August 7, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (1 Corinthians 9)

Submitted by Timothy R. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

1 Corinthians 9:1-15

  • In what ways did Apostle Paul and Barnabas deny themselves the many privileges that they themselves had a perfect right to claim?  Are there people who labor in the Lord on my behalf while denying themselves certain “rights” they can easily claim?

Both Paul and Barnabas denied themselves such privileges as traveling with believing wives and the “right” to receive financial support from the churches they were ministering to, including the Corinthians.  Evidently other apostles like Peter and James took along their believing wives when they were ministering among the churches. If anyone had right to receive monetary support from Corinthians, it would have been apostle Paul since he planted the Corinthian church and continued to minister to them (v.2, vv.11-12).

When I look at my spiritual leaders, I know that they labor in the Lord on my behalf without claiming any of the “rights” that they could easily have claimed for themselves.  In fact, that was one of the main reasons which drew me to our church when I was an undergrad. I was so inspired, challenged and attracted by the lives that my leaders were living. They lived in modest housing, drove around modest cars, and spent a lot of their money/time ministering to undergrads like me who had nothing to offer in return. When I was an undergrad, many of my spiritual leaders were either young couples and/or young parents. They could have indulged in enjoying their private time with their family. As working professionals, they could have filled their weekends with leisure and entertainment.  Yet my leaders consistently denied their “rights,” in order to minister to students like me.  Their simple and sacrificial lifestyle really caught my attention because it was so different from how everyone else lived. And their atypical lifestyle strongly confirmed the gospel message they shared with me. Since that time, and even after I graduated, my leaders have continued to provide challenging examples of what sacrificial living looks like.

 ·      What are the subtle assumptions and thoughts through which some people end up having less appreciation for something because it’s free?  Do I fail to appreciate the gospel, the church, and spiritual leaders because they are freely given to me?  

The subtle assumptions and thoughts that people have regarding something that is free is that it must not be very good.

I think when I was younger, I was immature and in many ways I failed to appreciate the sacrifices of my leaders. I took for granted all that they did for me and for everyone at our church. In my immaturity, I failed to appreciate what it cost them in order to minister to me. Now that I am older, and have experienced more of life, I can understand so much more their sacrifice. For example, when I was single college student, I had no idea what effort was required leave the house with an infant.  I also had no idea how stressful and tiring work could be. Yet my leaders didn’t let these things slow them down or diminish the manner in which they made themselves available to minister to me. And I am so thankful that they gave the way that they did. And I know that I have personally benefitted so much because of their acts of love.

 1 Corinthians 9:12-18

  • What does the claim “but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ” reveal about Apostle Paul’s priority?  What were some things he “endured” for the sake of the gospel? 

The fact that Paul was willing to “endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ” reveals the extent to which the gospel was the supreme priority for Paul. There were no other competing priorities in his life. For Paul, it was very clear that the gospel of Christ was first and foremost in his life. He was willing to endure hardship, criticism, and unfair treatment at the hands of the Corinthians for the sake of the gospel.

Part of the things he “endured” were refusing to claim the rights of an apostle that other apostles took, for example, travelling with a believing wife or accepting financial support. To make matters worse, because Paul refused to enjoy these legitimate rights, Paul was criticized and looked down upon by these Corinthians as they compared him with other apostles who were willing to charge them. This was so obnoxious and offensive behavior on the part of the Corinthians given that Paul was a “father” to them because of the gospel (c.f. 1 Cor 4:15). Without Paul, the Corinthians may never have become Christians in the first place.

  • What hardships, setbacks, insults, etc., have I put up with just so that the gospel may be spread without hindrance?

When I consider the suffering of other Christians, as many people have often expressed, I know that my suffering is really nothing in comparison. None of the hardships, setbacks, insults that I have endured can compare with what Apostle Paul and other Christians have endured. One hardship I can think of is the pain of being misunderstood by the people I am ministering to.  Sometimes I need to speak words of truth to those I am ministering to, but my words gets misinterpreted and received in the wrong way. As a result, they reject me, say hurtful things to me and/or say negative things about me to others.  During such moments, thinking about what Paul had to go through and how he responded to those hardships, really inspires me and helps me to persevere.

Personal Prayer

Lord, thank you for the challenging example of Apostle Paul. He is such an inspiring example of someone who prioritized the gospel above all else. I am challenged by his zeal and passion for the gospel being such that he didn’t want to allow anything to hinder the gospel, including enjoying rights that he legitimately could have claimed for himself.  I see clearly in Paul’s life, there was no second agenda.  Even when he was faced with unfair and hurtful criticism, Paul continued to love and to minister to the very church who treated him in that manner. Lord I pray that I can have Paul’s steadfast and zealous love. Please help me to sacrifice and endure for the sake of the gospel, in the same way that Paul did. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Submitted by Caroline V. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

1 Corinthians 9:1-15

  • In what ways did Apostle Paul and Barnabas deny themselves the many privileges that they themselves had a perfect right to claim?  Are there people who labor in the Lord on my behalf while denying themselves certain “rights” they can easily claim?

Apostle Paul and Barnabas had every right to eat and drink (v.4), to be married (v.5), and to receive material support from the church that they had planted (v.11). Yet, they did not claim any of these rights for themselves, but chose to forgo their rights in order not to put “an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ” (v.12). Out of their love for their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and to stay blameless in their Christian identity, they chose willingly not to take on these rights that they could’ve claimed for themselves.

I have known many in this church who have denied themselves their “rights” in order for the gospel to be preached more effectively. I think about the many leaders who took me under their wings during my undergraduate years and opened their homes to me and my peers when they could have kept to themselves and limited their relationship with me to the times they saw me at church or Friday Bible Study. They gave up their rights to stay focused on their nuclear family, and instead opened up their schedule and resources to many people who came through their lives. If we needed a car to move out of our apartments, they let us borrow it. If we needed some encouragement, they were there to talk with us and lend us a listening ear. They used their hard earned money to treat me out to lunches and dinners to get to know me when they could have saved up to pay off their loans, for their kid’s education, or to upgrade their lives. Their time after work was used hosting dinners at their homes for a college small group, planning a surprise birthday for one of their students, or talking to us, to mention a few. They gave their lives in serving college students when they could have hung out with their own colleagues their own age, networked better within their company, or worked overtime in order to get ahead in their career. As Berkeley graduates, many of my leaders were bright and smart enough to go very far in their field. They had every right to have a good seven hours of sleep each night, but gave that up so that they could talk with me until late in the night sometimes because I was going through a spiritual struggle or a difficulty in my life that needed guidance. For them, bringing me the gospel and ushering me into an eternal relationship with God meant more to them than what the world could ever offer them. As a college student, I had nothing to offer them–but they gave generously and abundantly of their time and resources and never asked for anything back. They gave their all because of what Christ has done for them, and so that I could accept the gospel without hindrance. I continued to receive my leaders’ acts of love even after I graduated. My leaders continued to give up their rights in similar fashion so that I could continue to grow in my faith and one day catch the vision of serving God alongside them.

  • What are the subtle assumptions and thoughts through which some people end up having less appreciation for something because it’s free?  Do I fail to appreciate the gospel, the church, and spiritual leaders because they are freely given to me?   

When apostle Paul and Barnabas did not ask for anything from the church and refused material help from the Corinthian church, the congregation regarded them as less significant and not “on par” with other Christian leaders who were paid or benefited from the church. They thought his work was not worth much because Paul didn’t charge them, and they judged the service of apostle Paul and Barnabas from such a worldly standpoint. They took for granted what Paul and Barnabas were doing out of the goodness of their hearts and out of the overflow of love they had for the Corinthians.

When help is given to me readily and quickly, I also fall into the trap of taking for granted the generosity of others upon me. I fail to be grateful and assume that help will always be there whenever I need it. This sometimes causes me to have a demanding attitude towards others when they are helping me with my needs, and I take on a sense of entitlement. Instead of recognizing that I don’t deserve to even receive the gospel, let alone love and devotion generously expressed through this community, I demand that my needs be met and that my troubles be relieved immediately. I assume and expect that help will always be there. I lose sight of the fact that Christ bled and died so that I could be saved, and that through God’s grace I was saved from my sins. I lose sight of the fact that I do not deserve even a single penny or anyone’s attention as the sinful and ungrateful person that I am. This sense of humble indebtedness, undeservedness, and gratitude are hard for me to embrace when I get caught up in my sense of entitlement and I do not notice all that has been sacrificed for me so that I could be a part of this church and could live a new life in Christ. I fail to see the long history of sacrifices that this community was built on so that I could enjoy being part of this rich community. This community of faith didn’t get established by accident, but through concrete sacrifices that many of our members, both past and present, had painstakingly made.

1 Corinthians 9:12-18

  • What does the claim “but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ” reveal about Apostle Paul’s priority?  What were some things he “endured” for the sake of the gospel?  

Apostle Paul’s priority was to ultimately be blameless in front of Christians and seekers so that they could be receptive to the gospel. He didn’t want to be a negative witness of Christ in anyway, and so derail anyone from the faith or misguide seekers. Apostle Paul would endure anything if it meant that one soul could come to know God personally through Christ.

As Apostle Paul lists in 2 Corinthians 11:23-27, he endured every type of danger–poverty, nakedness, hunger, the cold, betrayal, stoning, beatings, sleepless nights, shipwrecks, natural disasters, floggings, and exposure to death. Moreover, when he attempted to minister to the Corinthians, they lashed back at him, rebelled, insulted him, and talked negatively about him despite the love and dedication he poured out to them. He endured the pain of being misunderstood by the people he served so sacrificially.

  • What hardships, setbacks, insults, etc., have I put up with just so that the gospel may be spread without hindrance?

I cannot say that I have endured as much as Apostle Paul did for the gospel. My life has never been in danger to such a degree as Paul’s. Even though living in Minnesota we have rough winters that bring icy roads and snow storms and the summer storms that brings occasional tornado warnings, none of these things compare to the risks and dangers that apostle Paul faced. As I involve myself in more people’s lives through ministry, I know that what I experience in ministry is just a sliver of what apostle Paul experienced when it came to loving the Corinthians. In order for my students to understand the gospel better, I need to take out time that I could have used for my graduate work to meet up with them to discuss any questions they have regarding Christianity or prepare for small group times so that it’s most effective for our students. When I could be ending my day after finishing my classes and going home to tend to my family only, I use that time to meet students on campus, make care packages for their upcoming exams, or host study nights and dinners for students at my home. At times, it can get physically tiring, but I dare not pat myself on the back for my “sacrifices.”  As Apostle Paul states in verses 16 through 17, my “reward” for the various “hardships” that I go through is the very fact that I have been entrusted with the immense task of bringing the gospel message to those who have yet to believe. I find it incredible that a sinner like me could be counted as trustworthy and able to bring God’s message to others and to take part in work that can impact someone’s eternal destiny.

Personal Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank You for the many who went before me and for those who were directly involved in bringing the gospel to me in my college years. I thank You for bringing people into my life who patiently and concretely poured out their lives for me so that I could receive the gospel without hindrance.  I confess, that I have moments where I take for granted the generosity of this community, and the sacrifices of love that I have received. Forgive me Lord, for my ingratitude and wicked sense of entitlement towards the love that’s been given to me so generously. Thank You for suffering on the cross for the sake of my sins. I also thank you for inviting me to join Your Kingdom work. Thank You for the grace You keep pouring out to me, and I pray that as I minister to the people You bring into my life, that I would strive to invite suffering and hardships. May I always be spurred on by the love You have shared with me. In Christ’s name, Amen.

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