Sometimes I wonder if the easiest thing that we can do is hold a grudge. In our culture of the easily offended, this seems to be the strongest trait of a lot of people.
Holding a grudge is not something we should be proud of, nor is it something we should do at all. It’s a killer to our character, and if you want to have the heart of a champion, you have to let go of the grudges.
The apostle Paul had the heart of a champion. And in his letter of 2 Corinthians, he describes what this looks like. As we have looked at what the heart of a champion looks like, we have identified three things so far: Be clear about your calling, understand the ups and downs of life, and depend on the prayers of others. Letting go of your grudges is the fourth thing we can see in Paul’s letter, and it may be the hardest one yet.
Take a look at what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 (NASB):
But if any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow not to me, but in some degree—in order not to say too much—to all of you. Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. For to this end also I wrote, so that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.
Paul reveals here that the actions of one individual have caused a lot of pain, grief, and difficult circumstances for Paul and his ministry to the Corinthian church. And yet Paul speaks in almost hypothetical language here, and refuses to put a name to the individual. What this indicates is that Paul has forgiven the person, and publicly shaming him would be of no gain whatsoever.
Developing the heart of a champion is not something that you can do on your own. It requires a lot of people. And it requires a lot of prayers.
Undoubtedly, Paul had the heart of a champion. But he didn’t develop this on his own, all by himself. He knew where the source of his strength came from: It came directly from God. And it came directly as a result of the prayers of others for Paul and his ministry.
Paul depended upon the prayers of others to sustain him. He knew, that without these prayers, his work would be ineffective. To be sure, he prayed on his own, and did so frequently and fervently. But he also recruited partners in prayer to help lift him and his efforts before the throne of grace continuously.
Tale a look at his own words from 2 Corinthians 1, in the latter half of verse 10 and verse 11 (NASB):
And He will yet deliver us, you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.
The Apostle Paul was one man who displayed the heart of a champion through his life and ministry. And one of the ways this is evident can be seen in the way he understood the ebb and flow of daily life.
Life is like a roller coaster. There are ups and downs all the time, and this is a very natural part of life Paul definitely experienced this ebb and flow of life, and he adjusted his perspective and attitude, as well as his ministry efforts, accordingly. This is very evident in 2 Corinthians 1:4-7:
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.
Paul is very clear in this passage that life gives us ups and downs, and when the downs come, God provides a source of comfort as needed. He then adds that because we have experienced God’s comfort, usually coming from other believers, we can be a source of God’s comfort to others when they experience those hard times. Paul understood that life takes swings frequently. And he also understood that he needed to stand strong in those tough times. But he also knew that the only way he could was because of God’s assistance and comfort.
In order to have the heart of a champion, there are several qualities that you must display. The first and foremost is that you must be clear about God’s calling and direction for your life.
Paul had the heart of a champion. Over the next few weeks, we will look at several of the characteristics that he displayed, but the first and most important one is that he was clear about God’s involvement and call in his life, as well as God’s direction. There was no question about it.
In 2 Corinthians 1:1, Paul states the authority of God’s calling in his life unequivocally as he opens this second letter to the church in Corinth:
This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus… (NLT)
Paul understood the difference between calling and direction. Paul had both of them in his life, but they are not the same thing. You could say that Paul had a double dose of passion for God in his life and ministry.
First of all, Paul was called. His letter says that he was “chosen by the will of God.” But then he adds that he is also directed by God, “to be an apostle,” or messenger, of Christ. God called Paul to what he wanted him to be. And God directed Paul where he wanted him to go.
The same is true in your life and mine. God has called us to be. He has called us to abide. He has called us to be a part of his family. This is the “being” aspect of our faith. But he has also directed us to do. His direction is where he is leading us, what he is equipping us for. It is the “doing” portion of our faith.
There are some people out there who just seem to have the heart of a champion. And when it comes to the areas of ministry or leadership, this is an essential quality to have.
But how do you develop a heart like that? How do you train yourself to serve like that? What does that even look like?
There are several qualities that exemplify a heart that strives to be great. And those qualities can be seen by looking at the life of Paul the Apostle. In this mini series, we will look at several of the different aspects or qualities that make such a great leader.
As Paul described his own life and ministry in 2 Corinthians, and as he longed to serve and lead the church in Corinth, we catch glimpses of his heart and the concern he had for them as he shepherded them. Paul’s perspective was clear, both in who he was, and how he was to relate to the church in Corinth. And, as a result, he displayed a heart that is worth imitating.
I think there are three reasons we must do our best to develop a heart like Paul’s, for Christ, for the church and for others. Such a heart will make us more effective in our work for the Kingdom of God.
One of the most important things I have learned over the years is to identify and establish healthy priorities. As critical as this is, it is surprising how few people actually do this, especially those who are in positions of leadership. Determining what these priorities are is an absolute must for each of us.
While I was in Bible college, I learned a basic principle for priorities: My top priority is my relationship with God. That is followed by my relationship with my wife. My third priority is my relationships with my children, and finally, my ministry and work.
That gives a good basic overview, and is very solid advice. But it still remains somewhat general in nature. In each of these areas, how do I determine what I should be focusing on? How do I set my priorities in each area? How do I establish what that looks like?
I think there are a few questions that we can ask ourselves that can help determine where our focus should be. These are simple questions, but are worth taking some time to consider.
Sometimes, you can learn some great lessons in the most unlikely of places. Like this week’s Vacation Bible School at our church.
This week is our annual VBS. But we are taking a twist on the normal routine and going a bit different than we ever have.
Typically, we do a program that is from one of the major Christian publishers, like Group or Zondervan or Standard. But this year, we took a deep look at it, and decided that our Vacation Bible School program is more of an outreach than anything else. Although we strive to disciple the kids who are a part of our church through events like this, we wanted to reach out to those who may not be a part of a church regularly.
So we decided to do a week that was different than anything we have ever attempted. We decided to do a sports camp style VBS. As we planned it, we knew that this could be a big thing for our church and community. And it could be great, or it could flop.
We started our week on Monday, and we got off to a great beginning. And I am excited to see what the rest of the week holds.
But as we are moving along, I have noticed a couple of things.