Perspective. It makes all the difference, doesn’t it? It’s the difference between the cup being half-full or half-empty. The difference between being discouraged by how far we have to go and being jazzed by how far we’ve come. And, as I’m reminded by Paul this morning, the difference between grudgingly going through the motions of the Christian walk and getting up in the morning ready, willing, and by His grace, able to discharge the privileged calling of being a child of the King.
Hovering over 1Corinthians 9 this morning as Paul, using his own calling as an apostle as an example, illustrates his teaching in the previous chapter concerning not using one’s liberty in Christ to engage in activities that might stumble others (8:9).
As one called of Christ to be a messenger of the gospel, Paul had a number of rights. The right to eat and drink, the right to have a believing wife, the right to quit his day job and to rely on the financial support of others in order to preach the word (9:3-11). Biblically he had these rights, the law of Moses testifying that those who participate in plowing the field should expect to share in its crop. And practically he had these rights, as evidenced by the other apostles who were married and supported by the church. Yet Paul would choose not to exercise these rights. Why? Because, rather than focus on the fact that he had been given certain rights as a follower of Christ, he had a different perspective. He focused instead on the fact that he had been entrusted with a stewardship.
But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting. For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship.
(1Corinthians 9:15-17 ESV)
Paul didn’t view himself as doing God some favor by bearing witness to the gospel and thus deserving the rights of an apostle. Rather, he viewed his role in the body of Christ as a privilege and a calling. It wasn’t about what he was doing for God, but about what God wanted to do through him. It wasn’t if he obeyed God’s calling, it was all about how. Preaching the gospel wasn’t some magnanimous gesture on Paul’s part for which he deserved the set of privileges afforded it. Instead, Paul recognized that he had been entrusted with a stewardship, given a sacred trust (NLT), and that it was to be discharged faithfully.
Jesus had called Paul to be “a chosen instrument of Mine to carry My name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). And Paul’s perspective was that he was to steward that calling. He was to manage, as if it were his own, the gift he had received. He took responsibility for the administration of the life Jesus had called him too. Rights or no rights, first and foremost Paul would do what he believed would most effectively allow him to discharge the sacred trust given him.
And I can’t help but make application to how I walk my Christian walk. I don’t think it matters whether I’m called to be in full-time, supported ministry or just trying to get through the day in a way that’s consistent with my profession of faith, I too have been given a sacred trust. And I can discharge that trust in one of two ways. Either in a whats-in-it-for-me manner or, in a God-glorifying manner. One leads to begrudgingly going through the motions, the other to energetically administering a stewardship received by the Lord as unto the Lord.
What a difference it would make if I were to view “living a life worthy of calling with which you were called” (Eph. 4:1) not just as a command to obey, but an entrusted stewardship to be discharged. Such a stewardship could be a ministry or some form of service we’ve been called to. But it could just as well simply be dealing with the circumstances of life God has allowed to fall on our plates this day.
Whether a ministry or the mundane, we have an entrusted stewardship by God’s grace. An entrusted stewardship to be discharged for God’s glory.