Next Steps

shane-rounce-615895-unsplashWhen you look in the pages of the New Testament, you’ll see that the Apostle Paul made incredible sacrifices (2 Corinthians 11:23-28) to advance the Kingdom of God. What was it that gave him the mindset to make such sacrifices? We get four keys in an earlier letter (1 Corinthians 4:1-12):

1. Know your place. This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. 1 Corinthians 4:1

The term “servants” is a unique word. In the original Greek it’s a nautical term meaning “under rower.” On the galleys that would prowl the Mediterranean powered by oars, Paul was saying he was one of the slaves down in the hull of the ship. Paul knew his place. Paul didn’t think too highly of himself or that he was above having to sacrifice for the Kingdom. He knew his place.

2. Understand your duty. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:2

The word here is the word for “steward,” which is where we get the word stewardship from. Think of it this way: let’s say that you and your spouse are being smart and putting away a portion of your income for retirement. You invest your money with a money manager, who is a steward of your finances. His job is to be trusted with the money, invest it wisely, and give you back more than you initially gave him. But if your money manager never returns your calls, he keeps giving you different numbers on how much your investment is worth now but he says, “just invest more money and everything will be good,” how likely are you to do that? If he can’t prove faithful and properly invest what you’ve already given him, why in the world would you give him more?

That’s what Paul is saying here. Our duty is to be a steward of the intellect, the talents, the resources, the time, the energy that God gave us. Our duty is to be a good steward, to invest what God has given us to advance the Kingdom. But too many waste the potential God has given them by being poor stewards and get mad when God won’t give them any more. Understand your duty. Everything you’ve been given by God isn’t for your enjoyment and leisure; it’s to advance the Kingdom of God.

3. Recognize to whom you’re accountable. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.  My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. 1 Corinthian 4:3-5

Paul recognizes that ultimately he is accountable to one person: God. That’s why the opinions and praise of men had such little sway over him, why he was okay being at the end of the procession, subject to the scorn and ridicule of mankind: they weren’t his ultimate audience. God was.

If we’re fools for Christ, that’s okay because we are ultimately accountable to God, not to man. For too many Christians, we’re unwilling to make the sacrifice because we’re afraid of what other people might say. Paul was much more afraid of what God would say than what others would say. It was that perspective that gave Paul the power and freedom to make the sacrifices necessary to advance the Kingdom in Corinth.

4. Make the “sacrifice”. For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored!  To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. 1 Corinthians 4:9-12

I put the word “sacrifice” in quotations because what Paul did was a sacrifice only if you looked at it from a worldly, human perspective. But if you look at it from a heavenly perspective, in light of what Jesus sacrificed for our sins, what Paul did wasn’t a sacrifice; he was simply following in the footsteps of his savior. If you looked at what he gave up in regards to worldly prestige, riches and leisure, it was definitely a sacrifice. But if you looked at it from the perspective of the treasures in heaven that he was storing up, Paul wasn’t making a sacrifice at all. In fact, in light of eternal rewards he was making the smartest play and the wisest investment.

So in the end, Paul made a sacrifice, but it wasn’t really that much of a sacrifice, because he had the right mindset, which gave him the perspective needed to make the “sacrifice.”


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