July 24, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (1 Corinthians 3)

Submitted by Eunice K. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (ESV)

10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

·     The building materials of the builders divide into two categories: cheap/burnable and costly/not-burnable.  What does it mean that a Christian (or a Christian minister) can start with the right foundation of Christ, but build on top of this foundation with cheap, non-lasting material?

This means that it is possible that one can choose to build his Christian life or ministry in a way that in times of testing by fire, it will not last.  This is a warning against building with cheaper materials, probably with the motivation of some kind of short-term gain.  This text is promising that testing will surely come, perhaps in the form of certain struggles or challenges, and that the quality of what I am building will be exposed.  Verse 10 says, “Let each one take care how he builds upon it.”  So the quality of my Christian life and the work that I do for God is really a matter of the care I use to build it, and what I choose to put into it now.

 ·     What might gold, silver, and precious stones represent?  What might wood, hay and straw represent?

Gold, silver, and precious stones could represent the best of what I have to spend towards building something in life–my love and faithfulness, my sacrifice, my zeal, my money, the priority in my schedule, the earnest prayers and anguish, the pure devotion, and the sweat and tears that I could give either to building my life of following God and serving Him, or building something else.  I could imagine the wood, hay and straw representing the poorer materials that I would give to building something that I’m too concerned with and unwilling to give my best for, something that I’m not expecting to last me too long.  My heart and my treasure would not be in the thing that I am choosing to build with wood, hay and straw.

·     What material have I been building with in my own Christian life, or in my ministry to others?  What will be the “quality of [my] work” that will be revealed on that Day? 

I am challenged to think about the quality with which I am building my Christian life and ministry to others.  When I look at Apostle Paul’s life, I see a true picture of what “gold, silver, and precious stones” look like in a person’s relationship with God and in his work.  It’s zeal and commitment that is willing to suffer under persecution, difficulty, and insults; it’s love and devotion, emotional perseverance, and sacrifice.  When I measure the “quality of my work” against this real life example of Apostle Paul, I feel convicted that I haven’t begun to really build with costly materials.  But I am challenged to follow after the Apostle Paul’s example, and the examples of godly Christians whom I know who are struggling harder than I to live a cross-shaped life, struggling to imitate the love and zeal in following and serving God that is laid out for us in the Bible.

·     Is there some experience in my life of building with costly material that resulted in surviving through fire?  Is there some experience in my life of the opposite—building with cheap and shoddy material that resulted in crumbling under pressure? 

In my years of ministry, I’ve personally learned the results of trying to “build” with the cheap and shoddy material of wanting to do a good job primarily out of the motivation of wanting to win approval from others and build some kind of good image for myself. I struggled a lot with being conscious of others may view me or how I compare with others.  My experience of building with this kind of material is that inevitably my self-focused efforts and shoddy material will be exposed for what it is.  Though I may appear to be doing everything that a Christian or minister ought to do, the condition of my heart before God inevitably would get exposed by the word of God.  And the symptoms of this kind of building with this kind of cheap material was that I was easily stressed and frustrated, fearful of making mistakes, and at the bottom of it all, I lacked true love and spiritual power as I tried to minister to others, and lacked joy and peace in my own Christian life.  Challenges and difficulties would come, and I would feel overwhelmed and fearful, because I wasn’t properly connected to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit that could guide me.  I was too worried about doing the wrong thing because in my mind it would ultimately mar the good image I was trying to build up, that I wanted to artificially limit ministry to where I felt like I could do what I was supposed to, which was a pretty narrow area.  In this way, the cheap and shoddy materials I was using would crumble under the pressure of increasing responsibilities in ministry or just the pressures of my own character issues. But thankfully, having these bad quality materials exposed by God is a blessing because in this way I can learn and start to build with costlier materials.

One way that I’ve tried to build my relationship with God with costly material is simply by struggling to remain faithful in honoring Jesus as Lord over all my life, through the years and different seasons of life. It’s not anything heroic, and it’s only trying to remain true to the most basic commitment as a Christian.  But simply keeping this as the most important and fundamental commitment of my life and struggling to pay the costs of this has gone towards building my relationship with God–costs like struggling to give my time and energy to God first when I was a stressed out student, struggling to maintain integrity as a Christian at my workplace when I started working, struggling to honor God when I was dating, struggling to put the priority in our marriage to serve God and others, struggling to increase in my capacity as a new mom so that I could continue to love and minister to others, and struggling to increase in my zeal and sacrifice when I am tempted to try to maintain a more manageable schedule.  Through the years I can see that paying these costs has resulted in me building up a history with God, and each time, I have experienced God helping me pay those costs at each of those junctures, and have experienced Him leading me and blessing me with the privilege of being involved in his amazing work of salvation and understanding his heart and trustworthiness more in my life.  The net result is that these costs that I have paid have all gone towards building a testimony of relationship with God and experience of His work in and around me.

Submitted by Jammy Y. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

REFLECTION Questions

1 Corinthians 3:10-15

• The building materials of the builders divide into two categories: cheap/burnable and costly/not-burnable.  What does it mean that a Christian (or a Christian minister) can start with the right foundation of Christ, but build on top of this foundation with cheap, non-lasting material? 

For a Christian or a Christian minister, the fact that we can start with the right foundation of Christ, but build on top of this foundation with costly/not-burnable material or cheap/burnable material means that we go about choosing to live out our Christian lives doing it right or doing it wrong.  It means that I might have a choice in the matter whether I will live out my Christian life using solid and good material versus bad and weak material.  In the end, for the Christian or Christian minister it may mean that though the ground is solid and the building process is going well, at the end of the day, though you may have before yourself a finished building or in other words, how you have decided to live out your Christian life, the integrity of that building can come into question depending on the materials that were used.  The builder will have either have proved himself to be an expert builder or an unwise builder.  So it is possible to live out our Christian lives or be ministering to others and be fooled by what we do and how we do it, even though we may have the right foundation.

This reality that we can build on top of a solid foundation with cheap or burnable material is a sobering thought.  When I don’t stop to evaluate how I am living out my Christian life or the manner in which I may be ministering to others, I can be doing unforeseen damage and even be misleading others and myself.   All this is expressed in vs. 13 when Apostle Paul says, “…each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.”  The wood, hay and straw that I may have used will burn up and not stand in the fire, but the gold, the silver and the precious stones will not be consumed by the fire, but it will remain in solid form as it is tested through the fire.

• What might gold, silver, and precious stones represent?  What might wood, hay and straw represent?

When I think about gold, silver and precious stones, I think about the words pure and valuable and so I think these would represent the gospel message and the truths of the gospel message.  I think it also represents the Word of God, which also then is every truth that’s contained in the Word of God.

As for wood, hay and straw, these represent things that are not truth, ideas that don’t align themselves with the gospel or are not even contained in the gospel and they represent our very own unchecked ideas that we use to interpret the Word of God and how we may be able to justify what we believe in and even lay down our own understanding of what it means to be Christian based upon how we want it to fit our lives.

• What material have I been building with in my own Christian life, or in my ministry to others?  What will be the “quality of [my] work” that will be revealed on that Day?  

I think in one area that I’ve been building more with cheap and burnable material is in the area of taking risks for God and putting myself in situations where I can learn to trust Him.  Comforts, fears, doubts, and inadequacies are the things that I’ve been building with.  These are the materials that I’ve been building with thinking that I can get by in my Christian life, but I see how in continuing to give in to these areas, what will be revealed is a shallow understanding of who God is, a missed out experience of knowing what God is like, and the opportunity of being used by him.

With ministry, I recognize how there is always a temptation to skirt around an issue that needs to be addressed, especially when the Word of God is revealing a truth about a certain person I am ministering to.  By default, I want to avoid having to bring up truth or avoid having a difficult conversation because it’s just so uncomfortable.  Yet, this is the costly material that needs to be used, but when I decide to use the cheap stuff, when I decide to maybe water down the truth, or make it not as big of a deal, or totally ignore it, I’ve done a disservice to both the person I am ministering to and myself.  For the person I’m ministering to I’ve essentially neglected my responsibility in being a shepherd, a watchman, someone that needs to give account on that Day.

I think it’s sad to say but though I may have used costly material, in the end I know the quality of my work that will be revealed on that day will also reveal that I used cheap and burnable material.  In my own Christian life, as I reflect back, though I recognized the truths of the gospel, and I recognized what was right and what was wrong, the desire to live by that truth is a battle.  When I think about how hard it is to live by truth, to love and care for others, I see how it’s always much easier to not want to bother, to not want to love and to not just use costly material.

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