Summary: Doing the wiil of God in being His humble servant!
February 2, 2018
Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:16-23
Can We Be Servant to All?
Well Paul has certainly given us plenty to digest and apply in this reading. In our January 31 message from Mark, we see Jesus as a humble servant. Now comes along Paul striving to fit hat same mold.
Paul says preaching the gospel is nothing to boast about. He says that is what he is supposed to do. It is his duty. Then he goes on to say, if he fails to preach the gospel (the good news of Jesus Christ), woe is to him. Sharing the good news because that is his personal desire (will) is sufficient reward. He isn’t looking for a pat on the back or a line of parishioners at the door to greet him with praises as they depart.
It makes me feel good to get a compliment here and there for a sermon, but that is absolutely not why I do preach. The greatest compliment that I ever received was, “I like your sermons because they are always bible based.”
Paul’s will was to do as God entrusted him. Woe to him if he abuses that trust! Can you think of a good biblical account where that kind of trust was abused? Well, how about that well-worn example of Jonah and the whale. God entrusted Jonah to go and preach a message of repentance and forgiveness to the people of Nineveh. But what did Jonah do? He went in a totally different direction because he didn’t think the folks in Nineveh deserved forgiveness. Jonah’s will was not to do the will of God. You of course remember the “woe is you” part of that story. Jonah found himself in the smelly belly of a whale.
Let me stray here and make a point about God’s will. It is God’s will that we “will” to do His will. All of us, all the time! God gave us a free will. God will not force us to do His will. The “woe unto you” part comes in when God gives specific instructions to do a specific thing. When we fail to do what we know is the will of God, that disobedience may have consequences but that is an entirely different circumstance. It is highly unlikely that anyone is going to wind up in the smelly belly of a whale for telling a fib. But, telling a fib is certainly not God’s will.
Paul says it like this: “For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward.” The reward is doing the will of God because we want to. “But if not of my own will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me.” In other words, we still have the obligation. Maybe we can use the example of an average teenager being told to clean his room. If the he cleans the room because he wants to do the will of his parent, the reward is two-fold: pleasing his parents and doing it willingly. If he cleans the room because he feels that he must, his reward is having a clean room, whether that’s what he wanted or not. The reward is in the doing! Now this doing becomes the true freedom of will!
Now we read on in verses 19-22
“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”
When we are preaching, evangelizing or simply offering a testimony. Paul is saying that we really must try and do it in a way that is least foreign to them. I know that reading is almost a tongue-twister, but Paul is trying to get across that we share on the social, ethnic, background level of our audience as best we can.
When on the mission field, I had a young Brazilian girl who came and worked with us for a few years. One day, I found out that she was trying to teach the native women to shave their armpits and shave their legs. In other words, instead of bringing the gospel to them in their culture, she was trying to change their culture to fit hers and the gospel became a secondary issue. Women in the Dominican Republic wear T-shirts and shorts almost anywhere and everywhere. She tried to insist that they wear dresses on Sunday. It is a common practice for mothers to nurse their babies in public. None of that culture has any bearing on the gospel and to address changes to the culture can easily be a distraction and even viewed incorrectly as doctrinal issues.