Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.
1 Corinthians 16:8-9, 13 (NIV)
Read: 1 Corinthians 16
Consider: We come towards the end of our time looking at 1 Corinthians. In this final chapter Paul firstly deals with the matter of the collection for the suffering church in Jerusalem. This is a topic he returns to in his second letter to the church in Corinth (2 Corinthians 8-9). Paul’s encouragement to the believers is that they ‘… should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income …’ (v2). Paul’s expectation was that the believers in Corinth should be outward-looking, giving what they could to relieve the needs of others who were going through hard times. This is a principle that churches today should follow. Additionally, Paul encourages them to give in keeping with their income; they were not expected to give what they did not have. However, we do know from 2 Corinthians 8-9 that he did expect them to give generously and sacrificially.
While Paul’s personal desire was to visit the believers in Corinth and to remain with them for a time (v5-7), God had other ideas. Paul says: But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me (1 Corinthians 16:8-9). What do the words ‘… a great door …’ conjure up in your mind? The Greek words used by Paul give the impression that the widest possible opportunity for effective work has been presented to Paul. While the world might see effective work in terms of the number of converts coming to Christ, Paul sees it also in the fact that he is facing opposition to the work. I think we should all take encouragement from this. While our desire is to see people won for Christ, the devil will seek to discourage us by raising up those who oppose the work. Later in this chapter Paul says: Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong (v13). Facing opposition is never easy. We would all like to see converts flooding in to the kingdom, but we should expect opposition to anything that is effective in bringing people to Christ. The work of sharing the gospel message requires us to be courageous and strong, and to stand firm in our faith. Additionally, we need to be on our guard. While opposition will often be forceful and direct, at other times it might be subtle and beguiling.
Pray: Father, give us a heart that is outward-looking, prepared to meet the needs of those suffering in the world. Help us to be strong and courageous in the face of opposition and to be on our guard against anything that would seek to make us ineffective. Amen