READY TO GIVE.

1 Corinthians 16:1-4.

Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me.

Looking back on this letter to Corinth, Paul needed to rebuke and correct the believers about their wrong doctrine. Their selfish pride had led to a misunderstanding of the gospel, disunity, immorality, abuse of the Lord’s Supper and misuse of spiritual gifts. They were living for the moment without the perspective of eternity. They did not realise that this life is the prelude to resurrection and being united with Christ for ever.
 
Paul finally challenged them to give to other believers they had never met. The church in Jerusalem was suffering from a famine (Acts 11:28) and from ongoing persecution (Acts 8:1). Under those circumstances food was in short supply and expensive. The church had been scattered and breadwinners may have had to move away. Paul understood their plight; indeed one of his first ministry responsibilities was to courier a gift from Antioch to Jerusalem (Acts 11:29).
 
Giving is a personal and practical decision. In view of the Corinthian’s dysfunctional church life, Paul gave specific practical instructions. The money was to be given by each believer when they met for worship each Sunday. The amount should be a generous proportion of their income for that week (2 Corinthians 9:6-7) as a part of their worship. The implication is that it would be given into a weekly collection and kept secure until Titus arrived. He would be a trustee, helping them to account for what had been given and to courier the money to Jerusalem with Paul (2 Corinthians 8:16-21) . Paul did not want any collection made when he visited, to avoid any suggestion that he was personally profiting from the gifts.
 
Giving is the greatest antidote to selfishness. Social action is not the gospel (the good news of salvation) but it validates the gospel. It reflects the transformed mind of the giver and is welcomed as a fellowship offering by the receiver (Leviticus 7:28-34; 10:14). Many gifts are never made because the would-be giver lacks the motivation and discipline. Paul’s practical instructions are still wise. When did you last review your giving to the Lord? How do you decide who to give to? What financial discipline do you have in place to ensure that you regularly remove money for the Lord’s use, from your personal fund, before it can be spent on other things? Practical decisions are essential to enable the Lord’s work.
 

Gracious Father. Thank You for all You have given to me: Your love, salvation and the promise of eternity with You. I am sorry for not being diligent about giving away a generous proportion of what You have given to me. Please help me to decide to be a giver, and then to take practical steps to give my time and energy, possessions and money. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

VICTORY THROUGH CHRIST.

1 Corinthians 15:55-58.

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.

We are used to the idea that death will always win in the end. It is everybody’s observation, but there is also a hunger for eternity. The old hymn by Rev Henry F. Lyte says, “Change and decay in all around I see – O Thou who changest not, abide with me.” He knew sadness, disappointment and sickness but also knew the living Jesus. Christ’s resurrection is the best attested fact of ancient history, and overwhelmingly proves that death is not the end.
 
Death is the end point of a godless cascade. Breaking God’s law releases the sting of sin like a swarm of hornets. Eventually, death overtakes us. But Paul asks, when death meets resurrection, where is its victory? The curse of death over humanity and creation was broken by Christ’s rising from death (Galatians 3:13). And sin, which has a fatal poison, has been forgiven. One day that will be demonstrated when all of Christ’s church arises with new bodies suitable for a sinless and deathless eternity.
 
That is the Christian’s hope (confident expectation, not wishful thinking). It also has implications. Because the Lord will win in the end, and we will reign with Him, we should not let anything stop us being confident in the Lord now. We must not let yesterday’s sin or our bodily weakness keep us in the shadows. If we have fallen, we must stand up. If we have been swept downstream on a tide of sin, we must repent and stand firm in Him.
 
Our obligation to work for the Lord does not come from the need to earn salvation; we cannot ever do that (Ephesians 2:8-9). It comes from the certainty of our own resurrection and the reward we will receive. C T Studd, the British 19thC cricketer and missionary pioneer wrote, “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” He understood the word ‘fully’ in these verses: ‘always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord’ – that means all the time, with all you have and holding nothing back. Because we will be raised, even death is no threat to stop our work for the Lord. Don’t hold back from serving Him because He has withheld nothing from you (Romans 8:32).

Lord God of eternity. Thank You for the resurrection of Jesus which assures believers that death is not the end. Forgive me for holding back from working with You because of my weakness or failings. Please help me to see that there is no reason why I should not give myself fully to the work of the Lord. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

LETTING GO OF GOD’S WORD WHILE HOLDING RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS.

Mark 7:5-8

So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, ‘Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?’ He replied, ‘Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘”These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.’

It is easy to make others look silly when they don’t conform to an accepted social standard. But Jesus agreed with Isaiah’s prophecy that hypocrisy was endemic (people might say they obeyed God, but really had no intention of doing so). In demanding adherence to complex regulations about ceremonial washing (Mark 7:1-4) , they cherished what God did not want; and despised what He commanded.  Rather than holding tight to what God said, they let it slip though their fingers.  They loved to obey human principles rather than God’s Word (Colossians 2:20).  They did not love what matters to God – a sure sign of the ‘heart trouble’ that would prove eternally fatal!

The religious people had put blinkers on their eyes – like horses controlled by another they could not see their own slavery (Psalm 32:9) .  They did not understand why Jesus did not play their religious games.  But that is because they were so preoccupied with doing what they thought was right, that they had no time or interest to understand what God wanted from them.  So Jesus quoted the prophecy in Isaiah 29:13 to expose their hyposcrisy.

Jesus grasped the core of the problem: who should say what is acceptable? Clearly, God has the right to make the rules. But because we find His standard so high, we make ourselves feel better by inventing rules we can keep.  Every Christless religion does this, and even Christians can be tempted to do the same. Terrible!  Especially as Jesus takes the provocative step of declaring their worship to be unacceptable.

This should not only spur our own consciences, but also educate our evangelism and discipleship.  The Gospel does not set out to make people behave nicely, but to change their hearts.  Every Gospel bearer should make a high priority of living out what God says: that (according to Romans 12:1) is real worship.  As most of us live unthinkingly on a moral-autopilot, it is always good to ask the key questions, “Why am I doing what I do?”, and, “Is this what God wants me to do?”

Almighty God. Thank You for giving me my personality through which to express my love for You. Forgive me when I use that personality to generate what You do not require while letting go of what You have commanded. Please help me to take the time to see truth in Your Word and reflect that in my prayers – as I ask for Your help, without which I cannot obey Your Word and so worship You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

TRADITIONS WHICH DEFY GOD.

And he continued, ‘You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, “Honour your father and mother,” and, “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.” But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God) – then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.’

Most cultures assume that their traditions are a normal way to behave and morally right.  They think that what was accepted as being right for their parents must be right for their children.  Of course, some of these traditions are right and are parables of righteousness; but others are wrong and wicked.  However, challenging a tradition is socially and politically risky, creating both heroes and martyrs, as history as well as the Bible demonstrate.  When Jesus challenged the tradition of Corban, He was reaching deep into the hearts of greedy, covetous, mean-minded, dishonourable religious people who despised their obligations to their parents.

Corban was a sort of religious tax-avoidance scheme in the time of Jesus.  In those days there was no pension or social security payment for the elderly, other than whatever their offspring could provide.  Despite all the love and expensive care lavished by parents on their children, some grown up children did not want to repay the investment.  By declaring all their assets to be ‘Corban’, they effectively put them into a ‘trust’ that their parents could not touch – by saying that the money was for God (although they declared it to be ‘holy money’, it was really for whatever purpose they wanted).

Jesus exposed this hypocrisy. He pointed out that ‘honouring parents’ is not just a verbal nicety, but a practical, physical and financial responsibility (Deuteronomy 5:16).  To ignore this duty is to ignore God; they effectively cursed their parents by leaving them uncared for (Ezekiel 22:7) – which attracted the penalty of public stoning (Leviticus 20:9).  By placing the Corban tradition above God’s Word, they showed how little they thought of God and His command to care for their ageing parents.  Paradoxically, if the tradition was ‘handed down’, it may have been the way their parents had also treated their grandparents – creating a cascade of geriatric misery!  Jesus continued His assault on their hypocrisy by exposing similar behaviour in other areas of life.

The ability of self-centred people to avoid their God-given responsibility is breath-taking.  In some parts of the world, care of dependent parents can be totally delegated to ‘old people’s homes’ with only the occasional visit.  1 Timothy 5:4 says, “… if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.”    In the same way, money for mission, competes with money for me (Acts 5:1-3) ; our homes get makeovers although the church is still shabby (1 Chronicles 17:1).  “And you do many things like that”, is a searching condemnation of our ego-centric cultures wherever they are found around the world.  The questions have to be asked, ‘Does our tradition conform to what God has said is right in His Word?’   If the answer is ‘Yes’, then we should thank God and obey His Word.  If the answer is ‘No’, we should repent and change our lifestyle, whatever it might cost us.

Dear Lord. Thank You for seeing deep into my heart, and for giving me Your Word so that I can identify what You are looking at in me. Please forgive me where I have failed to give what I should in order to improve my security. Please show me where I am in danger of becoming like these Pharisees – ignoring obvious responsibilities and making the reason sound spiritual even though I might be selfish and mean to others. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

THE BEST IS YET TO COME.

1 Corinthians 15:45-49.

“So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.

Naturally we get used to life as it is. Without clear teaching and Holy Spirit inspired faith, we assume that there will be no change, except further spoiling or decay. It is Satan’s lie. The glorious truth is that the first man (Adam) and the second Man (Christ) are radically different.
 
Adam, who was a part of God’s creation, sinned; and death entered the world. But Christ took responsibility for the sin of every human being and died to pay its punishment. Adam was created from dust, but Christ came down from heaven – in order to lift repentant sinners into the presence of God.
 
All those who reject Christ remain shackled to the earth, like prisoners on a sinking ship. They share the future of the corrupt world and cannot see above its horizon. But those who welcome Christ and receive His new life are like Him in seeing the world with all its weariness as temporary; they look forward to heaven and receiving a resurrection body which can never change or decay.
 
The best is yet to come! That is why believers have hope and joy; that is why our temporary difficulties are far outweighed by the prospect of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17). And our hope is not just a dream or fantasy. We know it is true because Jesus has risen from the dead and has promised that we shall share in His glory (John 17:22). So when we are burdened by the weariness which belongs to the ‘earthly man’, remember that we now belong to the ‘heavenly Man’. One day the best will be revealed … and for that we wait with joy.

Heavenly Father. Thank You that Jesus Christ came from heaven to bring all those who trust Him back home to His heaven, in glory. Forgive me when I have allowed the shackles of earth to hold me too closely to this world with its sin and pain. Please help me to be confident in the ‘heavenly Man’ and keep looking to Him, expecting His presence, His guidance and His strength now, and His glory when He returns. In His Name. Amen.

THE GLORIOUS RESURRECTION DIFFERENCE

1 Corinthians 15:39-44.

Not all flesh is the same: people have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendour of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendour of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendour, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendour. So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”

It is not easy to grasp something totally new. We have to relate it to what we already know. The church in Corinth had that difficulty in understanding the resurrection, and the resurrection body. So Paul took time to explain. Many things we can see are not the same. Although we do not fully understand the differences, we accept them. He used the language of Genesis 1 in describing the different ‘kinds’ of living creatures: each with distinctive reproducible characteristics.
 
He then described the differences between the world, the planets and stars; not their physical characteristics but in terms of the colour and intensity of light they radiate, and the reaction of those who observe them. Paul used the word ‘doxa’ which we often translate as ‘glory’ [this translation uses ‘splendour’], which speaks more to artists than scientists. He was pushing his readers to stop thinking that the resurrection body is basically the same as the weak and failing physical bodies we know. The resurrection body will be gloriously different and will always bring praise to God.
 
Using the seed analogy again (1 Corinthians 15:36-37) , Paul described the mortal body as perishing, shameful, weak and natural – all moral characteristics of the effect of sin. By contrast the resurrection body will be imperishable, glorious, powerful and spiritual – all divine characteristics. It will be a massive transformation, we shall be radically changed (1 Corinthians 15:52). All the legacy of sin which clings to us, and is now expressed in and through our physical bodies, will be removed for ever.
 
We know the resurrection will happen because Jesus was raised. He intends the hope of resurrection to motivate us now. Satan’s tactic is to tell us that everything is bad and can never change; that we are sinful and will never be any different. He wants to eliminate our confidence in Jesus and remove all hope about the future. Christ’s resurrection declares that to be a lie. Our sin is forgiven; we are justified now. Our sin-tainted bodies which drag us down will be changed. The Lord is changing our hearts now: we are now being transformed into His likeness with ever increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3:18) as we allow Him to work in our lives. When Jesus comes again, our bodies will be totally transformed too. So be encouraged, do not let the world, flesh or devil squeeze you into its hopeless mould (Romans 12:2). The Lord is now at work to change you and He will complete what He has started (Philippians 1:6).

Living Lord. Thank You that the resurrection of Jesus provides such great hope for every believer. Forgive me for the times I have listened to the devil’s lies and assumed that nothing can ever change. Please help me to work with You as You change my heart and look forward to the day when every trace of sinfulness will be wiped away and my body will radiate Your glory. In Jesus’ Name. Amen

THE FOOLISHNESS OF TRYING TO DEFINE THE UNKNOWN

1 Corinthians 15:35-38.

But someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?’ How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.”

God is not curious about anything because He knows everything. Although we are made in His image, we are not God! Our knowledge is limited to what we have been taught, what we experience and what we can find out by using our previous knowledge as tools. Human curiosity has been rewarded through logical scientific method, discovering many of the properties of the world and universe; but only because God’s creation is logical and not random.
 
Every new discovery must start with information which is true; otherwise the conclusion will always be wrong (which is why scientific ‘facts’ are sometime rewritten). In the fields of philosophy and theology, unless there is divine revelation, fallible experience is the only guide. But in questions about life after death, none of the numerous fanciful theories can be proved until we get the other side of death. That is why the resurrection of Jesus, and what He has revealed through the apostles about what will be proved true in the future, is the only information we can trust.
 
Even so we are curious. What will it be like in eternity, what will we do? What will our resurrection body be like? Paul says it is foolish to try to define what you do not know. If nobody had ever watched a chick hatch from an egg or seen an oak come from an acorn – we could only speculate about eggs and seeds. The only reason we can be totally confident that there is a resurrection body is that Jesus was seen alive in such a body; clearly recognisable, about to walk and talk and eat food, but also able to appear and disappear. It had properties which we do not understand. And yet His resurrection is enough evidence to assure us that there is life after death for those who belong to Christ, that He will come back again, and that we will also be raised with new, different bodies.
 
Our curiosity will raise a million questions, but God will only reveal what we need to know in order to obey Him and to trust Him about what is not yet fully revealed. Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” It is foolish to make up what God has chosen not to reveal. It causes divisions in churches, heresy and apostasy: the world-wide church is infected by it. Although there is much we cannot know now, we can be confident that Jesus is alive, that His resurrection body had different properties, and that when He returns we will also have a resurrection body which can never spoil or fade or decay. So let’s keep obeying Jesus in what we know and keep trusting Him for what is to come.

All-knowing God. Thank You that You have not revealed to me information I do not need or could not cope with. Forgive me for failing to obey what You have commanded, and for worrying about the future because I have failed to trust You. Please help me to cherish the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus and use what the Bible does say about the second coming and eternity to strengthen my resolve to serve my Saviour as He builds His church. In His Name. Amen.

THE RISEN JESUS WILL WIN.

1 Corinthians 15:24-28.

” Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he ‘has put everything under his feet’. Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.”

In this passage we have fresh clues to the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ. The salvation-work of Jesus was completed on the cross and assured at the resurrection. Soon after, He returned to heaven where His mission continues. He is building His kingdom, His church, and not even death or hell can prevent Him (Matthew 16:18) . In the process, Jesus is in direct and masterly opposition to every authority which defies His kingdom.
 
Jesus is no longer dealing with the sins of the world; that was settled at Calvary. Now He is intent on bringing every wicked spiritual power to submit to Him (Ephesians 1:18-23) . It is a battle which will involve us too. These unseen evil beings under Satan’s command terrorise the world and the church. They want to disrupt the work of evangelism and discipleship, desperately hoping that believers will fall away or compromise and so dishonour their Lord. Our spiritual battle is not with wicked people but with their unseen evil spiritual mentors (Ephesians 6:12). So it is a great encouragement to know that Jesus is not just the Captain of our Salvation (Hebrews 2:10) but also the Lord of Glory (1 Corinthians 2:8). One day every being, seen and unseen will acknowledge that He is Lord over all (Philippians 2:9-11).
 
When death itself, the ultimate consequence of all evil activity, has been destroyed, Jesus will present the Kingdom to Father God. Until then He is appointed as head over everything. His essential victory over Satan’s evil mastery was shown in rising from the dead, but Satan and his minions are furious because they know their time is short (Revelation 12:12) … so every day presents some new battle for the people in Christ’s kingdom. But when He comes again there will be peace; the conflict with evil will be over. Then God the Son will hand over the kingdom, His incorruptible Bride, to God the Father and give all the glory to Him.
 
Whatever battle you face now, Jesus is there to command you, and all opposition, to submit to His authority. Even apparent defeats or delays will eventually be shown to be His masterstroke of strategy in bringing His enemies to their knees. The resurrection assures us of all this. It not only promises that we belong to Him and will receive a new body one day, but also gives us the confidence that as we battle with evil on earth, Jesus is being powerfully active in the heavenly places (Ephesians 3:10) . We are not alone. Jesus will win the victory. All we have to do is to be strong in the Lord and let His mighty power do all that we cannot, while we act obediently under His command.

Heavenly Father. Thank You that Jesus is still working actively to defeat the evil which seeks to oppress me. Thank You that He prays for me and takes authority, as He chooses, over rebellious spiritual beings which seek to pull me away from Him into despair and defeat. Forgive me for thinking that I am on my own and that I cannot win, wrongly accepting failure as normal and compromise as being wise. Please help me to trust Jesus every day, knowing that He is dealing with all I cannot see so that I can stand secure in Him. In His Name. Amen

NO RESURRECTION… NO HOPE

1 Corinthians 15:12-14

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.

When Paul preached about the resurrection of Jesus, he got into trouble (Acts 24:21). The fact that Jesus, who was crucified, was unmistakably raised from death and given a new body greatly disturbed many people. It disturbed the Pharisees, who did not want to be troubled by Him any more, and the Sadducees who just lived in the moment and believed that death was the end of everything. It disturbed followers of pagan religions because the apostles claimed that Jesus was alive, unlike all their gods. It disturbed the Roman authorities because they believed that Caesar was a god and King Jesus still threatened his supremacy.
 
Some so-called Christians in Corinth were also uncomfortable about the idea of physical resurrection. They liked to live for the moment and did not enjoy the idea of being accountable to the Lord Jesus. That is why they had fallen into so many errors of thinking and behaviour. So Paul explained the logic of their position. If nobody could be raised from death, then Jesus was still dead (despite all the evidence to the contrary) and could not be a living Saviour. They could not have any relationship with Him.
 
Without the resurrection, faith in Jesus Christ is essentially no different to faith in any historical hero, or fictional character. There is no evidence of any life or power. The god-figure will be a point of community focus but not relationship. There may be sacrifice but not forgiveness. There may be a sense of duty to the so-called deity but there is no love from the god. In other words, if Christ was not raised then the preaching, evangelism, church planting, worship and fellowship was a waste of time, and so was their faith.
 
The physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is the key to our relationship with Him. We know He is alive and one day will return in that physical body to receive His people and to judge the earth (1 Corinthians 4:5) . Yet among the many distorted gospels, which are no gospel at all (Galatians 1:6-7), is one which claims to like the love of Jesus but does not want to be accountable to Him, and rejects the resurrection. It is the route to yet another hopeless religion. By contrast, telling people about the resurrection is a wonderful way to start a gospel conversation. If death is not the end, we need to prepare for eternity (Matthew 24:44).

Living Lord. Thank You that Jesus Christ is alive and that I can have a real relationship with Him. Forgive me for forgetting the importance of His rising from death. Please help me to grasp the hope of eternity You have given Your church; help me to prepare for it myself and help me to tell my friends and colleagues that they need to prepare to meet the living Lord Jesus Christ. In His Name. Amen.

PRACTICAL GRACE

1 Corinthians 15:9-11

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

You may wonder why the Lord Jesus called Paul to be an apostle. Paul wondered too! He knew that he did not deserve God’s favour because he had persecuted the church (which was the same as persecuting Jesus Christ Himself – Acts 9:4). His only answer was that God called him by His grace. It was unmerited, unwanted, unexpected; a free gift from God’s heart of love. The Lord called Paul because He chose him (Deuteronomy 7:7) . It was God’s sovereign choice. Paul knew he was under divine command and he obeyed (Acts 9:5-8, 15-16).
 
Paul had no pride in his salvation, only shame that he had resisted the Lord Jesus for so long, and had injured the church. Neither would he take any credit for the remarkable change in his character, and life-purpose; that too was the powerful influence of God’s grace. He became what God made Him – forgiven, filled with the Spirit, gifted to evangelise and teach, willing to suffer hardship – all through the grace of God. Paul’s life had changed because the Lord changed his heart, desires, motives and ambitions.
 
That grace had not only motivated but also empowered Paul to work very hard and suffer cheerfully. The apostle allowed God’s grace to operate in his life, to change his thinking and to energise his service. The Lord did it, and the apostle did not resist the mighty hand of God. Humbly, it did not matter to Paul who had preached the gospel to people in Corinth: the message was more important than the messenger. The message was that Jesus who died for their sins was raised in a new physical body to show that they were right with God; and that Jesus who was despised became exalted and could give His gifts of grace to whoever He chose.
 
Pride has no place in the church. Yes, the Lord calls us and enables us to work very hard; but it is all through His grace. It is not what we do (Ephesians 2:8-9). Yes we must explain the gospel to people and urge them to repent and receive Christ, but it is the Lord who stirs in their soul, convicts them of sin and brings willing penitents to salvation. Of ourselves we are nothing; if the Lord enables us, we are still nothing so that He will get the glory. We are the messengers, the servants and the stewards of the gospel of grace (Acts 20:24). The Corinthian church had forgotten that; have you?

God of grace. Thank You for calling me by Your grace, when I was lost, far away and rebellious towards You. Forgive me for forgetting that I am only what I am because of You, and what You have done in and through me. Please forgive me and, by Your grace, cultivate a humble heart in me so that I will work for You with all the energy You give me so that You will receive the glory. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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