As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says,
“In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” (comes from Isaiah 49:8)
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
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 impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
…dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. (2 Corinthians 6:1-10, 7:1 NIV)
Paul, writing to the Corinthian church, takes a fatherly role in their faith to lead the believers there on to maturity. There is both tenderness in his letter and strong emotion as well. Paul intended for these dear brothers and sisters to see his actions among the churches in Asia, Greece, and Macedonia so that they would understand a very important point. The point he wanted them to see was that he lived his life in such a way as to not discredit himself, his faith, or his God.
Isn’t this one of the great stumbling points that the world has with us believers today? Many claim that their unwillingness to join in the fellowship of Christ’s people is because they see Christians around them who are not living the faith they preach? Many people that I have encountered have stated that hypocrisy is definitely the main factor for their lack of belief. Who could blame them?
For sure, there are those out in the world that wait and watch to see us stumble as Christians. And guess what? Each of us surely will at some point. But there are just as many out there who are watching us so that they can find evidence that our faith is real. They are hurting. They are confused. They are lonely. They are needy. And they really do hope that we have found the answers they are seeking. So they watch us, usually at a distance. And sooner or later, if they feel we are genuine, they will move closer. Remember, God is not willing that any one be lost. He’s moving in their hearts. He’s showing them their pains and their needs. It is their fear that holds them back. Our humble demeanor and genuine faith will draw them to us because, as Paul told the Philippians, we will “shine like stars in the universe” to this “crooked and depraved generation” as we hold firmly to the word of life (see Philippians 2:15 NIV).
So, let us make every effort not to cause others to stumble! Let us practice our faith to gain endurance, purity, understanding, patience, kindness, truthfulness, and righteousness. Understand that these are some of the ingredients of God’s agape love which we are commanded by Christ to practice and offer to others. Regardless of the way the world treats us—whether honored or dishonored, supported or mocked, received or ridiculed—may we practice Paul’s lifestyle as he said he did…”out of reverence for God.”