Having read the passage for today, I have been reminded of just how much most of us have to be grateful for in our lives. Even the things we consider to be hardships are, by the standards of Paul’s life, not really hard at all. As I write this, I am sitting in the corner of the Green room (staff canteen). As I look at my colleagues enjoying their lunches, sitting in comfort, wearing clean clothes, they relax and share gossip and jokes. We are so richly blessed in our material lives. Even the poorest among us live more comfortable lives than those of the apostles, especially Paul. So what strikes me today, is the need to focus on the areas in our lives where there is true poverty. As I look around at my wealthy, well feed colleagues, I can see they have all they need in a material sense, but I can not see what the Lord can see. He sees their hearts. I wonder how many of them have all that they need to fill their hearts with the good things that God has promised to those who believe in him.
1 Corinthians 4:8-17 NLT
You think you already have everything you need. You think you are already rich. You have begun to reign in God’s kingdom without us! I wish you really were reigning already, for then we would be reigning with you. Instead, I sometimes think God has put us apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of a victor’s parade, condemned to die. We have become a spectacle to the entire world—to people and angels alike. Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools, but you claim to be so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are so powerful! You are honoured, but we are ridiculed. Even now we go hungry and thirsty, and we don’t have enough clothes to keep warm. We are often beaten and have no home. We work wearily with our own hands to earn our living. We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us. We appeal gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated like the world’s garbage, like everybody’s trash—right up to the present moment. I am not writing these things to shame you, but to warn you as my beloved children. For even if you had ten thousand others to teach you about Christ, you have only one spiritual father. For I became your father in Christ Jesus when I preached the Good News to you. So I urge you to imitate me. That’s why I have sent Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord. He will remind you of how I follow Christ Jesus, just as I teach in all the churches wherever I go.
I have read the letters of Paul in the bible and long admired the lengths he went to to preach the gospel as widely as possible. But today I am reminded that there is a wide distance between where we are when we first hear and understand the gospel, and arriving at a point in life where we can truly say we are living in imitation of Jesus, or Paul, or any of those original disciples who lived with Jesus and then went on to take his message to the world. Even those of us who know the Lord often fail to see what his message really means. My goal is to count all my blessings but then, remember Paul’s warning never to lose sight of what I have been asked to do with my faith. I must keep striving to put my faith into practice in the hope that those I meet in the world, might gain a glimpse of God’s amazing grace.
Ezra 7:1-8:20, 1 Corinthians 4:1-21, Psalms 30:1-12, Proverbs 20:28-30