My family lived in Peabody, Massachusetts for a little over ten years. Not Pea-BAH-dy. PEEbuhdee. And sometimes we had to pronounce it with frozen lips. I have experienced wind chill of minus thirty degrees in Peabody. Some days, heavy snows fell in the afternoon and piled up into the evening. After dinner, we’d pack ourselves in down one more time and go sledding in the moonlight. Warming back up with steaming cocoa in front of the fireplace brought an idyllic end to the day.
But, ohhh, the morning! When twenty inches of snow falls between noon and midnight, the super-caffeinated plow-drivers work all night to clear the roads – and plug your driveway! Since the roads are open, so are the schools. Now we have to get up extra early and shovel, shovel, shovel. (only by experience can you appreciate the onomatopoeia of the word ‘shovel’) The kids got to stay up later than usual for moonlight madness, so we let them sleep until the regular alarm goes off. When they’re ready to go, the car has been excavated and pleasantly warmed and the driveway is once again a ‘thru way.’ More than the warmth of the car, we hope our children appreciate the warmth of our hearts for the last twelve hours of blessing.
In today’s text, Paul lets us know that much of the blessing of his hard work is being met with a chill blast of indifference from the Corinthians. “We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us.” This is extremely ungrateful when you consider the labors of Paul and his missionary band. They shoveled, shoveled, shoveled, and shoveled some more! “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path …” As your servants, we opened wide the way for the grace of God to flow favorably into your hearts. Even now is a time of favor with God. He will shine on you with His concern and wrap His downy aid around you, so why the thirty-below cold shoulder? Your heart is like ice!
Have you ever served the people of God and received only a chill wind in return? The natural approach is be outcome driven. If I put something in and I get very little out, I move on. But Paul helps us to understand that it’s not about what we gain, it is about the ministry itself. He conducted himself in a way that would not allow the ministry to be discredited. In the long run, others would see that he endured trouble, hardship, distress, imprisonment, sleepless nights, hunger... They would see that he ministered in purity, patience and kindness.
In your own ‘running against the wind,’ strive to be like Paul. When you’re receiving little in return, know that you already possess the Kingdom, and expect that there is joy to be found – even in pre-dawn shoveling. The blizzard of blessing is on the way!
Pray: God of grace and favor, help me not to receive your grace in vain. Help me serve others as a function of serving You. Let my attitude, words, and actions always be a credit to the One I serve. Help me build Your reputation as the Lord of enduring love. Give me endurance like the Christ of the cross, with a vision of joy set before me. By the power of the Spirit, help me to open wide my heart.