Agony of Leadership



In this passage of Scripture, we see the breakdown Paul uses in regard to what I would call spiritual leadership. In leadership two words must be kept in mind: servant and example.


Paul, in bringing out the breakdown, brings in the internal conflicts that one faces in his Christian life, but even more in leadership. 2 Corinthians 6:4 “Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses…”


Great endurance or patience (hupomonee). This brings home the idea of being able to stick to the job, continuance, cheerful, hopeful; he never quits or gives up but finishes what has been started.


Troubles and afflictions: The idea here is that the leader is like a high priest and able to comfort others. “…who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:4


Hardships or necessities (anankee): This seems to be a reference to the inescapable needs of life. Paul mentioned how in the times he was hungry, thirsty, without sleep and concern for all the churches that he worked with.


Distresses (stenokoria): This brings out the idea of a narrowness of room, cramped or to hem in closely; one wrong step and you are in distress. We need to know the endurance of God in our lives.


Paul is also bringing out the external conflicts as well “in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings.”


Stripes or beatings (plege): Paul faced the Jewish whips, Roman rods in the beatings that he took. WE might not face this, but what about ridicule, etc.?


Imprisonment: This most usually follows stripes and beatings with rods that Paul faced.


Tumults: What did Paul face as he went forth with the Gospel of God’s truth? Hopelessness, wanderings, obscurity, commotions, instability, confusion to name a few. Paul also brings out what we could call vocational conflicts when it comes to the ministry… “in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings.”


Labors (kopos): Working for Christ to almost exhaustion brings out the idea of trouble, weariness, toil, pain.


Watching or sleepiness (agrupnia): Paul spent nights in prayer, times of peril, counseling, preaching, keeping awake in order to watch for what he needed to pray about.


Fastings (nesteia): Going without food voluntary, or sometimes because of lack of food. There were occasions when he went hungry for the Gospel’s sake.


Next in Paul’s breakdown we see our moral obligations. Two things mentioned here: what we are and what we do.  “…by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love…” 2 Corinthians 6:6


Purity (hagnotes): Speaks of sincerity, transparency, cleanness, blameless to be above reproach.


Knowledge (gnosis): Brings out the idea of having the knowledge of what to do; what the goals are, what needs to be done; sanctified common sense.


Longsuffering (makrothymia): Forbearance, patience with people, courtesy under criticism; learning to give God time to finish what He started.


Kindness (kreestoteres): Goodness, gentleness, putting others at ease.


Holy Spirit: All would be impossible without God’s Spirit.


Love unfeigned (anupokritos): This is the fruit of the Spirit. An expression for the need of genuine love. To ‘feign’ is to play act; hypocritical.


Moral Obligation: What we should do.  2 Corinthians 6:7 “…by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left…”


Word of Truth: Declaration of the truth; not exaggerating or twisting the truth.


Power of God: We know from 2 Corinthians 4:7 that we have this treasure (Jesus Christ) in us and in whom the fulness of the Godhead bodily dwells. Paul came in weakness and fear, but with the power of God.


Armor of righteousness on the right hand and left. Right hand: We have the offensive weapon of the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Left hand: We have the shield of faith that protects us from all the fiery darts of the enemy.


Here we have the paradoxes of leadership: 2 Corinthians 6:8-10 “…by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”


Honor and dishonor: Sometimes we are flattered and sometimes we are flattened.


Evil report and good report: Luke 6:22-23 “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.”


Deceivers and yet true: Christ was called a deceiver which means a deliberate imposter.


Unknown and yet known: Ignored and yet recognized. Paul was known in hell. (Acts 19:15)


Dying and yet, behold we live: I think of Paul when he was stoned.


Chasten and not killed: Discipline of suffering. “He chastened me sore.” (The Psalmist)


Sorrowful, but always rejoicing: Here we have ‘holy’ sorrow and ‘holy’ joy.


Poor yet making many rich: Peter saying, “Silver and gold I do not have, but in the name of the Lord Jesus stand up and walk.” Acts 3:6


Having nothing, but possessing all things: Inheriting the universe. We have been given the Holy Spirit as a down payment for what is to come. Romans 8:16, 17 and Ephesians 1:13,14.




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