4 But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses,
Verse 4 begins a list of hardships that the team faced while ministering (vv. 4-10). Paul listed nine trials with three sets in verses 4 and 5. All these things commended the gospel team’s ministry.
4 But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers [servants] of God:
The gospel team made every effort to make their ministry commendable to others, but especially to God. Paul and his team were “ministers” or servants of God. They served God without regard for their convenience.
in much patience [endurance],
Paul showed what the team endured in the following descriptions: tribulations, needs, distresses. A catalog of nine hardships follows. There are three sets of three categories of suffering. The first category is trouble (v. 4). They endured multiple kinds of adversities. Christians will face hardships, but God will enable them to persist through them all. Their endurance was divinely enabled.
“Tribulations” are general troubles. These adversities could be physical or emotional suffering (Ac 14:22; 20:23). People in ministry will face many difficulties. It is God’s curriculum to determine whether one is fit for ministry.
in needs [hardships],
“Needs” are any form of hardship, any difficulty in life (1 Co 7:26; 1 Th 3:7). God places problems and hardships in the way of those who seek to represent Him. This is to see whether their character is adequate for ministry. God is not in the business of contentment, but His design for people who represent Him is to develop their character.
in distresses [narrow places],
The word “distresses” carries the idea of narrow places—the idea of anguish (2 Co 1:4, 8; 2:4; 4:17; 7:4; 8:2, 13). People in ministry often get hemmed in by difficulties. There are trials from which there is no escape. Ministry often puts leaders in straits. Confining circumstances show our character for what it is.
Every genuine minister faces tests that validate his ministry.
Christians need to hold up against whatever may come their way. How Christians handle problems attests to their genuineness.