God's Ultimate Aim
“Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents but the parents for the children. (In other words, it is not the primary responsibility of the Corinthian church to lay up for Paul, their spiritual father, but it is his responsibility as the parent to care for them).And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.”—2 Corinthians 12:14, 15
Apart from one important concluding message or exhortation in the closing chapter of this letter, we are drawing near now to the conclusion of our series of studies. This is indeed a fascinating and challenging epistle, for as we have reminded each other more than once in the course of studying it, in no other letter does Paul open his heart so completely as he does here, to reveal all that was involved to him in being a minister of the Gospel, or, if you like, a missionary. He tells us in verse 11 of this chapter, if you will allow me to paraphrase, that he almost feels he has made a fool of himself in boasting of all his experiences, “but you Corinthian Christians have forced me into it! Instead of defending me and standing by me, you have questioned the authority of my ministry. You have challenged the authenticity of what I have had to say. You have gone away questioning what right I have had to speak to you as I have done,” says Paul; “and so I have been forced to show you that though I am only a nobody, I am in fact not a little bit behind the very greatest of the apostle.” To prove that, he reminds them that they had seen in him a demonstration (v. 12) of the power of God given to all His true ministers in miracles, signs and spiritual authority. It is interesting that the greatest evidence that Paul brought to the Corinthian church for the reality and genuineness of his life was his patience, and this they had seen with their own eyes.
Now he has just one last appeal to make to the church at Corinth, one other thing to say, which will succeed, perhaps, if nothing else has succeeded, in disarming their suspicion of him and winning their confidence. Again to paraphrase in v. 13, “You must forgive me,” he says, “if, because I have taken no money from you, I have made you feel inferior to other churches.” Then in v. 16, “But even though I have taken nothing from you, you thought I was being crafty, even then you questioned my motive and you thought I was taking you by guile. But did I make any profit out of Titus, who came to speak to you, or the brother I sent with him? They acted towards you in exactly the same spirit as I have done, and you want to know why I’ve behaved like this in my ministry, and why it is that I have acted towards you in this way. Let me tell you. I have done it to prove to you (v. 14) that I seek not yours but you. In other words, in all my life and ministry, I have no extraneous motives. I will most gladly spend and be spent for you. In my ministry, there is no limit to my expendability, and no reward expected for my services (v. 15).”
So in perhaps what is the climax of the whole principle of this tremendous letter, Paul opens his heart completely, and we see laid bare before us the selflessness of a man of God which is indeed a copy, a standard, for all of God’s servants for all time.
However, we have come to magnify Christ. Paul is only a faint shadow of the Lord Jesus; and if these qualities are found in his life, it is only because they were found completely in the life of Jesus Christ our Lord. My concern, therefore, is that you should see these tremendous statements with which Paul unbars his heart to them: “I seek not yours but you.” “I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.” I trust that you will see those statements as God’s goal for your life, as God’s grace in your heart, as God’s glory in your service.
God’s Great Goal for Your Life
Our theme, you will recall, has been “Blessing Out of Buffeting,” and that is the principle which Paul has been revealing, the things which God has been doing with him in order that He might bring Paul to this place in his experience where he is completely selfless. This was God’s goal—and it is God’s goal for you and for me—so that Paul was able to say in relation to his ministry, “I am ready to come to you.”
In all the buffeting through which you and I have passed in life—and who is there here today who hasn’t experienced some of them that are inexplicable—what is God aiming at? What has God been doing? What has He been trying to say to us? Though we’ve often been so slow to listen, what is His goal for my life and yours? Surely it is to enable us to say in relation to our service and in relation to Him, “I am ready to come to you.” You are ready, not because of your academic qualifications, but because God has brought you through many shattering experiences in life to a place of utter selflessness. Because He has brought me there, I can truly say in relation to my testimony, “I seek not yours but you.” In other words, as Oswald Chambers puts it in a portion from “My Utmost for His Highest,” “When the Spirit of God has shed abroad the love of God in our hearts, we begin deliberately to identify ourselves with Jesus Christ’s interests in other people, and Jesus is interested in every kind of man there is. We have no right in Christian work to be guided by our affinities; this is one of the biggest tests of our relationship to Jesus Christ.” My interest in another individual is to be centered in what is Christ’s interest in them.
“I desire nothing from you,” says Paul. “I don’t want your money, your things, or your gifts, I want you. I am ready to come to you; and I am ready because God has brought me to this place of selflessness. My only motive is to lay down my life like a rug at the feet of the Lord that you may walk upon it and do what you like with me, if only the will of God be brought out in your life. I have become all things to all men that by all means I might win some.” So this great apostle, this tremendous Christian, has learned to live sacramentally as broken bread and poured out wine, and again quoting Oswald Chambers, “so that Jesus Christ can help Himself to my life at any moment for any purpose.”
The goal of God has no extraneous motives,“I seek not yours but you.” Being abandoned completely to the Lord Jesus, he has no end of his own other than to serve the goal of God. Also, it has no limits to our expendability: “Most gladly rather will I spend and be spent for you.” In other words, in relation to your sphere of Christian testimony, your time, strength, interest, everything is absolutely at the disposal of others. “I will spend it all for you.” Indeed, I will do it to such an extent that not only will I spend, but I will be spent like a candle which is lit and gives out light, but in order to give out light, it consumes itself in the interest of bringing light into a room, until there comes a moment when it sputters for that last time and is extinct. I will gladly spend and be spent for you like that.
Paul went so far as to say, writing to the church at Rome in the ninth chapter, “I could wish myself accursed from Christ for my brethren.” He would rather go to hell than see them lost. Extravagant and fanatical language? Oh, no! The buffeting of life, the sentence of death upon himself over and over again, the affliction through which he had passed, all these things demonstrate that this man was passionate and governed by this one tremendous, moving power within his heart and life which enabled him to face another Christian and say, “I’m just here in order that Christ’s interests in your life might be fulfilled. I’ve no other concern than that.”
“No limits to expendability, no extraneous motives, and no reward excepting,” says Paul, “the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.” In other words, I don’t expect anything in return; I don’t care what you think about me too much; I don’t mind whether you like me or not. I will spend and be spent, though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved in return. I will deprive myself of anything if only I can get you through to my Lord Jesus.
There was no question in Paul’s mind of what about the salary? What about social security? What about furlough? What about climate? What about if I don’t get married? What if I go to serve the Lord alone? What if I go through life and face old age alone, what am I going to do then? After all, you’ve got to think about these things. No, there were no reservations in Paul’s mind. He had learned the word of His Lord, “He that would be the greatest among you, let him be the servant of all.”
God’s goal in this man’s life was accomplished and achieved because he found that through all the buffetings of life, he was being brought to a place where he was absolutely selfless, and he could say “I am ready.” May I say a special word (though I don’t know that there is any category of people here who can be exempt from this) to some young people who are going to offer to a missionary society, perhaps to a board of deacons, or to a church, and who would say, “I am ready to come to you.” “Are you?” “Oh yes, because I have been to school, to the university, to the seminary, and I have my degree. I am ready.” Are you? I am sure that all of these things will stand you in great stead and usefulness, but my friend, if you dare to go to the mission field or enter a pulpit or to go into the ministry and you have some other motive, some extraneous motive, if you put some limit upon your expendability, and you are expecting some reward, you are not ready. For it is in a life which has been made so utterly selfless as this that the Lord Jesus sees of the travail of His soul and is satisfied.
Today when people think about missionary service they ask, what provision is made for retirement and furlough, what percentage will be set aside for travel, what percentage will be available for them when they come home. They want to be sure they have all the equipment and necessities. Such is not God’s goal for their lives.
God’s Grace in Your Heart
I wonder how Paul had become so passionate and selfless. We have to admit that we’ve failed here and hang our heads. Why is it that Paul was like this? It was because one little drop from an infinite ocean of love had got into his heart, one little spark from a fire that had its source in the very heart of God had kindled a flame within him, just one echo of the voice of Jesus Christ. That was all. I am suggesting to you that these words would never have been Paul’s words if they had not first of all been the Saviour’s words. He says to you, “I am ready to come to you.” I am ready, because one day I stepped out of heaven to a manger and poverty. I am ready, because I lived a life that was utterly in obedience to My heavenly Father with no rival claim at all. I am ready to come to you because I triumphed in every place where you failed. I am ready because I went through the garden of Gethsemane. I am ready because I endured the buffeting, the spitting, the shame. I am ready because they took Me up a green hill outside a city wall and nailed Me to a cross, when I paid the price to the limit. I am ready because they laid Me in a tomb. The third day I rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, and sit today at the right hand of My Father, because of all these things I am ready to come to you. And I am ready because, He says to your heart today, “I seek not yours but you.” I’m not after your talents or your gifts, and I’m not after your service primarily. I can do nothing with any of these things until first of all I have you.
The heart of God is only satisfied when we give our whole selves to Him just as we are, so that he might lavish Himself upon us. “I seek…you.” I wish that word would grip the heart of someone with all sorts of emotional and moral problems, sin and temptation problems, psychological problems and every problem under the sun. You say you have given Christ your service and your gifts and your talents, but you have never given Him you.Perhaps you’ve been too ashamed to give Him yourself. The wonderful marvel of the grace of God to your heart is that Jesus wants to have you, with all your problems, your failures and defeats, with everything that He knows about only too well, and about which He can do literally nothing until He has you. He doesn’t want a part of you, while the tyrant of self is left undisturbed deep down in the throne of your life. He wants all of you, so that you may say, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”
That is God’s goal for your life and He will use a thousand and one experiences, buffetings, sadnesses, tragedies, disappointments, disillusionments, until there comes a moment when you answer His cry, “I seek not yours, but you!”
I am fearful of so many people who imagine they are serving the Lord when they have given Him their voice, or their talents, or their ability, even their pocket books, but they have never given Him themselves.
Not merely has the Lord no extraneous motives in relation to your life, but there is no limit to His expendability. He says, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for you.” Hear Him say that to you today. He says to you, I want you for My instrument, My tool, to get My will done on Earth as it is in heaven. I want you in order that you may be used to establish My rule in the hearts of other people. I will place all My resources at your disposal in order that this may be accomplished. I will most gladly spend and be spent for you.
If only He can get you, then it will be no more a vain effort to flog an idle Christian into His service and get him moving. It will be to discover that in being possessed by Christ, you are empowered by Christ, and that emptiness in your life will be filled up with a great moving tide. It was that principle that enabled Paul to say in Colossians 1:29 “I also labor according to the power of Him which worketh in me mightily.”
May the Word of God come to you like a sword from heaven as He says, “My child, I want not yours, but I want you.There is no limit to My expendability at all, and furthermore, I have no expectation of reward, though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.” No coldness of heart on our part, no lethargy, no indifference ever quenches the flame of fire in the heart of Jesus Christ for His children. That is the grace of God, that He might be all that to you.
The Glory of God in Your Service
I don’t believe that Paul could ever have said all that to the Corinthian church—or to anybody else for that matter—he could never have lived on this principle of expendability, he could never have satisfied the heart of God unless, not merely was this the echo of what he had heard Jesus say to him, but I believe that he had responded in just those words to the Lord Jesus Himself. Here is the heart of the whole matter. God’s goal in your life is not only to get you living sacramentally with no extraneous motive, no limit to your availability, no expectation of reward, and He knows this is only possible when the Holy Spirit shows you that that is the principle upon which Jesus is available for your life. But He waits for the day when heaven hears you say this very thing in answer to the grace of the Lord, “Lord Jesus, I’m ready to come to you.” Are you ready to come to Him today? Why? “Because, Lord Jesus, I seek not Yours, but You. It is not now the blessing, but the Blesser. It is not the joy, but it is You Yourself, Lord. I’m not concerned about gifts, but I can’t live without You, and You’ve said to my heart, I don’t want yours but I want you and I am answering now. Lord Jesus, I don’t want Your gifts, I want You, as a living, loving Saviour who will step into my life and keep me day by day, sheltering me from all attacks of the enemy, and dealing with queer, strange, unusual, simple, wretched me, of which I am so sick.”
Perhaps for the first time there is no extraneous motive, for you are not looking at the Word or in the face of Christ today because of something you can get out of it. You are looking not for blessing only, something that you can get from Jesus. Your heart is lonely, defeated, sad, beset with so many problems and difficulties, therefore you want only Himself.
Perhaps for the first time you have put no limits upon your expendability. You are willing to spend and be spent for Him, and you are not going to discuss terms any more with the Lord. For the first time you don’t expect any reward for such devotion though “the more abundantly I love, the less I be loved.” You may lose many friends who won’t understand, perhaps some of them very dear friends, but you will not put any reservations there. Has the Lord ever heard you say these things to Him?