1 Corinthians 16
At first this chapter seems to be a hodge-podge mixture of final instructions and greetings regarding several people we don’t know in a church we’ve never been to. And yet, could Paul really just as well have been writing to us regarding our church? Where would he insert your name today? Let’s see what we find…
Paul begins by instructing the Corinthians to each be setting aside a weekly gift offering (in accordance with their income) on the first day of the week (not just giving some left-overs at the end of the week – if there was anything left). This money would then be collected when Paul arrived and sent with responsible men to the church in Jerusalem which was experiencing great poverty and famine as well as persecution. Generous, scheduled/weekly, repeated giving to help the Christian brothers and sisters in need. Are we called to do any less? How are you and your Christian community giving to support a church in need? I think immediately of the needs in Malawi and Mozambique which have been hit so hard with recent cyclones and flooding resulting in the loss of crops, homes, churches and lives. http://www.lhicog.com/images/Africa_Disaster_Relief.pdf.
I was struck with the reason Paul said he was going to stay in Ephesus until Pentecost: “For a wide door for effective service has opened for me, and there are many adversaries.” (1 Corinthians 16:9). How exciting to have a WIDE door for EFFECTIVE service OPENED for ME! Have you been testing doors to see which ones will open – even a crack? I am quite sure Paul hadn’t been sitting on his couch watching Netflix when suddenly a door opened wide for him. It often takes time, sacrifice, trials, perseverance, and ordering priorities to seek and find the open doors. And when that door did open wide – it was still far from easy – in fact he found he had many adversaries! But, rather than high-tailing it out of there and looking for an easier way – he was scheduling his priorities to stay where he was for that time because he saw how he could be used by God for effective service. Would I recognize the open door? Am I testing doors? Am I not scared away at the possibility of gaining a few adversaries? Let’s pray today (and daily) for “wide doors for effective service” to be opened for each of us – even if it comes with some adversaries. And then – for the courage and wisdom to advance through the door.
Paul leaves a concise 5 point checklist for the church – of any century (vs. 13 & 14).
- Be on your guard
Watch for spiritual dangers – they are sneaky, real, powerful and deadly. Apathy, busy-ness, worldliness, sin, a different gospel, and pride (to name just a few) can easily creep in when you aren’t standing guard against them.
- Stand firm in the faith
Remain steadfast in what matters most – your faith will be attacked (by others, by the enemy, by trials). Keep it the priority. Don’t be swayed. Believe in God and the truth He gives.
- Be courageous
Troubles will come – be courageous – keep following God into the battle. Gain courage knowing you are dressed for success with the Armor of God.
- Be strong
It will be hard– be disciplined in your spiritual training which will grow your spiritual muscle power. Rely on His strength knowing you can’t do it alone. Stay connected to your church – there is strength in numbers.
- Do everything in love
In the midst of the spiritual battle, don’t grow cold-hearted – love, every time. What does real love look like? Self-sacrifice, giving, do onto others, sharing truth and the saving message of salvation, and love even when they haven’t earned it. (Refresh your love checklist with 1 Corinthians 13 again.)
These two short verses (Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love – 1 Corinthians 16:13,14) would be great to post on your bathroom mirror to see every morning as you prepare for the day. Examine yourself daily – not just your hair, teeth and physical appearance. How are you looking spiritually? What do others see when they look at you? What grades would you earn for your watchfulness, steadfastness, courage, strength and love of the day before? What will courage look like today? What spiritual dangers are lurking around the corner? Who is God putting in your life to love in a special way? Pray for these qualities in yourself and others, surround yourself with those developing and demonstrating these attributes so you can mutually encourage (and sometimes even admonish) one another.
Be the church Paul longed to see.
It’s not easy – but it’s always worth it. (Refresh your resurrection recall with 1 Corinthians 15).
There are so many other great nuggets in this chapter. Take the time to read it today and see where Paul would have put your name.
Praying for God’s Church,