Lord, our God, let the power of Your grace be shown among us in all kinds of heavenly virtues. Amen.
Text: Second Corinthians 6:1–10
We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well-known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
Christ’s suffering and Christ’s patience we see clearly in the lives of the Apostles. Tribulations, danger, fears, and beating, the work and watching and fasting, the disrespect and wicked rumors, misjudgments, poverty, pain, and death – these were Jesus’ lot, and these we find again among His Apostles.
But do pain and sufferings belong only to the Lord’s saints? No, “indeed one sees suffering everywhere on earth, but the depth of Jesus’ suffering is seen nowhere else, except that among His servants we have a reflection of it.” Patience, purity, long-suffering, kindness, boundless love, and the like, that is the manner of Jesus’ suffering, His holy battle plan. In everything serving, self-sacrificing love; in everything the same spirit, the same picture before His eyes: our best, our salvation. And the same is true of the Apostles, in imitation of His holy pattern. How enlightening, but must we not also say: What an embarrassing picture for us! To be sure, we are not called to be apostles, but all Christians are called to be Christ’s servants, and Paul cries out to us: “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1Co 11:1).
O all too many who are called Christians have “received the grace of God in vain.” “They received God’s grace” – and yet “in vain!” What a remarkable and important statement! All too many since then have accepted an offer from the tempter! Or are we mistaken? Are there perhaps many who walk in Christ’s footsteps with the Apostles? O how few are they of whom this passage speaks: “by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left.” But we must be armed in this way if we are to stand against the devil’s wily onslaught. In this way we must be armed. Indeed we shall lose otherwise! What would the result be, then? So for Jesus’ sake, put on His armor, soldiers of the Lord!
Lord God, make us true Christians, and let Your power be perfected in us. O let it be seen in all we do that we are Your disciples. Let all the world know that You have a holy people on earth, who can work and suffer and conquer by Your power. Teach us also to “drink from the brook and lift up our head” [Psa 110:7]. Amen.
And in thy sure hope stand true!
Trust thou firmly in God’s Word!
Is thy cry in trouble heard,
Comes He not to help thee through?
Hope thou in Him firmly yet!
For the Lord doth not forget,
Even now is help proclaimed;
Hope can never make ashamed.
Go then forward! Steadfast be
In faith, love, hope, forever!
Lord, I hear, I will never
Leave my God, who leaves not me.
He’s my soul’s rejoicing still,
Griefs no more my joy can kill.
Reach forth Thy hand, God, my Friend;
Make me faithful to the end!
Praetorius: Be thou faithful to the end L 270:6-7 tr. A. Warner, alt. (Hymns of the Church Militant);
tune: Salzburg (ELH 172); alternate hymn: O for a faith that will not shrink ELH 364:5-6