“Are they servants of Christ? …I more so…” (2 Cor. 11:23) Paul goes on to list 23 examples of how he is a servant of Christ.
The thing is, the examples Paul lists aren’t the examples I imagined. When I think of how I or others are servants of Christ, I think of things like ministry positions (“I pastor a church”). Or ministry accomplishments (“35 people got saved last week”). Or callings and assignments (“I make disciples”; “I’m a prophet.”) Of course, attendance metrics also seem to be a valid example (“Our church has over a thousand people.”)
But Paul doesn’t say anything like that. In fact, what he says is downright alarming. If these examples he lists are the metrics and standards for whether we are servants of Christ, we need to take a hard look in the mirror. Are we actually experiencing any of these things? Are we willing to?
When we do experience these things, are we quick to recognize that it’s because of Christ, or do we instead wonder if we’ve disappointed and been abandoned by Christ? Oftentimes when I’ve experienced something on this list, I haven’t connected it directly to me being a servant of Christ. Especially if it didn’t happen as a direct result of me serving Christ, it’s not intuitive that I’m experiencing it because I am a servant of Christ. And yet, Paul also doesn’t qualify these things to say they happened only when he was in the direct act of serving Christ. But presumably, these things happened only after he became a believer and started serving Christ. Takeaway for me: When you are serving Christ, you cannot escape persecution, hardship, or suffering. And it might happen even for things/at times when you’re not directly involved in serving Christ.
So, here’s Paul’s list. I’ve presented it in questionnaire form because that’s how I read it: “Kelly, have you…?”
Paul’s Indicators for a Servant of Christ
Answer the following questions to determine how you rate as a “servant of Christ” compared to Paul, the former persecutor turned apostle of the early Church. Paul answered “yes” to all of these.
1. Have you labored for Christ?
2. Have you been imprisoned?
3. Have you been beaten countless times?
4. Have you often been in danger of death?
5. Have you received government-inflicted corporal punishment (in Paul’s case, lashings)?
6. Have you been beaten with rods (separate from #3 above)?
7. Have you been stoned by a mob (and left for dead)?
8. Have you been shipwrecked multiple times?
9. Have you been stranded in the ocean for 24 hours or more?
10. Have you been on frequent journeys?
11. Have you faced dangers from rivers?
12. Have you faced dangers from robbers?
13. Have you faced dangers from your own people (your “countrymen”)?
14. Have you faced dangers from foreigners – (“Gentiles”)?
15. Have you faced dangers in the city?
16. Have you faced dangers in the wilderness?
17. Have you faced dangers on the sea (separate from shipwrecks and being stranded)?
18. Have you faced dangers from false believers?
19. Have you been in labor and hardship?
20. Have you had many sleepless nights (no sleep, whatsoever)?
21. Have you been in hunger and thirst, often without food at all?
22. Have you been in cold and exposure?
23. Have you been concerned daily for all the churches, internalizing the challenges the people of God face?