“We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” 2 Cor 6:3-10
In this article I am addressing what I believe to be something that is crucial to any long term ministry. Nothing can take the place of it or be put before it- not methods, not money not manpower, nothing! I am talking about motive. When you are determining where to go and what to do and how to do it, motive is absolutely essential. And when you are attempting to do something great and all-of-the world seems to be against you, right motive will keep you steady. The need to simplify whenever you are, so to speak, “up against it,” is crucial. In pressured times you must have an answer to this question: Why am I doing what I am doing? Motive acts not only as a rudder to keep our ship pointed in the right direction, it becomes the wind in our sails that drives us on, through the storms and gales of life that pound against our vessel.
I admit to a “thorn in the flesh.” I have had it since I was a little boy. It began when in 1956, when I first entered the sacred confines of a place known as the “Big House.” It was then that the phrase “Go Blue” became engraved upon my young heart. Ron Kramer and Jimmy Pace and Dick Vidmer became boyhood heroes. That love increased when THE “Michigan Man,” “Bo” Schembeckler, came on the scene. I will never forget that glorious Saturday in 1969, when the hated enemy, Woody Hayes, led his “team from Ohio” into the Big House with what was described as the “Team of the Century.” The lowly Wolverines were no-match for the Ohio juggernaut “on paper.” But, somehow, the underdog and vastly out manned Wolverines defeated Ohio in the “Shocker of the Century,” 23-12. On that day, the legend of “Bo” was established for all time. Even today, or especially today, when our treasured Maize and Blue are mired in mediocrity and blandness, Bo’s presence and words rise to give direction and hope to all of us who bleed “Blue.”
The words that are most notable and played over and over again by the faithful today capture the essence of his philosophy of football. Are you ready for Bo’s wisdom? Here it is: “The Team! The Team! The Team!” That’s it! His great football legacy was built upon two words. They became the motive for all who would become a “Michigan Man.” His brand of football was not about individual exploits, or end zone celebrations or personal glory. It was all about “The Team.” That simple focus kept his men centered and ushered them into a time of greatness that has, sadly, rarely been repeated.
There was another leader of men, far greater than Bo, whose impact was felt not just in this world but the next one. His name was Paul. He was an apostle called by the resurrected Lord, Jesus Christ, to carry the gospel to the Gentiles. His mission was to take the good news to Rome and beyond. It was a daunting task. The Jews and the Romans would be against him. Robbers, shipwrecks, hunger, beatings, jail time and even threats of death awaited him. He even had to deal with “believers” that sought to undermine his ministry for their own personal advancement.
In 2 Corinthians, he defended himself against so-called “super apostles.” (2 Corinthians 11:5) They were trained speakers, whose strong personalities and attractive looks made Paul look weak. However, Paul knew them as false apostles, masquerading as disciples of Christ, but who were in reality workers on Satan’s payroll.
So, what did Paul do? He defended himself, of course. He pointed out that although he looked weak, and in the natural he was weak, his strength and authority came from the Lord of the Church, Jesus Christ. He was not so much concerned about changing the invaders as he was committed to saving the Corinthian church from deception and destruction. Defending and maintaining his apostolic authority was crucial if the pure gospel was to be preserved among these struggling saints.
Responding to their bitter attacks, Paul summed up his ministry with these words: “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.” (2 Cor. 6:3) First, he said that he ordered all he did so that his lifestyle would not in the slightest way become a hindrance to his commitment to honor Jesus, preach the gospel and serve the church. Of course, all of us who have been in ministry know that there will always be some, who for wrong motives or just misunderstanding will still find fault. But, Paul’s intention was that, as far as he was concerned, he would not provide them with fuel for those fires.
Secondly, and this is the most important part, he revealed the motive for his careful living. It is simple, but oh so powerful! Here it is: He lived and breathed to complete his mission. What was the secret to his courage, his confidence and his unyielding commitment? It was The Mission! The Mission! The Mission! Enemies, critics and pressures would come against him, but they would not distract him from what he was called to do.
Jesus said to his disciples, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” When they were confused by his response he explained, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” He was telling them that his whole life and all that he was about could be summed up with these words, “The Mission. The Mission. The Mission.” Jesus was given a mission. Paul was given a mission. I have been given a mission. And you, if you are a follower of Jesus, have also been given a mission.
This passage has been such an encouragement to me in the past few days. Like the apostle, I am facing so many pressures, which can, if I let them, distract, even intimidate me into letting up or even giving up. The needs here are unbelievable. Our stored resources are limited. Voices come to remind me of my weakness and to challenge my authority. Temptations come to pressure me into taking a few days off from my commitments in order to steal my joy. At times it can feel like an overwhelming battle.
But, the Spirit of God never leaves me. He points me to the Word and opens the eyes of my heart so I can see again the wonderful things in God’s Word. (Psalm 119:18) All of the pressures, all of the voices, all of the temptations I can leave in the hands of Jesus. I am reminded that I am only called to do what Christ has laid out for me to accomplish this day. He will guide and he will see to it that his work will be accomplished. He called me and he sent me and he promised to go with me. I am not strong enough or wise enough or spiritual enough to handle all of the distractions. I just need to keep it simple. I need to remember why I left in the first place.
There is a motive behind the motive. For Bo and his Michigan Men, the ultimate motive for being a “Team” was the glory of winning football games. But, for Paul and you and me, the ultimate motive is far more rewarding and satisfying. The ultimate motive for Paul was the compelling power of God’s love. (2 Cor. 5:13) Our rejoicing (6:10), our reverence (7:1), and our resolve (12:9) are centered and held together not by duty but by delight. We stand, we stay and we serve because the Lord has placed us here. We seek not the applause of the crowds in the stands but the glory of pleasing the One we love. So, like Jesus and like Paul, our life is all about completing one thing: “The Mission. The Mission. The Mission.”