June 23, 2010 David Balzer

1 Corinthians 16: Yours faithfully…

It’s important to KEEP SOME PERSPECTIVE on life. To remember your place in the big scheme of things.

I’m reminded of that when I watch some parents on the sidelines of SOCCER GAMES. I’ve seen full-scale shouting matches. Swearing at referees. Yelling at kids. All about a bunch of 10 year olds chasing a ball around a park.

It’s a big thing for me to be able to say that. When it comes to anything with a ball, I’m ultra-competitive. My motto in ball-games is “Winning isn’t everything… It’s MUCH more important than that!”

It’s fine to joke about it. But that sort of attitude doesn’t REALLY have things in PERSPECTIVE. Sport isn’t REALLY that important in the big scheme of things. (Did I just say that? I can’t believe it!)

It’s important to KEEP SOME PERSPECTIVE on things.

I remember a short video from my Science teaching days called something like “Powers of ten”. And it was designed to give students some PERSPECTIVE on their place in the Universe.

It starts by showing an overhead shot of a man. The camera’s one metre above him. There’s a little number at the bottom of the picture to tell you.

Then it zooms out to 10m above. And we get a bit MORE perspective. Now we can see that this guy’s actually enjoying a picnic with his friend. They’re in a park, on a picnic blanket. Surrounded by lovely green grass. It’s a beautiful sunny day. The birds are singing. The grass is green. They’re smiling and laughing. Obviously enjoying each other’s company. Life is good.

Then the camera zooms out to 100m. And we get a bit more perspective. The park’s in the middle of a city. And beyond the grass is the hustle and bustle of a working city. Cars, trucks, pedestrians. Sky-scrapers.

Zoom out again. This time to 1 km about the park. And we get a bit more perspective. We see the grid-like pattern of the city. A river winds its way in from one side. Beyond the sky-scrapers are the residential suburbs of the city. Where all the workers come from. And probably where our happy come from.

And so it goes. 10 km about the park. Then 100 km. Then 1000 km. The city itself becomes a dot on the map.

Then 10,000km. 100,000 km. Until the whole planet fits into the frame. That’s putting the picnic in perspective.

But the video hasn’t stopped yet. It keeps zooming out. The earth has disappeared. The sun, and countless other stars are the only things visible. As tiny spots.

The galaxy we’re part of – the Milky Way – now fits into the frame. And then it, too, becomes a tiny part of the screen. Just one of hundreds, even thousands, of other galaxies.

And then it finishes. Perhaps if it was a Christian video, it could have zoomed out until the WHOLE UNIVERSE was visible. And then it would show the way GOD sees things.

But even as it was. It was a very powerful video. I don’t think there was even any commentary. Just the little counter at the bottom of the screen. So we knew how far out we were.

And for anyone who thought about life even just a little bit. It put you in your place. Made you realise that the world was a lot bigger place than you imagined. And that it DIDN’T revolve around you.

And it’s this sort of perspective that Paul’s bringing to the Corinthians. In fact, it’s the way he STARTED the letter. Right back in Ch 1. Verse 2.

(1 Cor 1:2 NIV)  To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, TOGETHER WITH ALL THOSE EVERYWHERE who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ–THEIR Lord and ours:

Paul starts off by saying “As important as you think you are. As gifted and special as you might be, you’re only a SMALL PART OF A BIGGER PICTURE.”

And even though he’s spent most of the letter trying to get their house in order. Fixing up the problems they’ve got INSIDE. In this LAST CHAPTER, he gets back to this idea of how they can be PART OF THE BIGGER PICTURE. How GIVING FAITHFULLY TO THEIR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN NEED helps to share the load.

And he shows them a little of what that bigger picture looks like. He describes his own ministry. A FAITHFUL ministry. Despite the trials.

And as he does, he describes some of those who faithfully serve as his co-workers. And we get an insight into Paul’s world.

And finally. When he’s done all that. Given them that perspective. He encourages them to live in LIGHT of that. He exhorts them to faithful living.

If you like, this last chapter of the letter/ is Paul signing off – his “Yours faithfully”.

And he’s on about doing things faithfully. FAITHFUL GIVING. Faithful MINISTRY. Faithful CO-WORKERS. And faithful LIVING.

1. Faithful giving (1-4)

So let’s look at his first subject . Faithful giving. Verse 1. “Now about the collection for God’s people”. Romans 15 tells us that he was collecting for the Christians in Jerusalem. It’s likely that this was because of a famine there. We find out about that in Acts 11.

So what we’ve got/ is SOME Christians who are STARVING. And OTHERS who are doing okay. And Paul organises a collection wherever he goes. Gentile Christians helping out Jewish Christians.

The world is bigger than just THIS CONGREGATION. How broad is OUR VISION? What is OUR PERSPECTIVE like?

We’re pretty comfortable. But not super-wealthy. But you can be sure that more than 90% of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world are considerably worse of than us.

Africa, China, Indonesia, Russia, Palestine, Hungary.

Paul said in chapter 12 that when one part of the body suffers, every part suffers with it! How much will we suffer because others are suffering, too?

And as Paul broadens their perspective, he gives them some instructions. And as WE look, too, we can learn some good principles about the way WE should give.

First: GIVE REGULARLY. Look at v2.

(1 Cor 16:2 NIV)  ON THE FIRST DAY OF EVERY WEEK, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, SAVING IT UP, so that when I come NO COLLECTIONS WILL HAVE TO BE MADE.

Paul’s repayment schedule is “An amount each week”. Then it won’t break the bank when he arrives, and expects it all in one hit.

The fact that Paul says “On the first day of the week” means that it was probably collected during their Sunday meeting. During church. And all kept in one place until Paul arrived.

Paul’s advice is to set it aside regularly. And to be ABLE to do it regularly, means it needs to be a PRIORITY. If you only give whatever’s left in your wallet at the end of the week. As the LAST priority. Then you’ll NEVER give regularly.

I know many of you make your giving a SPECIFIC budget item. Same amount every week. WHATEVER bills you’ve got. That’s great.

Perhaps Paul’s even getting at this when he says on the FIRST day of the week. Do it at the BEGINNING, rather than the END of the week. When the wallet’s FULL, not EMPTY. That’s how to give regularly.

Paul’s second principle is to give ACCORDING TO YOUR MEANS. If you earn A LOT/ GIVE a lot. If you earn a little give a little.

And that means two things. If you’re income’s low, you shouldn’t feel guilty about how LITTLE you can give

But it also means that you shouldn’t feel SMUG about giving more than others just because you EARN more. You SHOULD be giving more.

And what figure do you use to work out what you can give? Is it your TOTAL income? Do you include that extra rental income? Or your share dividends? Or your tax refund? Or your Christmas bonus?

What about Family payments? Do you count those?

And do you look at the number BEFORE or AFTER the tax is taken out?

What priority is giving to God’s work/ FOR YOU?

Paul’s third principle is that faithful giving involves GIVING CONFIDENTLY by having RESPONSIBLE FINANCIAL GUIDELINES in place. Look at v3.

(1 Cor 16:3 NIV)  Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem.

Firstly, the Corinthians were to choose trustworthy, responsible men to look after the money. And not just ONE man, either. Men. And Paul would give them a reference too. Just to make sure everything was above board.

It’s all about making sure your procedures are BEYOND REPROACH.

And I can think of THREE reasons for that. Firstly, so OUTSIDERS have no excuse to accuse you. Secondly, so that THOSE IN CHARGE of the money aren’t given any opportunity to misuse it. To reduce their temptation. And thirdly, so the GIVERS can give with CONFIDENCE. Because they know that their money will end up in the right hands. And being used in the way they wanted it.

Billy Graham makes it a rule to never handle money to do with his missions. And, as a result, he’s got a good name in the world. He’s trustworthy. And CHRIST’S NAME isn’t slandered either.

And we’ve got similar procedures in OUR CHURCH. TWO PEOPLE always count the money. Two people sign for it. All cheques are DOUBLE-SIGNED. All payments are approved by Management Committee. And our books are audited each year. In fact, the whole congregation approves the budget for the year.

You can be confident your money will end up where you intended it to go.

2. Faithful ministry (5-9)

Paul’s next point involves a description about his OWN faithful ministry. That’s in verses 5 to 9. And it also serves to broaden the Corinthians’ perspective. Because he talks about some of his plans for the future. How he wants to get back to Corinth, but that he’s going via Macedonia. At the moment he’s in Ephesus. And that he’ll probably be there for a while yet.

And even though Paul’s talking about travelling around a lot, and even that the various churches give him food and lodgings, life is no pleasure cruise for Paul.

Travel in those days was not just a matter of hopping on a plane, or sitting behind the wheel of a car. It was long, tiring, and often very dangerous. Each trip would take weeks or months. You needed to talk in terms of SEASONS rather than days.

It took a faithful servant of Jesus to continue criss-crossing the known world for the sake of the gospel. How much do YOU go out of your way for the gospel?

I respect those going to Mudgee for mission. Mudgee in January. In a caravan park or a school. It’s not a pleasant and comfortable place to be. And these guys give up their holidays to do it! For the sake of Jesus.

But it wasn’t the TRAVELLING that marked Paul out as a faithful minister. Look at what he says in v8.

(1 Cor 16:8-9 NIV)  But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, {9} because A GREAT DOOR FOR EFFECTIVE WORK HAS OPENED TO ME, and THERE ARE MANY WHO OPPOSE ME.

My guess is we would think that a huge open door would be lots of conversions, and keen people wanting to find out more about Christianity. And that if things were tough. And people were giving us a hard time, we’d interpret it as God closing a door.]

But Paul says that he’s got a great, big open door. AND there are many who oppose him. He’s sticking it out in one place because there are heaps of people who haven’t heard the message. EVEN THOUGH he’s copping persecution at the same time.

Faithful ministry means STICKING IT OUT / DESPITE things being hard. Because you believe that’s where God’s put you. And tough times aren’t enough to make you pack up shop and move somewhere else.

Doonside High Scripture has been hard this term. But it’s also a huge harvest field for effective work. Pray that Dean and I will have the attitude of Paul.

There’s a GREAT DOOR FOR EFFECTIVE WORK that’s OPEN, and THERE ARE MANY WHO OPPOSE us.

So whether travelling around. Or staying in one place. Paul is an example of faithful minstry.

3. Faithful co-workers (10-12)

This leads Paul on to his next point. His faithful co-workers. As strong and confident and successful as Paul was. He was no one-man band. He valued and respected and appreciated and NEEDED other Christian workers.

Like Timothy. Timid Tim. He was young and shy. But Paul values his ministry. He’s SO shy, Paul gives the Corinthians a warning. “Verse 10. “Don’t scare him off. Behave. Give him the respect he deserves.”

And at the other end of the scale is Apollos. He’s sharp, and smart. He’s the smooth and persuasive talker who really impressed the Corinthians on his last visit. So much so, they started putting Paul down by comparison. And now the Corinthians want him back. Verse 12.

(1 Cor 16:12 NIV)  Now about our brother Apollos: I strongly urged him to go to you with the brothers. He was quite unwilling to go now, but he will go when he has the opportunity.

And even though Apollos makes Paul look less impressive. Less professional. There’s no ego in Paul. He’s not worried about looking second-best. He’s keen for Apollos to go back. He’s already told us what his attitude is. Ch 3 v 5.

(1 Cor 3:5-7 NIV)  What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe–as the Lord has assigned to each his task. {6} I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. {7} So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

When YOU see someone do a great job at something. Do you REJOICE that God is using that person? Or is there a bit of JEALOUSY there – wishing you could do as good a job?

Or perhaps wishing they weren’t quite so good, so you looked better? There’s a pleasant air of superiority you can have when someone else fails, or messes up. Because you would NEVER do a job like that!

Have Paul’s attitude. Everyone is valuable. Noone is more important than anyone else. Because it’s God who works in and through people.

And look at how he responds to the visit from Stephanus and co. Verse 15. They were the first converts in Corinth. So they’re his children in the Lord. And Paul is genuinely CHUFFED to see how well they’ve done. They’re a REAL ENCOURAGEMENT to him. Look at v17.

(1 Cor 16:17-18 NIV)  I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. {18} For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition.

Sometimes you go somewhere and think it’s YOUR job to do the encouraging. Because you’re OLDER, or a more Christian. And it’s often happened for me/ that I’ve gone away from some meeting or visit convinced I’ve RECEIVED more encouragement than I’ve given.

And part of that’s about REALLY LISTENING to people. Rather than just nodding your head as they talk. While you think of the next “encouraging” thing you can say.

Listen to what people say. EVERY person. You might be surprised. Be gracious enough to accept God’s encouragement from the most unlikely sources. Be like Paul.

4. Faithful living (13-18)

So we’ve seen Paul’s advice on faithful giving. His description of his own faithful ministry, and his faithful co-workers. And Paul’s got a final series of commands. Short, sharp, and to the point. Look at v13.

(1 Cor 16:13-14 NIV)  Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. {14} Do everything in love.

It’s only ten words in Greek. But it covers the full range of relationships. About faithful living. Living in the GOSPEL. Living in the WORLD. And living in the CHURCH.

Firstly, faithful living in the gospel. “Be on your guard, Stand firm in the faith.” He says. Paul’s talking about holding onto the baton. The doctrine he taught them. Not to get off track. Not to listen to any false teachers. Stick to the basics. Be careful – things can sneak up on you.

Secondly, faithful living in THE WORLD. “Be men of courage. Be strong”. When the world persecutes you, and ridicules you. Be strong. Resist. Don’t give up hope. Or give in to . Be courageous.

And you do that by holding onto the gospel. Being firm in your faith. It’s the strength of your INTERNAL life that determines how strong you are on the OUTSIDE.

Thirdly, faithful living in the church. “Do everything in love”. It’s been his consistent theme through the book. Love each other. Use your gifts in love. Be considerate in love. Encourage each other in love. Do EVERYTHING in love.

And there’s another connection HERE I think. If love for our brothers BUILDS THEM UP, then we can help each other to BE STRONG in the world. Church is our body-building session to help us to be courageous in the world.

Is that how YOU feel about church? Who do YOU build up to help them cope with the world? Do you walk away form church feeling PUMPED? Ready to deal with the world for another week? Or deflated? Discouraged? A puny faith-weakling?

(1 Cor 16:13-14 NIV)  Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. {14} Do everything in love.

And after a few final remarks, Paul shows that he practices what he preaches. Despite all the criticisms and corrections he’s made. Despite all the Corinthians are doing wrong. All the wrong attitudes and behaviours. Their selfishness and pride and lack of consideration. Look at how he finishes the letter. A fitting finish – considering his theme of love. Verse 23.

(1 Cor 16:23-24 NIV)  The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. {24} My … LOVE to ALL of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Do YOU love those around you? Despite their failings. And short-comings.

Let’s learn from Paul. Let’s get some PERSPECTIVE on our place in God’s world.

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