Read: 1 Corinthians 16:5-18
Consider: Today’s reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians contains the comment quoted above and tells us that while Paul wanted to revisit the believers in Corinth (1 Corinthians 16:5-7), he indicated that he would stay on at Ephesus a little longer (16:8-9). His reasoning was that: ‘… a great door for effective work has opened to me …’ (16:9). However, Paul also mentions that there were many who were opposing him. Can you see that despite the opposition, Paul saw that the work he was doing (spreading the good news of the gospel), was so important that he should remain in Ephesus? We can get a better understanding of the opposition Paul faced at Ephesus by reading the account of one of his times there, as recorded in Acts 19. Paul also tells us of the opposition he faced in his ministry in 2 Corinthians 11:24-27.
Paul, would have felt the pressure of the opposition he faced and might have been tempted to give up and move on. He was able to stand against the opposition because he knew Christ was with him, but also he had the support of other Christians. For example we know that some believers from Corinth arrived during Paul’s time in Ephesus and because of this he could say: I was glad when Stephanus, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. For they refreshed my spirit …’ (16:17-18a). We should never underestimate the encouragement we can give to those who are involved in any aspect of ministry. Leaders, like everyone else, need encouragement and refreshment for their spirits.
Reading further in today’s passage, Paul encourages the Corinthians with these words: Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love (1 Corinthians 16:13-14). It occurred to me that although written to the Corinthians, this encouragement could apply equally to Paul in his situation, as well as to us today when we face opposition. Applying this to ourselves would mean:
- Be on your guard – be wary of false teaching and teachers as they tend to act as discouragers, because they think that their insight into God’s Word is more accurate than all the believers who have gone before them. We have many examples today of church leaders who have lost their way and wandered from the truth;
- Stand firm in the faith – this means holding fast to the Word of God, but also knowing what we believe and how we can refute error;
- Be courageous – it takes courage and persistence to keep going, particularly if the opposition is sustained over a long period;
- Be strong – again this speaks of persistence and not giving up, but must not be confused with coming over as powerful and tough. We are told elsewhere in the Bible that we should share the good news with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15) and that our gentleness should be evident to all (Philippians 4:5);
- Do everything in love – the reason behind us being faithful in sharing the good news of gospel is that people might be saved. We need to have a deep love for the spiritual welfare of those around us.
If you are facing opposition of any kind because you are a Christian, take these things to heart and be encouraged by them. Pray that you will put less reliance on yourself and your strengths, but rely more on God using you through your weaknesses. Can you, like the Apostle Paul say: But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9a)?
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 (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Pray: Father, we know that opposition to the gospel message can be subtle, or openly hostile. May we take Paul’s words to heart and be encouraged by them not to give up. Help us to stand firm in Christ, drawing on the strength we receive from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Amen
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