Today we begin the book of Romans written by Paul. When Paul wrote this letter to the Romans he had not yet visited them with the Gospel. His plan was to go to Rome and even farther west to Spain. This letter is an introduction of Paul to the Roman people and to give an example of his gospel message. Paul begins the letter with a clear portrayal of man’s sinfulness in order to contrast a new life through faith. In this first section of the letter we learn the central purpose faith plays in the life of a believer. The key learning is there is no hope in life without faith in Christ.
There have been many times in my life where I have felt worn down, tired, and weary and I have found myself growing more frustrated with every step. What I have found during those times is I find fulfillment when I allow myself to be obedient to God’s perfect plan. Without God’s guidance and without our obedience to Him, our accomplishments mean nothing. In Act 20:24 Paul says an incredibly profound statements, 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. Whether it is a life of poverty or riches, when we live according to God’s plan for our lives, we find fulfillment. It is when we try to shape our desires into meaningless sacrificial service that we grow tired and weary. God’s plan is perfect.
Today we come to the end of this 2 Corinthians. Paul covered quite a bit in this book and in today’s closing remarks he said something that caught my attention in verse 11, Finally, brothers, good-by! Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. Beyond his plea to listen to his appeals for living a life which aims for perfection (even though we will never truly attain it), Paul says “live in peace”. He is speaking to the church as a whole. What troubles me is how far we as believers have gone from accomplishing this request. Beyond the fact that we live within a system of countless denominations, the addition of social media has allowed us to enter into the practice of tearing others down, including other believers in a passive-aggressive and, at times, in a very public manner. We have chosen to disregard private correction and admonishment for public ridicule and embarrassment. Of all the ways we sin as believers, to me, this is one of the most heartbreaking. We claim to love the sinner and, in turn, sacrifice other believers in their place. I would hope one day soon we will begin to love one another from the inside of the body of believers out, allowing our inertia to bring more people to the love of Christ in the way God intended.
I know I have shared 2 Corinthians 12:9 before, but it is so good! But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. When you feel like you just can’t do enough to make things right it’s because you can’t… No really, you can’t! There is nothing we can do to fix our lives and reach the level of grace God has already provided for us. It is in our weakness that God shows up and gives us the rest we so desperately need. When we open up our clenched hands and allow God to take away the things we hang onto and let Him replace it with His perfect plan, we find peace and the love the way it was intended to be.
In today’s reading Paul spends a considerable amount of time intentionally boasting about all he has been through in serving God. While some people may read this and think of him as an arrogant person, in reality he is boasting about his weakness and lack of control in being able to control his circumstances. 2 Corinthians 11:30 says, If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. Through Paul’s weakness he is obedient and trusts God to lead the way. No matter how strong we think we are, our strength pales in comparison to God’s strength and ability to lead our lives. Until we submit and recognize His power, we will always operate in our imperfect weakness.
These past few weeks I have struggle with feeling peace in my life. I know it seems foolish that someone who spends daily time in God’s word could ever feel the way I have, but I am human and we all struggle. One of my mentors suggested I spend time each morning doing two things: 1) Before I do anything else, pray first thing in the morning when I get out of bed. 2) Immediately after prayer, meditate on Ephesians 6:13-17 where Paul talks about putting on the full armor of God. I have to admit, at first, I did not think either of his suggestions would work. But I cannot tell you the impact they have had on my day. Each day I am reminded God is they only way I can receive true peace in my life. Without God’s armor we are susceptible to the lies that keep us from fully knowing His truths about how much He loves us. These simple changes in my daily routine have made a major impact on my day. It is a daily effort, but there is a noticeable difference. Over time I hope these words will be etched in my heart and mind, but until then, I will continue to read and concentrate on God’s promises for my life.
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Confidence in the truth is a beautiful thing because God has given us the confidence in knowing the truth. However, we should never be boastful. 2 Corinthians 10:17 says, But, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” How much better is it to seek praise from God rather than men and women. Ultimately, God deserves all the credit. It is so much sweeter to receive praise from God than from other people. He is the authority and He is the only one we should try to please.
God wants each of us to be sacrificial givers, but He also wants us to be willing givers. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. What and how we give is between us and God. He knows what we are able to give and the status of our heart in giving. God does not need us for anything. However, God does give us the privilege of being a part of His plan and for that reason alone we should be thankful to Him for allowing us the honor of being used by Him for the fulfillment of His will.
It is easy to get caught up in comparing our blessings with how others are blessed.. It is also easy to compare what we give compared to others. God is not in the comparison game. He is not interested in comparing our gifts to anyone else’s gifts around us. 2 Corinthians 8:12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. God expects us to be obedient to Him and not to be obedient according to someone else’s status. Ultimately, God gives to us so that we can give to others and we are to bless others in equal proportion to how much God has blessed us.
Perfection is something that can only be attained in the eyes of God through our acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. The process is twofold; turning away from our sin and turning towards God. 2 Corinthians 7:1 says, Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect through our own efforts, but He does expect us to look to Him for our righteousness.