I Corinthians 16: Practical Matters- Matter
Paul’s last section of his letter seems to be taking care of some plans and practical matters. Which reminds us in our daily lives, practical matters- matter.
Paul will deal with three areas of responsibilities of which we are to be stewards:
- Money- Paul explains how to give
- Opportunities- how to plan and schedule
- People- how to work with others
These three areas are vital to the life of the church body. We need each other. We must invest our lives in other people. We will see in this last section of Paul’s letter – Paul was not just a preacher, evangelists, writer and soul winner; Paul was a friend maker.
Remember this: people are prepared by other people who love the Lord and people enough to invest their time in making disciples and training them to serve. God will supply the money and the opportunities. My high school football coach invested his life in training young men to play football. But he taught us life lessons and one of his favorite quotes was: Luck is when opportunity meets preparation.
The occasion for this letter of Paul’s to the church at Corinth was in reply to a letter delivered to him from the church in Corinth asking his advice about how to deal with some problems. Here in the close of the letter, it is obvious the church had also asked Paul about what to do with the money being collected for the church at Jerusalem.
Therefore Paul begins this last section addressing the matter of the money: “Now about the collection for God’s people….” The collection was for the church in Jerusalem which had undergone not only persecution, but had also been hit with a famine in the region. Paul was collecting monies from the Gentile churches to give to a church which was predominantly Jewish. We all face needs in our lives from time to time. These needs come for two reasons, or a combination of these two reasons: circumstances, which we had nothing to do with causing, i.e. a famine, or storm; and consequences- things we have caused by wrong decisions or sin in our lives. *Don’t miss the big picture- which we often tend to do: the church is one body of which Christ is the head. And what happens to our brothers and sisters in the Lord all over the world are our concern also. Remember what concerns us, concerns God. And what concerns God should concern us.
Jesus said, “Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8) We sing- “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.’ Paul tells us how we are to give:
- Weekly- systematically on a regular basis. Giving is an act of worship.
- Individually- each one of us should give individually.
- Proportionally- set aside an amount as God has prospered you.
- Always to remember the poor- this is the church’s role in society and our culture. Yet we have let the government take the role of the church.
Paul says this should be done before he arrives, so he does not have to make collections when he comes. Paul is not some television evangelist exhorting and encouraging you to give the money to him. Also you want to make sure your money is going for the purpose for which it was given.
OPPORTUNITIES- HOW TO PLAN AND SCHEDULE
Charles Stanley says one of the most often asked questions by believers is how to know the will of God. Certainly George Mueller had an amazing prayer life and what many would consider miraculous answers to his prayers. Mueller tells us his method for determining the will of God:
- I seek to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in a given matter. When you are ready to do the Lord’s will, whatever it may be, 9/10ths of the difficulties are overcome.
- Having done this, I don’t leave the result to feeling or simply impression. If I do so, I leave myself liable to great delusion.
- I seek the will of the Spirit of God through or in connection with God’s Word. The Spirit and the Word must be combined. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to delusions. If the Spirit guides us, He will do it according to Scripture, not contrary to them.
- Next, I take into account providential circumstances. These often plainly indicate God’s will in connection with His Word and Spirit.
- I ask God in prayer to reveal His will to me.
- Thus, through prayer, the study of the Word, and reflections, I come to a deliberate judgment according to the best of my ability and knowledge. If my mind is thus at peace and continues to be so after two or three more petitions, I proceed accordingly.
I have found this method always effective in trivial and important issues.
Notice the first priority- a neutral heart. A heart which wants to know the will of God with the intention of doing the will of God.
Now notice how Paul’s planning and schedule is flexible and indefinite allowing for direction from God as he does the next thing. Paul wants to do the will of God, so he plans as best he can and moves forward.
Look at the areas of which Paul is tentative and uncertain and the areas of which he is certain.
“If “it seems advisable, Paul says in verse 4, he will go to Rome with them to take the collection. But notice he also has prepared to give letters of introduction to those taking the collection if he decides his time is better spent elsewhere.
Paul says in verse 7: “I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits….” Paul also addressed the possibility that Timothy might come, and instructs them: “If Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear…” Paul has also asked Apollos to come to the church at Corinth, but Apollos was unwilling to go now but he will go when he has the opportunity.
Paul is sure of one thing and it is what he is currently doing at that time, he is ministering in Ephesus. “But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.” Paul would write in Ephesians 5: “Make the most of every opportunity because the days are evil.” Jesus told us;” My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working. I tell you the truth the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees the Father doing, because whatever the Father does, the Son does also. For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all He does. “(John 5)
Paul’s plans are tentative, he plans but is willing for God to direct and alter his plans. As George Mueller stated, the most important thing was to get your heart into such a state it has no will of its won in a given matter. This is simple to understand, but quite often difficult to do in life. Paul is stating what his plans are- but he will allow the Lord to direct him. This is why you see each, “if” and “hope” and “if the Lord permits”.
Proverbs 3: 5, 6 tells us “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” This does not mean we do not do our part of due diligence and consider all the opportunities and obstacles. Paul in looking for where he should next take the Gospel in Acts 16, found himself kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in Asia. He also tried to enter Bithynia; the Spirit of God would not allow Paul to enter. So they kept traveling and then through a dream Paul entered Macedonia. Paul’s main goal was to do the will of God. When we are willing to do the will of God, sometimes it is necessary to keep asking, keep seeking and keep knocking.
Matthew Henry said: “ When we cannot do as we will, we must do as we can.” And I would add- do what you can with what you have where you are. And make sure you do all you can with all you have.
Two extremes we must avoid:
- Being so afraid of making a mistake or the wrong decision, we do nothing- make no decision at all.
- Making impulsive decisions without waiting on the Lord. As per George Mueller’s method.
Remember this: It is God’s responsibility to lead us.
“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures: He leads me besides the still waters. He restores my soul: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thy rod and staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies: you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23)
Do you see how personal this wonderful Psalm is? He is my shepherd. I shall not be in want. I have a personal relationship with Him. He knows my name, He knows me personally and I – Him. He wants me to trust Him with all my heart. He makes me lie down in green pastures- the time of quiet heart comes from a trusting heart. Don’t be anxious he tells me. Is it not the Shepherds responsibility to guide me? It is! He guides me for His reputation is at stake as the great Shepherd. He guides. He guards. He leads. He gives. He has made me righteous and will lead me. If I stray, He will come get me. He gives me a courageous heart. He gives me a grateful heart. I remember so well the day He found me. I had wandered off and was lost from God and the flock. I was so afraid. I was so distraught. I was so desperate. Then came the great and wonderful Shepherd. He never once thought about giving up on me. What rejoicing there was in heaven when He brought me home.
*IMPORTANT POINT TO NOTE: Paul tells us: “Because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.” Expect opposition when you are doing an effective work for the kingdom of God.
Paul mentions several people who have worked alongside him in the ministry. He wants to make sure they receive the recognition they deserve. Money and opportunities are of no value without people.
People are the greatest asset of the church, the body of Christ. We are to invest our time and talents in other people. For we know our command is the same as it was to Adam and Eve and Noah. We are to rule and reign with Him and reproduce and fill the earth.
Paul then advises all of us: “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.
I do not know what circumstances in your life are discouraging you but I know the enemies who want to discourage you; they are three- the world, the flesh and the devil. And on any given day or night, one of those three is trying to discourage you. The Scriptures are full of stories of downcast souls and fearful men and women of God. Discouragement is a loss of courage. This is why Paul is encouraging us to be vigilant. I do not know what is keeping you awake, but I do know what is it to be discouraged, fearful and feel like you are never going to get out of whatever it is that is holding you down and back.
The reason Paul told us to be on guard, is when we are in this weak condition, the enemy wants to attack us. He preys on the weak and vulnerable.
Do you fear that God will not be faithful? That God will not deliver you? Has fear weakened you to the point of collapse? “Therefore strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may be disabled but rather healed.
Satan loves to confront us in our discouragement. He wants to intimidate us and overwhelm us. It is difficult to walk by faith in a fiery trial. This is why it is called striving, fighting and training. It is hard- but God will never place more on you than you can bear. Put your finger on the promises and pray them back to God. Tell Him, His reputation is at stake for you are His. He has promised to guard, guide and lead you. Remember when you are doing an effective work for the Lord, expect opposition. Expect the enemy to try and discourage you.
Remember what He has already done in your life. Overcome your fears with faith in His promises. And you will see the power of God.
“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God you will receive what He has promised. For in just a little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.”
Don’t give up- hold on- He is coming!
Be on your guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. Do everything in love.