Paul is warned by the Holy Spirit to expect hardships and prison. He writes:
“But I dread nothing of these, neither I make my life preciouser than myself, so that I end my course [the while I end, or fulfill, my course], and the ministry of the word, which I received of the Lord Jesus, to witness the gospel of the grace of God.” (WYC)
“But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” (KJV)
“But I count my life of no value to myself, so that I may finish my course[with joy] and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.” (HCSB)
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me —the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. (NIV-1984)
I love the Wycliffe Bible translation! Note that Paul is not testifying about the gospel of the grace of God, but he is witnessing the good news firsthand. He is not counting his life so precious that he dreads imprisonment or hardships. Rather he determines not to “end his course” before he finishes “the ministry of the Word, which [he] received of the Lord Jesus.”
Perhaps the other translations miss this subtlety only slightly — that Paul does not testify about the gospel; but rather witnesses it himself. What Paul works to complete is “the ministry of the Word” which is certainly more than telling others the good news. Paul determines to consider his life worthless in comparison to his calling — for to Paul, to live is Christ and to die is Christ.
God bemoans Israel, who are the people of God, saying: “They turn their backs to me and not their faces; though I teach them again and again, they do not listen or respond to discipline.”
I’ve heard parents bemoan their child, “We’ve tried everything, but he ‘turns his back to [us] and not [his] face.'” “We teach [him] again and again, [but he] does not listen or respond to discipline.'”
I’ve heard that a few parents eventually disown or surrender to the child, usually after many many years of frustrating efforts.
But, I know that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39) God never gives up on us.
Perhaps Paul is not being facetious when he tells the church at Corinth, “No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.” But in his letter, he writes, “In the following directives I have no praise for you.” (1 Corinthians 11:17) Therefore, it is conceivable Paul is pointing out that these men are divisive when they “come together as a church” in order to show themselves as better than one another. The awful, sometimes gut-wrenching and always anxiety producing desire to be recognized as the best of many or at least the better of two is often destructive of all — of the whole body of Christ.
I think of the two disciples, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who ask Jesus for the privilege of sitting at places of honor when He comes into His kingdom. Rather than being satisfied with their current walk with Him and the promise of being with Him in eternity, they each struggle for more — for that which they are not qualified. For Jesus tells them they know not what they are asking.
The disciples — not only James and John — argue on the road to Capernaum “about who is the greatest.” (Mark 9:34) And Jesus says, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)
Seeking recognition from others rather than serving others is self-defeating and ultimately destructive. Be at peace with who you are, what God has given to you, and what He asks of you and where He has placed you. Start there at “the very last.”
Take your stand on and in the good news of Jesus Christ crucified and raised from the dead. Take your stand on realizing you are unfit to untie and re-tie His sandals. Take your stand on Jesus washing your feet. You do not wash His.
Jesus tells Peter, “Unless I wash you, you have no part in Me.” When Peter hears this, he demands that Jesus wash “my hands and my head as well!” But Jesus says, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean.” (John 13:8,9,10)
“Do you understand,” asks Jesus, “what I have done for you?” (John 13:12)
I don’t think we do, at least not fully. I don’t think we understand the abundant life of which Jesus speaks; or the command He gives that “[we] also should wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14) I’m not sure we even understand that “no servant is greater than his master, nor is the messenger greater than the One who sent him.” (John 13:16) “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Jesus says, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:17)
“[We] cling to deceit; [we] refuse to return… No one repents of his wickedness, saying, ‘What have I done?’ Each pursues his own course like a horse charging into battle.” (Jeremiah 8:5-6) God bemoans His people, saying: “My people do not know the requirements of the Lord.” (Jeremiah 8:7) “They reject the Word of the Lord, what kind of wisdom do they have?” (Jeremiah 8:9) “They are put to shame; they are dismayed and trapped.” (Jeremiah 8:9) And, on top of this, their “prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. They dress the wound of My people as though it is not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 8:10-11) They are “all greedy for gain.” (Jeremiah 8:10)
“Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of My people?” (Jeremiah 8:22)
“Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows Me, that I Am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
As for us, God’s children, “how can [we] say, ‘We are wise, for we have the law of the Lord,’ when actually the lying pen of the scribes handle it falsely?” (Jeremiah 8:8)
We must cry out, “No one is like You, O Lord; You are great, and Your Name is mighty in power. Who should not revere You, O King of the nations? This is Your due… There is no one like You.” (Jeremiah 10:6-7) “[You] are the true God; [You] are the living God, the eternal King.” (Jeremiah 10:10)
Nothing need be added to Christ’s finished work — the redemptive work He completed on the cross.
“[God] has set eternity in the hearts of men, yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) Men — that is humankind — desire God; they feel an emptiness when they are without His intimate presence.
Solomon reminds us that “God will bring to judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time for every deed.” (Ecclesiastes 3:17) Because all will stand before the judgment seat of God Almighty, humankind needs One who will stand in the gap for them — One who has taken upon Himself the sins of the world.
Nothing is more powerful than the shed blood of Jesus Christ crucified. No “good deeds” compare to His effort on the cross of Calvary. Add nothing to His work, for it is not only unnecessary, it is worthless.
Job, in his terror, longs for a mediator, one who will state his case to God. Job cries out, “If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay His hand upon us both, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that His terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of Him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot.” (Job 9:33-35)
Job wisely asks, “Who can bring what is pure from the impure?” (Job 14:4) And, he just as wisely answers, “No one!” (Job 14:4) Because Job despairs yet hopes, he begs: “If only You would hide me in the grave and conceal me till Your anger has passed! If only You would set me a time and then remember me! If a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my hard service, I will wait for my renewal to come. You will call and I will answer You; You will long for the creature Your hands have made. Surely then You will count my steps but not keep track of my sin. My offenses will be sealed in a bag; You will cover over my sin.” (Job 14:13-17)
What Job hopes, Paul confirms: “God our Savior…wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-4) Here, Paul shows that Job’s prayer is answered. “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men — the testimony given in its proper time.” (1 Timothy 2:5-6)
Job’s sins are finally “covered over” and “sealed in a bag.” God’s “anger has passed!” Job is indeed “remembered;” his “renewal comes” and “he lives again.”