My friend didn’t believe me anymore. What I had been telling her for months about the offer of forgiveness from Jesus seemed like foolishness to her and she wanted us to stop talking about it.
Another woman blamed me for what happened with our mutual friend. Our friend had made some choices which landed her in drug rehab. If I was truly serving Jesus and serving our friend, I would have stopped her, the woman said. I should have seen it coming, she thought.
The influence I was seeking to have with a group of women was unwanted and they let me know. My thoughts on the Scriptures simply didn’t fit with theirs. Their solution was for me to change my views to ones that would make them feel comfortable.
My courage wavered. I felt like I had lost. I counted questions and doubts instead of sheep as I tried to fall asleep. I knew what was true, but the discouragement was hard to shake that week.
Don’t Lose Heart
“We don’t become discouraged,” said a man who had it far worse than I did.
The people he’d shared the gospel with and led to faith in Jesus were questioning his ministry.With the influx of influence by other famous pastors, he seemed like a small fish. Those he had loved and shepherded questioned his ministry credentials. Was he truly qualified? Why wasn’t he more successful? If he was a good minister and God was happy with him, they reasoned, then he should have more followers and more resources at his disposal and a lot less suffering.
Yet, in response to these detractors, Paul said “Therefore having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart” (2 Cor. 4:1).
In the face of his circumstances, Paul responded in 2 Corinthians by saying that his ministry is not about him or how others evaluate him but about God and his work. Paul’s credentials don’t matter. Instead, the transformation that comes from knowing Jesus is the proof of the message. (2 Cor. 3:2) Moreover, how people respond to Paul’s message of the gospel is not in his hands. They aren’t responding to him, but to Jesus Christ himself. So he isn’t worried about whether or not he’s successful enough for them. It is God’s evaluation that counts and he’s the one who calls Paul to suffer for the sake of the gospel.
In spite of this criticism, Paul won’t change his message. He does not change God’s word to make it more palatable (2 Cor. 4:2). Rather, he states the truth and has no reservations. If we don’t hear, there’s a reason, he says. And that reason lies in our hearts, not the message. Because something has to happen for us to really get the gospel. Something in our hearts changes for this message to take root. We need light.
Hearts Need Light, Not Us
God who said “Let light shine out of darkness” must say it again (2 Cor. 4:6). In the darkness before creation, God spoke and brought something from nothing. He brought life from death and void. He brought light into darkness, so in the same way, he shines light into hearts. He brings light so that we would see that the knowledge of God’s glory is in Jesus Christ; he gives light for us to see the message of the gospel. When he does this, he’s truly doing a recreation act in our hearts. Dark, dead hearts see the light and are transformed.
It’s like the canal that runs through the center of an old city in Croatia where I used to live. The canal looks lovely with floating boats and scattered bridges, but when you look down into it, you realize it is the origin of the smell you were avoiding. Its dark waters betray what may be flowing through it. When you hear it’s named the Dead Canal in the local language, it changes your perspective. It’s dark and dead—just like the hard, blind hearts before God speaks into them. That’s what the disappointed women in my week didn’t know or had forgotten—hearts need light to see the message of the gospel. That was why Paul’s ministry was not as successful as the Corinthians thought it should be—hearts need light to see the message of the gospel. It is true and it can be depressing. However, if you look up the hill behind the same Croatian city, you see the headwaters of the very canal flowing down next to the ancient castle, clear and full of light and vitality. It is a picture of hope, because that contrast is the change God makes in people. He moves our hearts from dead and dark to alive and light—by his work and not the work of any person.
Reminding Our Hearts
By God’s mercy, he’s given his people the ministry of proclaiming Jesus. But when “success” seems as far away as Croatia, we don’t give up. No matter what others say about our achievements, our tactics, or our message, we recognize the transformation people need is not in our power to give. It’s not the message that needs to change.
While there are discouraging weeks, in this ministry there is great hope. Even when they don’t believe us. Even in the face of criticism. Even when we’ve seem to have lost. Why? Because God still shines light into hearts. He still opens eyes. He still builds his church. We don’t lose heart. We continue to proclaim Jesus, for he is the one with the power to transform. And he has promised that he will.
Taylor Turkington has worked for a church in the Portland area for the last six years, teaching, discipling, and training. She loves being involved in the equipping and encouraging of people for the work God has given them. Before her church life, Taylor worked as a missionary in Eastern Europe and graduated from Western Seminary with a M.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies. Currently, Taylor is a student at Western in the D.Min. program. She loves teaching the Bible, and speaks at seminars, retreats, and conferences. Taylor is a co-founder and co-director of the Verity Fellowship.
Originally appeared at The Verity Fellowship, “Don’t Lose Heart.” Used with permission.