The service of the Lord is fundamentally personal and springs out of what the Lord has done in us, and it amounts to Christ coming into a situation by us. The service of the Lord is that He comes into us. All sorts of perils and dangers are associated with that, and you know how foolish people are, that immediately the Lord does something through a channel, by means of an instrument, people begin to make something of that person at once. ‘Oh, let us call so-and-so, if only he will come, if only she will come’, and they begin to make something of the vessel, and the next time it does not happen. It is the Lord and He is very jealous and you can never take anything for granted. You have got to recognize all the time it is the Lord, but this is the service of the Lord. That is why it is so necessary for one who really brings Christ into a situation, to be a thoroughly crucified person who will never take any glory to themselves, who will never allow people to make of them experts in spiritual matters, but it is the Lord. If it were not for the Lord, nothing is possible. It is only a crucified man or woman who can serve the Lord really, because service is bringing the Lord in. It is all the Lord.
There is a lot of history behind what I have just said. If I am not mistaken, that is the explanation of all Paul’s suffering. If ever a man brought the Lord Jesus into a situation, Paul did. If ever a man’s presence meant the presence of the Lord, his presence meant that. But there is nothing in the natural realm where Paul was concerned which gives him anything whatever to trade upon. If we are not mistaken, the right reading of Paul’s life is this, that Paul himself was more often than not unconscious of any demonstration of God’s presence. If you had asked him, he would often have had to say, ‘No, all I am conscious of is extreme weakness, dependence, need, helplessness; I am not always aware of the mighty power of God resting upon me, I am not always aware of being lifted completely above my infirmities, weaknesses, I am conscious of them all the time; if anything is happening, it is happening in spite of all sorts of things which cripple and limit and seek to defeat and destroy me; the Lord is doing it in spite of these things!’ I believe that was the true history of Paul. The Lord kept him there.