I have found words that are food for my soul; so rich that I must hold them up and commit them to memory and type. Where does our life truly stand apart from this?
Don’t imagine us leaders to be something that we aren’t. We are servants of Christ, not his masters. We are guides into God’s most sublime secrets, not security guards posted to protect them. The requirements for a good guide are reliability and accurate knowledge. It matters very little to me what you think of me, even less where I rank in popular opinion. I don’t even rank myself. Comparisons in these matters are pointless. I’m not aware of anything that would disqualify me from being a good guide for you, but that doesn’t mean much. The Master makes that judgment.
So don’t get ahead of the Master and jump ahead with your conclusions before all the evidence is in. When he comes he will bring out in the open and place in evidence all kinds of things we never even dreamed of — inner motives and purposes and prayers. Only then will any of us get to hear the “Well done!” of God.
All I’m doing right now, friends, is showing how these things pertain to Apollos and me so you will learn restraint and not rush into judgments without knowing all the facts. It’s important to look at things from God’s point of view. I would rather not see you inflating or deflating reputations based on mere hearsay.
For who do you know that really knows you, knows your heart? And even if they did, is there anything they would discover in you that you could take credit for? Isn’t everything that you have and everything that you are sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing? You already have all you need. You already have more access to God than you can handle. Without bringing either Apollos or me into it, you’re sitting at the top of the world — at least God’s world — and we’re right there, sitting alongside you!
Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we’re not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times. We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don’t maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don’t twist God’s Word to suit ourselves. Rather we keep everything we say and do out in the open, the whole truth out on display, so that those who want to can see and judge in the presence of God.
If our Message is obscure to anyone, it’s not because we’re holding back in any way. No, it’s because these other people are looking or going in the wrong way and refuse to give it serious attention. All they have eyes for is the fashionable god of darkness. They think he can give them what they want, and that they will not have to bother believing a Truth they can’t see. They’re stone-blind to the dayspring brightness of the Message that shines with Christ, who gives us the best picture of God we’ll ever get.
Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master.
Love of God is pure when joy and sorrow inspire and equal degree of gratitude. All we are is messengers, errand-runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.
If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around with us in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not that much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not that much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t been broken. What they did to Jesus they do to us — trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us — he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us. While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best!
We’re not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the Psalmist who wrote, “I believed it, so I said it,” we say that we believe it. And what we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you, alive. Every detail works to your advantage and to God’s glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise!
So we’re not giving up. How can we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is MAKING NEW LIFE, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the COMING GOOD TIMES, the lavish celebration PREPARED FOR US. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. BUT THE THINGS WE CAN’T SEE NOW WILL LAST FOREVER.