“I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God.” (Romans 15:17, KJV 1900)
Having served in the pastoral ministry and now being in what I choose to call semi-retirement, I find occasions when I look back on the ministry to determine if I have done anything of note. I think it is important for us to look back and feel satisfied that we have accomplished something in our lifetime that has had a positive influence on others. It seems that Paul, in this section of the letter to the Romans, is doing just that. Verses fourteen through twenty-one seem to be an epilog of Paul’s ministry.
In verse seventeen, he appears to be boasting or glorying in his ministry. In fact, the ESV translated this verse, “In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God.” (Romans 15:17, ESV)
Now we know that Paul would not be glorying in himself. In fact, we can see this as we look at the next verse. He states, “For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed,” (Romans 15:18, ESV) Here, Paul clearly explains that the positive results of his ministry in reaching the Gentiles with the gospel was because Christ worked through him. In verse nineteen, he goes on to explain that Christ worked through him in signs and wonders by the power of God’s Spirit. Nevertheless, Paul had reason to feel good about his part in the Great Commission program.
As I have looked back into my time in pastoral ministry, I have often wondered if I should feel good about what happened. I used to worry about becoming proud when looking at some of the successes that I saw in the churches where I served. However, I have now come to realize that it is not wrong to feel good about that which was accomplished. You see, I know in my heart that it was not me but Christ at work in me and through me. Thus, I have no room for self-glorification, but I do have room to feel good about my part in the great mission of Christ.
Friends, you may feel that you have done very little in the kingdom program. I have felt the same way until I recounted all the years. I venture to say that if you look back, you can identify numerous people that you have touched because of Christ’s love and power working in you and through you. I also venture to say that Christ has done even more in and through you than you know. You will probably never know the full influence you have had in this life. Yet, someday in Heaven, you will realize just how great a part you had in God’s great kingdom plan. So whether you have seen much fruit or not, do not grow weary in serving the Lord, for there will be fruit if you do not quit (Gal 6:9).