No matter what you do, there will be people in your life that will use it to complain against you. You might hear about it indirectly, but sometimes it is very direct. Paul had a lot of enemies in the church at Corinth. They were very powerful and caused a lot of hurt. These enemies influenced people to be argumentative, needlessly confrontational, and divisive. Worse, these enemies were Christians. Paul described them in his first letter to the Corinthian church:
Now some are puffed up, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness? (1 Corinthians 4.18-21)
When you deal with people who are whiners and complainers in the way God wants, many will view you as a tyrant or despot. This is how many viewed Paul the apostle in Corinth. But once Paul left Corinth and was a way, then people saw him as weak and disconnected. But Paul’s delay in getting to the Corinthian church resulted from external consequences beyond his control.
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life …Moreover I call God as witness against my soul, that to spare you I came no more to Corinth. (2 Corinthians 1.8, 23)
But through all this struggle, Paul had peace of mind. He wrote in 2 Corinthians 1.12:
For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.
There are three qualities to a life of inward peace with God and men that provide a Christian with a wonderful testimony inwardly and outwardly:
- Simplicity – the quality of sincerity as an expression of singleness of purpose or motivation; purity of motive; “Obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God” (Colossians 3.22).
- Sincerity – the quality of sincerity as an expression of pure or unadulterated motives; “For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ” (2 Corinthians 2.17).
- Super-abounding Grace – fleshly wisdom is what comes to our mind naturally; super-abounding grace is what God provides for our minds for other people. It’s a gift.
When we conduct ourselves, we are doing (actions). But our doing must be motivated by being in Christ (super-abounding grace). The testimony of our conscience is extremely important. The inclinations of our heart are to do God’s will. We do not want to overstep, misstep, or fall short when it comes to God’s will for our lives. Our goal is to keep a conscience void of offense both toward God and man.
The Holy Spirit bears witness in our spirits that we are children of God. We know that we are no longer categorized with the wicked even though we have the vestiges of our sin nature plaguing us throughout our present life. But grace teaches us to overwhelm that sin nature with the denial of ungodliness and worldly lusts …a life that that sober, righteous, and godly in the present (see Titus 2.14).
Therefore, we desire the same testimony of conscience that Paul had. This is possible. John wrote, “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given of His Son (1 John 5.10). You have the very same witness Paul had! As with Job, God knows the way you take. When He has tested you, you shall come forth as gold (see Job 23.10).
How important is it to live a simple, sincere life filled with super-abounding grace? So very important in every way! But it is the only way you will be able to stand firm when everyone is against the right position. It is the only way to effectively lead. It is the only way that you will ever be able to end life well. And a life ends well that is lived well.