Sermon from 2 Corinthians 12:15, preached on Sunday, 14 Apr 2019 by the Rev. S. Lee, missionary to [a country].
Bible Readings: (OT) Psalm 46:1-11 / (NT) 2 Corinthians 12:11-21 (esp. v. 15)
“I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?” (2 Cor. 12:15)
Have you heard of an acronym, ‘YOLO’? It means ‘You Only Live Once,’ designating a life-style some people choose to enjoy their only one life. It’s popular for many young people in South Korea and elsewhere in the world.
There’s a typical example of the one who sought YOLO in an extreme way in the Bible, especially in Lk. 15. He was the second son to his rich father. He desired the wealth of his father; he desired a fancy life with that wealth. His father was still strong, far from leaving inheritance to his sons, yet, this son clamoured for his share and finally took it from the father. He then spent according to his greed and lust for his only one life. Lk. 15:13 describes his way in these words:
“Not many days later, the young son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.”
This son used all his wealth in not accumulating wisdom through study, nor gaining profits through running a business, nor multiplying through stock investment. He dissipated it all by a pleasure-seeking hedonistic lifestyle. He had some friends, yet, until his pockets were still swollen. None was around when he found himself around a pigpen and surrounded by pigs. As you know well, he hit the rock bottom of a miserable life.
YOLO – You Only Live Once – is true; everyone lives once. But there are people who have spent their one life unlike this prodigal son in Lk. 15.
We hear about a woman, first of all, from Mt. 26 and Mk. 14. When the Lord Jesus was at the house of a man called ‘Simon the leper,’ a woman approached Him, broke an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and poured it on the Lord’s head and washed His feet. That perfume must’ve been kept for her marriage preparation and some disciples were indignant. They thought her behaviour was a total waste, pointless extravagance.
“There were some who said to themselves indignantly, ‘Why was the ointment wasted like that?’” (Mk. 14:4)
Her act of anointing, however, was something completely different to the eyes of our Lord. He said, “She has done a beautiful thing to Me. … she has anointed My body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (Mk. 14:6, 8-9).
This woman’s waste was not for her own pleasure; it was for the Lord Jesus. Truth is, whatever we do for the Lord never becomes a waste, never is lost. The Lord remembers it!
Going back to that prodigal son in Lk. 15, the place he went away for his pleasure hunting is described with a Greek word, i.e., ‘dapanao.’ This Greek word reappears in 2 Cor. 12:15. Are we going to find here another pleasure-seeking prodigal son? Not at all! We find here in 2 Cor. 12:15 the apostle Paul.
“I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?”
Paul the apostle lived a life that was far from worldly comfort or pleasure. He was a tent-maker who made tents for his spending in mission for Christ and His gospel. Such a life as Paul’s was described with the same Greek word, ‘dapanao.’
By looking at this action word only, there seems to be no difference between the actions of Paul and the prodigal son. But the apostle used his own life and possession for the souls of others. His ‘spending’ or ‘wasting’ brought the lost souls in the world to God, and churches were formed. Paul’s ‘wasting’ brought such a joy of becoming God’s children to the Gentiles, heathens, lost ones in the world.
In Oct 1889, two Australian missionaries came to the Korean peninsula. They were siblings to each other, the Rev. Joseph Henry Davies (1856-1890) and his sister, Mary Davies. Having studied Korean for five months, they moved around cities and towns, delivering the gospel of Jesus. In Apr 1890, they both arrived in Busan, the second biggest city in South Korea, and died and found their rest in the Lord. Engraved on their epitaph is this message: ‘To Live Christ, To Die Gain.’
Their prayers for mission to Koreans were lasted less than a year and their lives were ‘spent.’ This ‘waste’ was heard by the Presbyterian Church of Victoria and soon 130 missionaries left Australia for Korea.
As Paul the apostle ‘spent’ his life and possession for the lost in the world, so many missionaries came to Korea about 130 years ago and ‘spent’ and ‘wasted’ their lives for the gospel of Christ Jesus. Its fruit is the Lord’s grace experienced in the lives of numerous Christians and churches in Korea. The ‘waste’ and ‘spending’ for God never be forgotten, nor lost! Our Heavenly Father remembers it, and through such ‘waste’ for the Lord, brings up new sprouts of eternal life!
I and my wife are spending our time and effort in [a country], spreading the gospel of the Lord Jesus. It is our joy to serve the Lord through sharing life and possessions because all of this ‘waste’ is for the Lord. I hope that this work might be shared briefly with you later.
My dear fellow Christians, we could easily seek YOLO, You Only Live Once. We could waste our one life following the way of the prodigal son, seeking our own worldly pleasures; we could also spend our one life for God and for the lost neighbours. God has left this choice to us.
Prayer: Gracious Father, we hear that Paul, Your dear servant, willingly and joyfully ‘wasted’ and ‘spent’ his life for You. It is our prayer that we may tread the same path by Your grace and strength. May our life be a willing waste and joyful spending in and through the name of Jesus our Saviour and Lord. Amen.