Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode 598 · 4 months ago

An Opportunity for Work

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

1 Corinthians 16:5-9

God to bless the Reading and preaching of his word. Our heavenly father, as we come to your word now, we asked that you would form us by the teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness that your word does. We asked that you would do it amongst us today, in our own heart's exactly how each needs. We pray, Lord, that your word would be clear to us and that it would be used by you for the strengthening of our souls, for salvation and the bringing in of the elect we pray this in Jesus name. And so let's hear God's word this morning. From First Corinthians, Chapter Sixteen, beginning in verse five. I'll read verses five through nine. We are coming pretty close to the end of this book. As we do so, we are receiving from Paul in his letter or these final instructions and various commands and information about his travels and these kind of things. They're helpful to us in a number of ways, which will consider this morning. First Corinthian sixteen, five through nine. Paul Rights, I will visit you after passing through massive Ownia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia and perhaps I will stay with you, or even spend the winter so that you may help me on my journey wherever I go. For I do not want to see you now, just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you if the Lord permits, but I will stay in emphasis until pentecost, for a wide door for effective work is open to me and there are many adversaries I'm in. Please be seated. So passages like this give us some very detailed information about Paul, about those to whom he writes, about the places he's in and plans to go. This is information is useful on a couple of levels. On one, it helps us to understand the biography of Paul. You take passages like this and other bits and pieces, side comments instructions throughout his letters. You combine that with Luke's accounts of Paul's travels and acts and you end up having a fairly detailed picture of what Paul was doing and where he was doing it and when. And, of course, all of these things go together in front that you can learn all kinds...

...of interesting things. You can imagine yourself and his position, you can think what it must have been like to be him on to endure the things he endured to serve in the ways he he did. He was a walker, for example, I think. I think I read that he walks something like an average of thirty miles a day, these great distances. He sailed sometimes across the GNC, but that couldn't always be done. That might be one reason why he wanted to stay with the Corinthians when the wintertime came. As I understand it not a great time for ship travel, but he so. Passages like this help us to get a fuller picture of who he is. We've come to understand that Paul is not just a symbol standing behind these letters, a symbol of APPA Appolis, apostolicity there it is, or symbol of of of teaching or authority or something like that. He is those things. He is an apostle of Jesus Christ. He is authority given to us, the foundation upon which the church is built, along with the other apostles and prophets. But he's also a person, a real person with trials and struggles and all kinds of things that he goes through in his life. And so for that reason, this, the passages like this are kind of helpful on another level, particularly since Paul calls us to imitate him. He says that here in this book and in other places as well. He says, look at my way of life, look at how I live out the faith and follow after me. And that, of course, Paul is not saying to follow him instead of Jesus. He had several chapters at the beginning of this book saying exactly the opposite of that, telling them that Jesus is the only one that we must follow. But he's also told us that Jesus says he unites members to his body. He puts in us the Holy Spirit. He puts people around us to show us what it is to live, and they don't always do that perfectly, but the Lord is at work and he gives us examples in in one another, particularly in our leaders, and especially in the apostles, and the example that they set before us, as is recorded by word the Holy Spirit in the scriptures. And so with that line of thinking, I'd like to consider this passage this morning and think a little bit, try to get into Paul's brain a little bit about his decision making process. How does he make decisions? How does he think about things? And I there's a lot to say that's really interesting about this, but I want to offer just a few broad, perhaps even vious, the strokes to you...

...of that are, I think, will be helpful to us both for our own lives and our own decision making and also for understanding of the Greater Work of Christ in the world. It's helpful to mention these things because we're pushed around a lot in our own hearts and in our world. If you haven't noticed it yet, there are many, many people around you spending billions of dollars a year to encourage you to make this or that decision. Advertising and many other things are so, so prevalent. On top of that, we have books and streams of information constantly pouring into most of our lives that are telling us do this and do that, and now try this and now try that. Sometimes it can be really overwhelming. Sometimes you even it can be hard to know what to do. I remember reading a list at one point, kind of a jokey list, of the sort of assembled all the things that you're supposed to do in your morning routine and how long this would sort of take to accomplish what you sort of you know, fresh brewer coffee and exercise for so many minutes and read your Bible for so long and chat with your dad and all these great things to do, but you kind of see how all the advice, once it gets to get you like this, is impossible to do. It can feel overwhelming at times and if we're not grounded in some of the big picture things, as we see Paul is here, it can be very difficult and we can sometimes not just feel overwhelmed, but we can get pushed around. Our decisions become made by simply who's the loudest person yelling in our ear or WHO's spending the most money to get our attention, or or other things from worse things. So what do we notice about Paul in his decision making that's going on here? Well, one point, this think is somewhat obvious but important to make, is that Paul does make plans. Some of US don't like making plans. We find that frustrating and difficult, but at some level it is a good thing to do. Paul is remember he's not in Corinth writing to the Corinthians, he's in Ephesus writing to the Corinthians. And you can kind of imagine a body of water, the AGANC, and I guess here. Ephesus is over here, Corinth is over here and as Paul writes this letter. He's writing it remember, because he's received these reports from chloe's people and and and others, that there are these problems that have come up since he was last there, and so he's writing them this letter. He's written to them, probably one previous to this,...

...and he will write yet more. But at this particular moment, what does he makes some plans. What does he say? He says, I will look into the future visit you after passing through Macedonia. He says, I intend to pass through Macedonia. He talks about perhaps staying the winter, staying awhile. He plans again to stay in Ephesus until pentecost. So he makes plans, he looks to the future, he looks at the situation that is in front of him at the moment, he looks at the things that are needed. He weighs these various things and he says, I think it's a good idea for me to go visit the Corinthians, and here's about when I think I should do that. And he writes them and he tells them his plans. Notice that his plans are definite. They have a time and a place. He's not overly vague. He's not being noncommittal about it. In fact, he'll have to make that point later on in Second Corinthians when he gets accused of being fickle and flaky. He'll say no, I'm not paying fickle and flaky. Here's why I wasn't able to come when I and that sort of thing. But nevertheless, he he makes plans. He's not trying to leave himself and out or or anything like that. He's willing to be committed to these things. However, he builds into his plans a degree of flexibility. He says, I intend to pass, I'll stay with you perhaps for the winter. I intend to do this or I intend to do that, and that's important because Paul knows he's not God. Some of US don't like to make plans. Other of us, I love to make plans and we make our plans and if they get broken, our hearts fall apart, the end of the world has happened because we didn't get what we wanted, and that's not good either. Paul understands that he can make these plans, but ultimately they're up to the Lord. He is not God. He cannot be everywhere at all times, he cannot do all things, he cannot know all things. These are characteristics that only we can attribute. We can only attribute to God himself. Paul is limited in time and space and so he has to make his decisions that way. He's also limited in knowledge and he doesn't control all things, and so he rightly says, I intend or perhaps. And then, finally, giving things to the Lord, he says, if the Lord Permits. There's a sense in Paul's planning of he plans, but there's a sense in his plans that there is something of the unknown, that things might change. There's an openness to the future. But ultimately he's not going to trust in himself, he trusts in the Lord, and...

...so he says, if the Lord Permits. So Paul makes plans and we see some of the ways in which he makes them. The second thing I think we can see is that those plans are not arbitrary, but they're rooted in certain that mean he intends it not to be a fleeting or a passing thing. So let's think about Paul's goals for a moment. Paul's what are the things, the values and goals on which he's making his decision. One is that he's wants to be useful. Remember, Paul has a calling. He has been called to do something by the Lord, Jesus Christ. He is called to be an apostle. He has been given a mission and that means it's his job to go to work. Now, none of us here are apostles, but each of us have been given callings in our lives. Some of those are relationships, all father, mother, son, daughter, student, worker of some sort, boss and others. As God places us in these various positions, we are called to work in them and to be effective in them, to do good a good job, and to look for opportunities for usefulness. Why? Because that's what we're called to do, called to by the Lord. Though, Paul, Paul doesn't just wait around and wait for something to happen, though he completely and entirely trusts in the Lord and though he knows all of his work only comes from the Lord himself, nevertheless he makes decisions and he goes and he acts and he trusts, hoping that the Lord will work. And sometimes we see that the Lord changes his path along the line and Paul's life. He has various moments where, either in God's providence or even in sometimes in Paul's life of visions, he is told to take different directions and go different thing ways. Sometimes, as in his separation from Barnabas, these plans were perhaps not desired or wanted, but nevertheless they happened and they change the way. They change, they change what happens, what his plans for the future. But nevertheless, though these plans...

...may change in the Lord may have different desires, he makes decisions and he gets to work. In ephesis, for example, where he is right now, he first goes to the synagogue, as was often his practice, and he reasons with the Jews that are there. He did that for about three months until he was shut out and he wasn't allowed to go there. Well, now what? Well, then he finds another place. He goes to the hall of Tyrannus, and it turns out two years he was able to stay there. This is perhaps what he's referring to when he talks about this wide door that is opened for him. An amazing thing. Sometimes Paul's would go to places and it would be very difficult right away. Part of the reason for that is in Second Corinthians gets into this more right at the beginning of Paul's mission there was a counter mission going on among the Jews seeking to bring the God's people back under the laws of Moses. People going around to the places where Paul was planting churches and discipling people and going ahead of him and causing all kinds of problems, trying to stir people up and and draw them away. Open door for ministry. Speaking regularly in the hall of tyrannus. It's the scriptures saying in acts that the word went forth to all of Asia as he ministered, as he ministered there. Nevertheless, that caused conflict with the locals. In one example there was there were people who said that Paul was disrupting their business. Well, he was. In fact. What was their business? Making idols, they said, as these people are converting and as they are leaving idolatry were running out of business and it's disrupting everything. It got so bad there was a riot in the city of Ephesus when Paul was ministering in Ephesus. So many Christians, so many new believers, were converting to the faith that the scriptures tell us that they came and they they confessed and divulged all of their magic practice. Fiftyzero pieces of silver are...

...amazing. So Paul was having a big effect and many people were saying praise God for it. But for those who remained hard against the work of the Lord, those who remained hard in okay, that's working so far. So Paul is looking for, and it is and it's and is receiving from the Lord, a wide or for effective work. But notice something else about his values here on values which are rooted in the Gospel and an understanding of what Christ has done for us and who he calls the lives he calls us to live. Notice, how the fact that there are many adversaries does mean that he wants to get out of Ephesus. I think that's really interesting. He says, I will stay in the Ephesus until pentecost, for a wide door of effective work has open to me and there are many adversaries. Difficulty and adversaries does not mean that Paul sort of pulls up. I'ms he has to, sometimes there's no other option. Sometimes he there's an instance in which he is lowered, lowered in a basket by by friends as he escapes with his life. There are times to to, you know, cut bait and move on. Jesus talks about this as well. He says if, when he gives sends out the seventy disciples, he says to them, if you are not received into a house, I shake the dust off your feet and move on again. Doesn't mean we have to be committed to it forever. But it's also true that adversaries and difficulty and suffering does not necessarily make something bad. Might make it uncomfortable and frustrating, but sometimes those are exactly the things that we have to face in a situation. When Paul Preach the Gospel, remember he's not preaching. He's not preaching to people who are already Christians. Now, many of them were God fears already or, like Apollos and others,...

...had had come to an understanding of God's word. But many others, like the like the these magicians and others in Ephesus, were people who are hard against the Gospel. And ultimately, any time somebody comes to faith, it is the powers of Satan being conquered and the bringing forth of new life in a person. There's always difficulty. In other words, there's always the flesh to be put to death, there's always work to be done. The adversaries that come into the church are common and frequent, and this is true in any of our work. If if we think that we simply if something is simply difficult, that we don't need to do it or we shouldn't do it, we are mistaken. We have a bad view of the world, a bad view of our work and our calling. Sometimes our callings, often our callings, are to do the hard things, and Paul knows that and sees that. He sees the value in overcoming these things. He sees that the work he is doing is honoring to God, is bringing glory to him. Can you imagine how frustrating it would be a to be in ephesus and to receive a letter and a report from Corinth that all of the things and this problems that we've been going on in this letter, this letter, have been happening? Paul, scholars estimate, based on various things he said, probably wrote about four letters in a short period of time, one before First Corinthians, first Corinthians, another one before Second Corinthians, or after and then Second Corinthians. This back and forth back and forth, back and forth, is they struggle through these, these tough things, as he prepares to come and meet with them. In fact, we we know that he likely went back earlier than what he plans on doing here from some things that we have in Second Corinthians. He went back earlier to first back earlier to Corinth than he had intended on, because of the need was was so great. But these are the saints of the Lord, These are God's people for whom Christ died. These are the ones that have been called out of death and a life. These are those who are his beloved brothers. He's not going to give up, he's not going to let go, and that reminds us, finally, of this. Last thing I want to point out is that, among his values and goals, it's these things that he believes and he's holding to. They are ultimately rooted in Christ's own work and Christ's own mission. He knows himself as an apostle. He senses the the the Great Work of...

God that is being done in him, and he's doing it. He knows, in his head and in his heart and in the lives of the people that are being changed, that Jesus is at work in this Great Gospel Enterprise in which disciples are being made and found. He knows that we are in the last times, the end of all things. He knows that the resurrection has already begun in Christ Jesus. He knows that the end is soon at hand. He knows that the sufferings of this world will pale in comparison to the weight of glory that is to be received on the last day. And all of these same things that he knows apply the same to us. Even though we are not apostles, we still live in that era, we still live in that space in which God is working and bringing in his people and is redeeming and calling us. We are a people who are to one day be fully glorified in victorious overall. We are here today and we call other people to come and be a part of our church and the Greater Church of Christ, to follow him with us, because we understand who Jesus is and what he's done and what's coming. We know that there's no other faith, no other hope to build our lives upon, whether we're apostles or anything else. That is true for all of us, and Paul sees that and he knows it. We must likewise also learn to live our lives in light of Christ and his work. On the one hand, this ought to humble us, if we are constantly thinking only about building our our lives and ourselves and our wealth and whatever it is we're trying to achieve in this world. To know that Christ is everything and that this world is fleeting and passing makes our giant piles of whatever it is we've piled up not very good. We're not worth very much. Paul says that he would give it all up for the sake of of knowing Christ. It humbles us for those of us who cling too much to this world, cling too much to relationships or to wealth, or to our jobs or to our reputations or to our health. For those of us who cling too much to hear that Christ is everything, to hear that Christ, that Jesus, came into this world to die and to save us from the world, to bring us into a new heavens and a new...

...earth, it reduces the importance of these things that we cling to. Hopefully it even puts them to death, if they're idols for us. It humbles us. That's one of the things that happens when we learn to see ourselves in the light of Christ and his work, and that affects how we make our decisions. Right, Jesus says, store up your treasures in heaven. The raw moths and rust and thieves don't have any power, Jesus says. Seek first the Kingdom of righteousness, and all this other stuff will be added to you. When we believe that, when we know who Jesus is, then we start changing how we spend our money, the kinds of places we live, how we spend our time, who we spend our time with, the things that are very most important to us in our priorities. But in the same way, maybe not in the same way, but the flip side of the coin. Perhaps just as the seeing ourselves in the light of Christ and his work humbles us, it also dignifies us and lifts us up and assures us. This world is constantly beating us down and for those of us who have spent any time trying to accumulate any of the things that the world offers to us, you all know how difficult it is, how really impossible it is, how fleeting these things are, how how vain it is to try and and achieve happiness and peace and complete joy through the things of this world, then to receive all joy, all peace, the promise of a perfect future in Christ. It now takes us from these sort of desperate positions and which were just striving after the wind, and lifts us up into something that is permanent and beautiful and wise, something in a kingdom that is strong and and holy and full of love, a permanent place with a loving King. It gives us dignity, it allows us to hold our heads up high and a walk in the world, even when people would point fingers at us, as they did with Paul, and say you're not worthy and you didn't do enough and you are a problem for this or for that reason, or when Satan himself accuses us of our sins and says you should just stop it all right now, it's not even worth going on. Why do you bother making plans when you are what you are, when Satan tells you these kinds of things? We can point to Christ, we can abide in Christ, we can live in Christ, we can see with the light of Chris Christ...

...and say, I'm fine, I'm fine. The Lord of Heaven and earth has me and his loving hands and will forever. He has dignified me and he has caused me not to be ashamed. My sins are forgiven, my plans are secure, because I'm seeking after the very thing that he promised to me. This is how Paul made his decisions. Paul saw his life in the light of Christ and the light of Christ's work in this era in which we now live. He saw his life and light of the future hope that was coming, the past work on the cross. He heard and that sensed his calling and put himself to usefulness in that to give God glory, to bring people in, to help others know these things and to do his job well, even when it was hard. And with those values and with that mission in place, with that perspective, he then makes his plans, but instead, but always, leaving them open and knowing that the Lord is ultimately sovereign over all, not Paul, not me and not you, and you and I can and should do the very same things. Put our faith in Christ and then walk in him wherever he leads us today, tomorrow and on to eternity. Let's pray. Most Glorious God, we worship and Adore you above all, things. There's nothing we desire on earth more than you. You alone are our chief and you alone are our only source of peace and happiness and rest. You alone give meaning to our work. You alone give meaning to our suffering and even the the struggles and the vanity of our work. You alone allow the things that we do to be productive. You alone take our unproductivity and our weaknesses and even our sins and use them for good. You alone are our chief and and our highest delight. Lord, help us always to and only to rest in you. We ask that, as we've consider our own callings and our own plans, whether they're very tiny and and not significant or or they feel huge and life changing, may we always...

...put our faith in our trust in you above everything else. Help US also to be guided by your word and the decisions that we make, whether we go here or there, whether we stay or whether we wait, whether we change our minds or whether we stay steadfast. Lord, help us to be guided by by the Gospel promises and also the commands of your word, the commands to love, the commands to be patient, the commands to work hard, the commands to do all things, whether we eat or drink it, whatever we do do it all for the glory of You are God and King. I pray for my brothers and sisters here this morning. I asked that you would be with them and each of their callings, as various family members, as workers of various kinds, as people who are called in often many different ways. I asked that you would bless them, give us all wisdom and what we in the various tasks that we have at hand, help us to know how to do them well, how to do them for your honor and glory. Lord. We also ask that you would give us times of success, that as we work, it would not all be a frustration. Please show US your pleasure as you're show us your delight. I'll remind us and give us encouragement along the way. We also ask, Lord, that you would be with those who struggle right now, I'm to know what to do, to know whether to turn to the right or the left, to know what decision to make. We ask that you would guide them and give them patience and trust in you. Help us all to remember that we do not know all things and we cannot know all things, and that the end of every day and them in the beginnings and in the middles. We must learn to trust you, who does know all things and can do all things, can be everywhere at once. We pray these things in Jesus name, our Savior, Amen.

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