[Sept 26]—“Nobodies” Working in Harmony

            What was the first issue—right out of the box—that Paul called the Corinthian church out on? Unnecessary divisions in the church, setting up factions based on which leader one supposedly followed: One person “says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’”      
            Today, instead of focusing on the general problem (schisms in the church), I’d like to focus on today’s passage which deals with a root-oriented solution. In other words, since they were quarrelling about leaders in the church, Paul here is calling upon us to reexamine how we look at heroes in the church. Here’s what I glean from this:

·         The messenger or leader or any other human being is nothing compared to the Big Picture. “What, after all, is Apollos. .  . [or] Paul?” Or anyone else involved in ministry of any type? They’re all just servants whom God uses, nobodies compared to the Big Picture. Glorifying our Lord is not the most important thing. It’s the only important thing. The Big Picture is not any person’s ego, or how many followers he has, or how famous he is. The Big Picture is being obedient to what he's called you to do, whether it's preaching in front of millions or raising your family in the training and instruction of the Lord. 

·         Ultimately the only One who can bring eternal success is the Lord, not any human being. Paul compares it to farming: One person plants, another waters, but it’s God “who makes things grow.” We can plant, water, weed and do whatever else we like, but unless the Lord causes it to prosper, our efforts are “chasing after the wind.” The Psalmist presented a general principle which is applicable in so many areas of life, but which is particularly applicable in any type of ministry or leadership in the church: “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.” Unless he’s behind it--and by “it” I mean any endeavor you attempt--you’re ultimately wasting your time. At best, it’ll be dust and ashes someday.

·         One servant is not in competition with another. This is so important that I have to repeat and expand for emphasis: No true servant of the Lord is in competition with any other servant of the Lord. “The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.” Billy Graham—the foremost evangelist of the latter half of the 20th century—was not in competition with any other evangelist, and he’d be the first to tell you so. Nor is he in competition with any other preacher or Bible teacher or any other believer who’s involved in ministry. This principle as stated by Paul merely echoes our Savior: “Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.”

            Let me try to be as clear as possible: My pastor is not in competition with any other pastor who’s doing what God wants him to do. If any Bible-believing and Bible-following church is growing and succeeding, then every believer (whether a member or not) should rejoice in that success. If any such church is under attack from the Enemy, then that’s an attack on all of us.
            And just in case there are any pastors reading this, I have an important reminder. I’ve actually heard pastors in the past refer to “my” church. The church to which you’ve been called is “your” church only in the sense of association, not possession. It does not belong to you. It belongs to Another. So if the Lord chooses to prosper another church instead of “yours,” keep this in mind. Remember the latter part of vs. 8: “They will each be rewarded according to their own labor.” You be faithful to the task to what he’s called you to do, and let the Lord worry about the numbers.
            Clear enough?

Lord Jesus, waaay too often I’ve seen my church struggling while another prospers, and I’ve fallen into this trap. The church does not belong to me or any other man. It belongs to you, and I need to act accordingly. From you and through you and for you are all things, amen. 

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