June 4, 2006

That Which We Dislike Getting

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: 1 Corinthians Scripture: 1 Corinthians 16:5–9


That Which We Dislike Getting

1 Corinthians 16:5-9
Sunday, June 4, 2006
Pastor Randy Smith

Imagine someone recruiting you for the military. The sales pitch is quite impressive, but very inaccurate. Instead of presenting the realities of life as a soldier, you are sold a bill of lies. A false picture is painted. Much is omitted. The rest is distorted. I'm sure you would be unprepared and severely disappointed when you had to undergo strict discipline, family departure and dangerous situations. No doubt you would be ineffective as a soldier.

The Bible calls us spiritual soldiers. Paul told his young disciple Timothy: "Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier" (2 Tim. 2:3-4). As spiritual soldiers do we know what we have gotten ourselves into? Are we prepared to "fight the good fight" (1 Tim. 1:18; 6:12)? Are we effective soldiers in the Lord's Army? Have we been sold a bill of lies? Considering the condition of the Lord's church, have we bought those lies?

John Bunyan's allegory is appropriate:

Now I saw in my dream that, just as they had ended their conversation, they approached a miry Slough (a muddy swamp) in the plain. Neither of them paid attention to it, and both suddenly fell into the bog. The Slough's name was Despond. Covered with mud, they wallowed in it for some time. And Christian because of the Burden on his back, began to sink in the mire.

"Oh, Christian, my neighbor!" Pliable cried out. "Where are you now?" "To tell you the truth, I don't know," Christian answered.

Hearing this, Pliable became offended and angrily scolded his companion. "Is this the happiness you have told me about all this time? If we have such terrible misfortune here at the beginning, what are we to expect between here and the end of our journey? If I can possibly get out of here with my life, you can possess that wonderful Country for you and me both!"

With that, Pliable gave a desperate struggle or two and was able to get out of the mire on the side of the Sough that faced his home. So away he went, and Christian never saw him again.

John Bunyan, Pilgrims Progress

Many today in the church are disheartened and disorientated. The Christian life is not what they expected. Some have become complacent. Some are confused. Some like Pliable have departed from the faith altogether. Others are outright angry with God. Unfortunately these attitudes result because people were never educated about the expectations of the Christian life. We have jettisoned the truth of Scripture and sold people a pack of goods to the delight of Satan, that caters to their flesh and is contrary to the demands taught by Jesus Christ.

Personally, I blame church leaders for this. Weak teachers produce weak students. In an effort to gain popularity, in an effort to avoid losing people and in an effort to evade conflict, most pastors are not presenting the true gospel nor are they accurately teaching the Scriptures to produce mature disciples.

Such actions have filled our churches with unsaved people (at the worst) and misinformed people (at the best) ineffective to do the Lord's work. Specifically, as we cover verses 1-9 in 1 Corinthians 16, they are appalled when we talk about financial sacrifice. They are disappointed when we talk about serving. And they are surprised when we talk about suffering.

Last week's sermon was entitled: "That Which We Dislike Giving." We learned the necessity to give to the Lord's work in a regular, sacrificial and cheerful manner. This week's sermon is entitled: "That Which We Dislike Getting." As the Lord permits, we'll learn about the ministry that is required of all of us and the suffering we are bound to face as a result.

These sermons are not easy to preach, but these sermons must be preached if God's people are to be equipped and prepared to serve the Lord in a way that He desires through a manner He has chosen to bless.


Let's begin with the first point: "Enjoy Serving."

The Apostle Paul was a man totally devoted to the Lord's work. It was evident in the way he gave his life to the cause of Christ. Now we may have different callings based on different giftedness and different availability. We may have a different ministry, but in verses 5-8 we get a snapshot of Paul's ministry. Despite the vigors of first century travel and the demands of discipleship, Paul enjoyed visiting the churches and spending time with the churches for the desire to see these Christians mature in Christ.

In verses 5-7 he had wished to see the church in Corinth soon and hopefully remain with them for an extended period of time, but in verse 8 he told the Corinthians that for now he would remain in Ephesus until Pentecost. Why delay his desired visit to Corinth? Why remain in Ephesus? In the beginning of verse 9 we read, "For a wide door for effective service has opened to me."

Notice how Paul dictated his plans and desires based upon the need to serve Jesus Christ. He simply saw himself as the Lord's servant. Remember what he said in 4:1? "Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ." Serving Christ was his identity. It took priority. It came first on the agenda. His Christianity was not radical. He was only following His Master and Lord who "did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mk. 10:45). Paul wanted to bless the Corinthians in person. But for now they would have to wait until God concluded his work in Ephesus.

How far is this from the consumer mentality that has infected most churches today? You've heard the statistics: 80% of the work is often done by 20% of the people, or the overused illustration that the church like a football game - The majority of people who desperately need activity watching 22 players who desperately need a break.

In the book the men have been studying on Saturday mornings, Disciplines of a Godly Man, author Kent Hughes said, "Church attendance is infected with a malaise of conditional loyalty which has produced an army of ecclesiastical hitchhikers. The hitchhiker's thumb says, 'You buy the car, pay for repairs and upkeep and insurance, fill the car with gas - and I'll ride with you. But if you have an accident, you are on your own! And I'll probably sue.' So it is with the credo of so many of today's church attenders: 'You go to the meetings and serve on the boards and committees, you grapple with the issues and do the work of the church and pay the bills - and I'll come along for the ride. But if things do not suit me, I'll complain and probably bail out - my thumb is always out for a better ride" (p. 159-160).

Now there are many in error because of their absence of Christian service. But there are also many in error because of their method of Christian service. If we serve with the wrong motives or on our own strength or with the wrong spirit or to the disregard of our own families, we do a disservice. Likewise, if we race into a ministry without the Lord's leading and blessing we will find ourselves spinning our wheels.

In verses 8 and 9 Paul said he would "remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; for a wide door for effective service (had) opened to (him)." Paul refused to uproot himself because God had provided him a great (megela) opportunity for ministry. He made plans by the will of God (verse 7), and God provided him with a "wide door for effective service."

Opened and closed doors are metaphors commonly used for ministry.

Paul faced some closed doors on his second missionary journey. Though he wanted to enter a certain region, he was "forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia" (Ac. 16:6). Later, "trying to go into Bithynia…the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them" (Ac. 16:7). Paul did not kick open these doors, but rather waited on the Lord to guide him. He would later discover that God was leading him to be the first missionary into Europe (Ac. 16:9-10).

On the other hand, Paul frequently took advantage of open doors for ministry (cf. 2 Cor. 2:12). After completing his first missionary journey, the Bible says he "gathered the church together (and) began to report all things that God had done with them and how (God) had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles" (Ac. 14:27). Paul asked the Colossian church to pray "that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ" (Col. 4:3).

The lesson to be learned, Christian, is this: God has ministry in store for each of us. It is not our responsibility to invent areas to serve, but rather humble ourselves before His mighty will, walk in His Spirit and allow Him to open doors where He wishes us to minister as His grace flows mightily through us to serve Him by serving others. When we are intent on pleasing Him in all submissiveness, we will be obedient to His calling to serve and cognizant of the vineyards to which He is calling us. And we will remain there empowered by His strength until He chooses to call us elsewhere.

Harry Ironside put it well, "No servant of God who is in the current of divine will, will ever have to hunt for open doors for testimony - just be obedient."

With the connection between obedience and service established, is God using you? I sure do hope so! Are you aware of the doors He is opening in your life? I sure do hope so! Remember beloved, it's not about ability. It's about availability. It's not about success. It's about submissiveness. It's not about greatness. It's about faithfulness.

Think about it. What can possibly compare to serving the living God by allowing Him to work His eternal plans through you?


From point one, "Enjoy Serving," we turn our attention to the second point, "Expect Opposition." Notice the transition that Paul presents in verse 9. "For a wide door for effective service has opened to me, [transition] and there are many adversaries."

Listen carefully, Christian. Do not be surprised. Any service for God will incur the great adversary of God. And the greater the door of service, the greater the opposition from Satan.

Satan has been described in the Bible as "a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Pet. 5:8). In Revelation we read, "Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time" (Rev. 12:12).

From the time he was cast out of Paradise, the Serpent makes it his life-long goal to oppose God and those who follow him. Because of this you can bet that anything you do that has God's glory as its aim from ministry to evangelism to Bible study to a desire for personal growth, Satan will be lurking, using all of his diabolic power in conjunction with his demonic forces and deceived humans to bring you down. In other words, for every open door of ministry we must be prepared to see the devil standing on the threshold. And the bigger the door, the greater the opposition. That's why Paul used key adjectives in verse 9, "For a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries."

Specifically speaking, the wide door of service that resulted in much opposition happened while Paul was in Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:8).

A look at Acts 19 records Paul's multi-year stay in that city. The door was indeed wide and the ministry was indeed quite effective. Verse 10 says, "All who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks" (Ac. 19:10). Verse 17 says, "The name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified." Verses 18- 19 say people were confessing their sins and burning their expensive magic books. Verse 20 says, "So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing."

But do you think all this spiritual success would go unnoticed to the adversary? You can bet he was there to stir up trouble against the Apostle. And the trouble came in the form of a riot that nearly took Paul's life (Ac. 19:23-41). Speaking of this riot in 1 Corinthians 15:32 he said, "I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus." In his second letter to the church in Corinth he further commented on his stay in Ephesus. "For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves" (2 Cor. 1:8-9a).

Generally speaking, Paul himself was no stranger to great resistance every time he sought the Lord's work. He said he was "afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within" (2 Cor. 7:5). He was ruthlessly attacked by those outside the church as he endured all forms of verbal and physical mistreatment (2 Cor. 11:23-27).

However, more painful than anything was the mistreatment he received from those inside the church. By the time he writes his second letter to this very church in Corinth we see how these people whom he was sacrificially serving, people for whom he gave his life (2 Cor. 4:10-12), brought him immeasurable pain. They assaulted his character, his teaching and his authority. "Afflicted," "perplexed," "persecuted," "struck down" were words he chose to describe his ministry (2 Cor. 4:8-9).

As I thought through all the great warriors in the Scripture, I recalled how they all faced tremendous opposition. Moses had his Pharaoh (Ex. 4:21). Elijah had his Ahab (1 Ki. 18:17). Nehemiah had his Sanballat (Neh. 4:1). John had his Diotrephes (3 Jn. 5). Time permits me to speak of the adversaries encountered by: Daniel and Sarah and Jeremiah and Isaiah and Ester and Gideon and David and Joshua and Peter and Timothy and Stephen...

And how about Jesus Christ? His Satanic opposition did not end with the temptation in the wilderness early in His career. It continued and intensified until His work on the cross was finished.

Are you exempt?

Do you think Satan is after the Grace Tabernacle? You bet he is and more than anything else, he would love to keep us in the dark about it. This church is discipling, evangelizing and reaching out to the next generation through phenomenal children's and youth ministries, and he hates it. He's shooting his fiery darts (Eph. 6:16) at this church and his deadliest arrows are aimed at our leadership. Please pray for us. If he can get us discouraged, doubtful, engaged in a sinful fall or to turn on one another, he will weaken if not bring down this church. He is relentless for victory. Half the battle is realizing the war. The other half is being prepared with the components of spiritual armor taught in Ephesians 6 - things like righteousness, faith, truth, the Word of God and prayer. That is how we stand firm and that is how we wage war (2 Cor. 10:3-6).

Since Satan can no longer get God, he persistently seeks to oppose God's work through the work of God's servants. Every time we see Satan mentioned in Scripture, he is blinding, deceiving, seducing, inciting, instigating and discouraging in attempt to cease the work of God. Therefore, as servants of Christ, we must be prepared for opposition.

Moreover, the opposition we face is an indication of our effectiveness for the Lord (Phil. 1:28). John MacArthur said, "The devil's greatest opposition is the Lord's greatest work" (1 Corinthians, Moody, 1984, p. 465). According to G. Campbell Morgan, "If you have no opposition in the place you serve, you're serving in the wrong place."

Now it is beyond the scope of this sermon to discuss the specific tactics Satan uses through deception in an effort to turn people away from the truth of God's Word. It is also beyond the scope of this sermon to discuss how Satan has already been defeated and God's work will always succeed (Jn. 12:31; 16:11; Rom. 16:20; 1 Jn. 4:4). It is also beyond the scope of this sermon to discuss how God will use Satan, as He did at Calvary to display the superiority of His own wisdom and power. It is also beyond the scope of this sermon to discuss how God is faithful to strengthen and protect us from the evil one (2 Thes. 3:3). It is also beyond the scope of this sermon to discuss the ways we are to overcome the enemy through being equipped with the spiritual armor and mind of Christ.

My primary purpose this morning from our text is to encourage you to pursue open doors for the ministry of our Lord, and also to realize that the greater your effectiveness, the greater the opposition from the adversary. Be prepared! Stand firm! Resist him! Persevere! With God's permission, all tactics are available at the devil's disposal (ask Job!) with his number one goal of seeing the work cease through us feeling disappointed, frustrated, unappreciated or maligned. I think we've all been there when we just want to throw up our hands and say, "If this is how they are going to treat me, I quit!" And Satan sits back and licks his chops and says, "I won!" (see Ac. 14:2-3).

It is during these times that we hear that still quiet voice for our God say, "Are you serving Me or yourself?" "Do you believe My grace is sufficient?" "Did I spare My Son opposition?" "Did I not say, 'your toil is not in vain in the Lord'" (1 Cor. 15:58)? "Are you looking to Jesus?" "Are you aware that My strength shines brightest through your weakness?" "Do you believe I created the devil to further My purposes?" "Do you trust Me?"

Have you been recruited for the Lord's army? Are you prepared?

Not long ago at a high school, three military recruiters showed up to address some high school seniors. Graduation was only a few months away, and the military men were there for the obvious - to articulate to these graduating young men and women some of the options that military service would provide them. The meeting was to last forty-five minutes. Each recruiter - representing Army, Navy, and Marine Corps - was to have fifteen minutes. Well, the Army and Navy recruiters got carried away. When it came time for the Marine to speak, he had two minutes. So he walked up with two minutes to make his pitch. He stood utterly silent for a full sixty seconds--half of his time. Then he said this: "I doubt whether there are two or three of you in this room who could even cut it in the Marine Corps. I want to see those two or three immediately in the dining hall when we are dismissed." He turned smartly and sat down. When he arrived in the dining hall, those students interested in the Marines were a mob. They acted without delay (W. Frank Harrington, It's Decision Time, Preaching Today, Tape No. 162).

Serving the Lord is not for the fainthearted or the cowardice. It takes strength and fortunately the strength we need is provided by Him. But our struggle is not only to overcome the rigors of hard work, but also the relentless attacks of the evil one.

Has God enlisted you in His military? If so, are you engaged in the right battle (1 Sam. 17:47), fighting against the right enemy (Eph. 6:12), persevering with the right strength (Eph. 6:10), seeking to please the right officer (2 Tim. 2:4) and trusting Him for the right outcome (2 Cor. 2:14)?

other sermons in this series

Apr 22


Edification or Self-Exaltation

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 14:1–40 Series: 1 Corinthians

Apr 15


Everything Minus Love Equals Nothing

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:1–13 Series: 1 Corinthians

Mar 18


You Need Us

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:21–27 Series: 1 Corinthians