The Corinthians were a pain in the butt. At least a loud minority of them didn't like/respect/trust Paul and they made life miserable for him.
Both 1 and 2 Corinthians have this dance of Paul now encouraging them, now scolding them, now having to prove himself and his authority to them. It's an interesting dance that makes for some of the most profoundly moving and some of the most awkward Scripture writing we have recorded.
But as Paul does this dance of trying to prove himself and his credentials to the Corinthians a couple of times he summarizes his position with statements like the one found in 2 Corinthians 10: 17-18:
"Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." For it is not those who commend themselves that are approved but those whom the Lord commends.This struck me as I was reading it over the weekend--we are a fame/shame based culture. There are countless talk shows built around different pop-celebrities and everyday people's 15 minutes of fame.
If fame is our goal, self-advancement and self-commendation is mission-central. To rely on someone else to commend you (particularly God, who we're not even sure is there) is utterly foolish.
But if we read the Scriptures, it seems pretty clear that advancement of God's people is God's work.
This is tricky--when you're looking for a job, you've obviously got to fill out the application. But in what spirit? How do you represent yourself? What does it mean to bear witness, even in a job application, to what God has done in you and through you?
This doesn't mean saying "Jesus taught me customer service skills." But it does mean that even filling out a job application is an opportunity to tell of what God has done with you and through you all along the way.
And then you submit the opportunity, who you've been, and where you're going to God. And then you leave it there. And then you wait.
And to quote the great philosopher Tom Petty, sometimes "the waiting is the hardest part." Because that means the center of gravity in terms of the control of your life is outside of yourself and on Him.
The fundamental question then becomes "do I trust that God is faithful or not?" It's not actually about the thing we want. It's about who we trust to get us to where we need to go. Most of the time I'm a functional atheist about such questions--I think that I know best where I need to go.
But the reality is that when I allow God to commend me, allow him to advance me, allow him to lead me--those are the times when I've experienced the deepest disappointments as I wrestle with a "no" received...and when I've been most blown away by his goodness to me.