of Paul.
I used to be depressed over things I should have celebrated. Keep re-writing all my paradigms according to your values. Amen