SUFFERING LIKE JESUS
- Pastor Mark Driscoll
- 1 Corinthians 4:1-13
- March 05, 2006
Father God, as always, we come together glad to be your people, glad to be the church, glad to be the hands and feet, the body of Christ, here and wherever you would call us to be. God, as we study together we pray that you would continue to raise up leaders in our church; leaders who are like Jesus, leaders who love Jesus and follow Jesus and serve Jesus. And so as we study today we ask that our studies would be focused on the leadership of Jesus, and that the Holy Spirit would enable us to see his person and would empower us to do his work. And so God, we ask as a church that you would continue to show up, as you always have, as we give our time to you. In Jesus’ good name we pray. Amen.
Well, as we get into 1 Corinthians today the situation is this: that Paul is dealing with a church that is suffering growing pains. Young, urban church – as it continues to expand and grow there is an increasing need for leaders. And so the first half of the book is essentially focused on issues pertaining to Christian leadership – being a pastor, a deacon, a Bible study leader – whatever your role as a leader in the church might be. And from there he spend the second half of the book dealing with all kind of issues, sins, theological problems – things that need to be fixed and dealt with in the church.
And what he’s showing us is that leaders are the ones who untie the knots in the church and help to serve the people in the church and help to lead the church toward a healthy and more better future. And so leadership is paramount for the church, and the big problem that he was having was that there were lots of people in his church who aspired to be leaders, spiritual leaders, but they did not understand what it meant to be a Christian leader.
They were taking their cues from non-Christian sources, and so today it would be like looking at business and thinking, “Well, I’m good at running a company; I’m automatically fit to be a pastor.”
And you need to be careful where you get your example of spiritual leadership. It can’t just be from business or entertainment, or from Christian television. It has to be from the person and the work of Jesus. And so Paul wants the people in his church to aspire to leadership. He says elsewhere anyone who aspired to leadership aspires to a good thing. It’s a good thing to want to lead in the church, providing you follow the example of Jesus and you do so with humility. And so what Paul really has as a problem in his church is that everybody wants to be the rock star, or they want to be on the rock star’s posse.
It’s kind of like an ancient hip-hop problem; everybody wants to be the guy on the mic – “Hey ho!” And then if you’re not good enough to be on the mic you want to be in the back doing this. You know, you want to be on the posse. And the problem in Corinth was everybody wanted to be on the mic – “I want to preach. I want to lead. I want to be in charge.” And those who realized they were never gonna be on the mic realized, “Well, I’ll be on the posse,” so I’m on Paul’s posse, and I’m on Peter’s posse, and I’m on Apollos’ posse. It’s just totally out of control.
So Paul’s saying you know we can’t take our cues for leadership from hip-hop; it has to be from Jesus. And so he’s trying to straighten out this issue in the church. So I would simply ask you this – without a show of hands – how many of you really do aspire to church leadership? You want to be a pastor, a church planter, a deacon? You want to oversee an area of ministry? You want to lead a worship team? You want to help in the kids’ ministry.
So you say, “We’re gonna have to help in kids’ ministry.” Or “We want to teach a community group Bible study or a class.” Or “We want to help in administrative areas, or fund-raising, or real estate, or technology” – whatever your thing is. If you aspire to leadership, we would encourage that. But then we would encourage you also to look to Jesus and the teaching of Paul today as a place by which you can get your example of what it means to be a good, faithful, Godly Christian leader. So he’s gonna tell us four truths about Christian leadership in an effort to help us focus on what it means to be a good leader, and see if God has called us to be leaders.
The first thing he says, beginning in chapter 4:1, is that Christian leaders are servants and stewards. He says, “So then, men ought to regard us as servants” – so how should people regard spiritual leaders – as servants – “servants of Christ, and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.” The secret things of God are in pertaining to Jesus. The people were expecting and anticipating and awaiting the coming of Jesus as the prophets foretold. But there was a lot of mystery and uncertainty, and there were a lot of questions left to be answered until Jesus came, and then everything was made known. So he’s talking here about knowledge of Jesus and understanding of Jesus.
But he says that a spiritual leader, a Christian leader, a church leader, is first a servant and secondly is a steward. We’ll deal with servanthood first. It’s a job that nobody really wants, right? It literally means “slave,” right? How many of you picked up the classifieds today and looking for a job went right to the “slave” section and said, “That’s what I’m looking for right there! I want to be a slave.” And how many of you in high school went to the guidance counselor and said, “Well, we had Career Day, and I didn’t see any booth for slave. I would like to be a slave. Where do I go? How do I get there? How can I possibly get the community college internship that would enable me to be a slave?”
Nobody aspires to be a slave. Nobody aspires to be a servant, right? Everybody aspires to be a rock star, right? So you go to a high school kid, you say, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” “I want to be an actor.” “I want to be an actress.” No. “Okay, then I’d like to own the theater.” No. “Well, I’d like to at least be the ticket guy, because he sits down.” No. “How about working at the refreshment counter?” Okay, but you’re gonna be the butter boy for the popcorn – that’s your job. You don’t even get to take money and charge 27 bucks for the box of JuJu Fruits. You’re the butter boy. You sit next to her: “Would you like butter?” “Yeah. That’s not enough butter.” “I know – more butter.”
You’re the butter boy, and after the movie’s over you scrape the gum off the seats – that’s a Christian. That’s a Christian leader. That’s what you do. It’s a humble, thankless, tireless, unsexy, unattractive, unappealing job. He says that is Christian leadership. And you look at Jesus, and you realize that yeah, that’s what he did. He washed people’s feet. He served. He helped. He cared for people. He didn’t get a lot of fans. He didn’t get a lot of money. He didn’t get a lot of fame. He was just a guy doing a thankless series of tasks including suffering and dying. So the first thing is he says a true Christian leader is just a servant, is a slave; nothing to boast about, just a hard-working person doing a good job.
And the second is that they’re a steward, right? And that’s what he says here, being entrusted with the things of God. That’s a steward. A steward is someone that takes resources and executes them to maximum effectiveness. That’s what a steward is and does. You and I, we’re all stewards. God’s given us breath, so our life needs to be stewarded toward the purposes of God. God’s given us all a certain amount of money; we steward that wisely to accomplish the things that God intends for us. God’s given us certain talents, skills, abilities, and we steward those so that we can maximize the opportunities that God has given us on the earth.
What he’s saying is this: that Christian leaders need to understand that the church doesn’t belong to them – it belongs to Jesus; that the people don’t belong to them – they belong to Jesus. That the gifts, talents, abilities, technology, all of the real estate, all the opportunity and potential that lies within the church doesn’t belong to the leader – it belongs to the Lord. And that the leaders’ job is to steward; to encourage and nurture and discipline and build opportunities so that everyone can do the things that they’re most competent, capable and called to do.
Second point, he says, is that Christian leaders ultimately stand before Jesus on Judgment Day, right, because in the middle everybody’s got an opinion, but there’s only one person’s opinion in the end that truly matters. That’s Jesus. Verse 2: “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” It’s not just enough to be a leader. You have to be a faithful leader. Statistically, over half of pastors who go to seminary to get trained, get a Masters degree to go into ministry, are out of ministry within the first few years of graduation. The point is not just to get into leadership but to stay in leadership, and not just stay in leadership but accomplish some things that are worthwhile and a good use of time, energy and money.
So if you’re gonna lead, you have to be in it for the long haul, and you have to prove faithful. Some people’s whole goal is to be a leader, not to produce results. Paul says it’s great to desire to be a leader, but you must be faithful and produce results. “I care very little,” he says in verse 3, “if I am judged by you or any human court. Indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time;” verse 5 – “wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness, and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.”
Here’s what he’s saying: as you serve in leadership in a church in ministry, whatever that role might be, everyone has an opinion about how you’re doing it. And they make it known, right? That’s what Christians do. They tell you how you’re doing, good and bad. Paul says, you know, it’s not that I don’t listen to anybody, but ultimately you can’t work for the praises of people. You can’t. This is where churches that are congregationally governed – everybody makes a vote and the pastor does what he’s told – they go nowhere. They can’t grow. They cannot be healthy. They cannot succeed. Some of you will say that’s an overstatement. It’s true.
You get three Christians, you get seven opinions – you’re not going anywhere. That’s the way it works. Leaders have to make decisions. When leaders make decisions, some people don’t like those decisions. So invariably certain people will be critical, analytical. There’ll be people who don’t like the direction, don’t like the leader, don’t like the style, don’t like the approach. And it doesn’t matter what you do. You could change everything you do, and then another group of people will dislike you. So at some point or another, a leader accepts the facts that not everyone will like me, not everyone will approve of me. And this is one of the hard parts of leadership.
How many of you have heard terrible, mean, nasty, crazy things said about me by the person who came with you today, right? I mean, this is how it goes, and this is what happens, right? People have opinions. And Paul says you can’t just bend to the pressures of people’s opinions. You also just can’t rely on your own conscience, say, “Well, I feel like I’m doing a good job.” Paul says, “I feel like I’m doing a good job, but when I die, I stand before Jesus. He owns me, and the church, and the people, and the resources, and the opportunities, and I give an account to him.”
So Paul says in the end – people will want to judge you, you’ll want to judge yourself. But in the end, you work for one person. You work for Jesus. You do what he wants. You do what he says. You do what’s best for him. Which means some people aren’t gonna like you, because that’s not what they want – but it’s not what they want, it’s what Jesus wants. It’s not what they say, it’s what Jesus says. It’s not what makes them happy; it’s what makes Jesus happy. And Paul is saying that leaders must keep this in mind, because in ministry you’ve got two kinds of people.
You’ve got friends who love you. They encourage you. They say, “You’re doing a great job. We appreciate you.” You know these are people that send notes and write e-mails, and they’re nice, and they’re pleasant, and they’re sweet, and God bless them. But the problem is if they’re just your friends, sometimes you do and say things – take it from a guy who does – that shouldn’t be said and done. And sometimes your friends don’t say anything, because they love you and they know everybody else is criticizing you. And they don’t want to jump on the pig pile, so they sort of give you too much grace.
So he says you can’t just listen to your friends. And he says you can’t just listen to your foes. You’ve also got foes who criticize whatever you do.
And then- It’s just get crazy stuff. People always, “I don’t believe that you’re following the Holy Spirit. And there were 67 mile an hour winds the other day, and I’m a 14th-level prayer warrior.” And if you’re here – okay. And the 14th-level prayer warrior says, “And I saw the 67 mile an hour winds, and the Holy Spirit said that he’s coming back fast.” Well, that’s speeding, you know? And what are we even talking about, you know? It’s like, “And you didn’t know?” What are we talking about? It’s usually when somebody comes up and says, “The Holy Spirit told me to” – I just am like, “Doo doo doodle loo.”
I know it’s just – you know, I believe in the Holy Spirit, but I also don’t believe everything that everybody says after they say the word “Holy Spirit.” And what he says is: you’re gonna have foes who come along, and in spiritual language they say, “You need to do this, and you need to do that, and God told me, and I’m here for this, and thus saith the Lord.” And Paul says just let it go – let it go. Make sure that you take it to Jesus. Jesus, what do you want me to say? Jesus, what do you want us to do? Jesus, where do you want us to go? Jesus, who do you want us to be?
Jesus, we work for an audience of one. Jesus, we’re trying to lift up your name, not our own. Jesus, we’re trying to humbly serve your people, not just forward our agenda. And what happens is oftentimes foes in ministry – for those of you who aspire to leadership – foes are often people that are single-issue voters. All they care about is one thing, and it ain’t Jesus. And what they care about may not be bad, but they’re on the tongues bandwagon, the style of music bandwagon, the women in ministry bandwagon, the country and the earth that we should all move to because it stinks bandwagon.
And a lot of what they’re into isn’t bad, but they’re single-issue voters. It doesn’t matter what is going on; they care about their thing, and they just beat their drum, beat their drum, beat their drum, beat their drum. And unless you beat their drum, they beat you – and that’s what happens. And Paul says at some point, if you really aspire to leadership, you need to accept the fact that people will dislike you; that people will hate you; that people will say nasty things about you. That people that you love will walk away from you as his friends denied Jesus and his own bookkeeper, Jesus’ bookkeeper, Judas Iscariot, ripped him off and just devastated the whole ministry.
Paul says that being a leader is not just being a rock star. It’s not being super-cool. It’s not being super-fly. It’s about really sometimes just leaning over the plate and taking one for the team, and that’s the way that it is. And some of you who have become even Christian leaders – you’re teaching Bible studies, you’re leading other people – you have, certain ministries that you’re leading – you’ll see this. People come and push you, say, “You need to do this.” You say, “That is not what I believe, or we believe that God has called us to be and do. We don’t agree with that.”
“Well then, you’re Godless and you’re evil, and I’m gonna send out an e-mail, and I’m gonna call my friends, and we’re gonna have a meeting.” You’re like, “Man! But if I accommodate you, then I set a precedent where I cave under pressure. And if I accommodate you, then I encourage more people like you.” And at the end of the day, we can’t lead – we have to compromise because we’re trying to keep all of our constituents happy instead of our Lord. And at the end of the day, it’s about everybody looking north, keeping Jesus happy, doing what Jesus wants, and if we all do that, we’ll get along just fine.
But when we become single-issue voters, shoving our own agenda, wanting everything our own way because we think we’re hyper-spiritual and we know how the church should be, Paul says that is the death. Your friends will cheer you. Your foes will absolutely devastate you. But in the end, you wait till that final day when you stand before Jesus, and he judges what he says is the motives of the heart. That he looks right into you and says, “I know what you did, and I know why you did it, and you either did a good job or a bad job. This was good, this was bad. Should’ve said this, should’ve said that; didn’t say this. Did do a good job here, you really let me down here.”
There will be an evaluation at the end of your life. In the middle, you say, “Well, I want to keep this person happy, and these people happy. And this person is upset, and I need to accommodate this person. I need to compromise on this front.” And the issue is not if you work for Jesus, because he says at that point, if you aspire to spiritual leadership, when you stand before Jesus he says that he will praise you. And doesn’t that make it all worth it? I tell you what, isn’t it great that at the end you could stand before Jesus, Jesus would say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You did a good job. You did what I asked you to do. Nice job.”
And you know what, it doesn’t matter who criticizes you in the middle. It’s that final judgment in the end that Paul says as a leader you’ve gotta always keep that on your horizon. You know what, I listen to Godly people, I take Godly counsel, I repent when I’ve erred or sinned, but at the end of the day, I work for one Lord. I don’t have compromised interests, and at the end I stand before him, and I want him to tell me how I did. And in the middle, I’m not looking for progress reports. Paul says first thing a true leader is a servant, and is a steward, and a true leader works for Jesus.
Now, I know this seems simple and obvious, but it is oftentimes overlooked. The third thing he says is that Christian leaders are sustained by God’s word and God’s grace. This is how things get done. Verse 6: “Now, brothers,” – includes the sisters – “I’ve applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, ‘Do not go beyond what is written.’” He puts it in quotes; it’s actually not a quote from the Old Testament.
So it’s a truism. He’s saying, “‘Don’t go beyond what’s written.’ Then you will not take pride in one man over against another.” Right? You won’t be the posse on some team; you’ll be on Jesus’ team. “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” First thing he says is, leaders must be about Scripture. Leaders must be into the Bible. They have to be. “Do not go beyond what is written,” because authority is required for leadership, and authority only comes out of Scripture.
There is no spiritual authority apart from Scripture. Just because someone’s a pastor, just because someone’s a leader, just because someone went to Bible college or seminary, just because someone got ordained, does not give them leadership authority unless they are being true to Scripture – at all. At all – I mean the only authority comes out of Scripture. Someone says, “Well, I don’t like that,” you say, “Well, the Bible says – God says, through the Bible” – that’d be a better way of stating that.
“Well, I don’t like that.” “Yeah, but God says, through the Bible, what you’re doing is a sin. You need to repent.” “Well, I don’t think it’s a sin.” “Well, the Bible says that what you’re doing is incongruent with the will of God.” “Well, I don’t believe that.” “Well, the Bible says it’s true, so now you’re disagreeing with God.” You’re only authority comes out of Scripture. I promise you this: churches that cave and bend to the whims of culture, thereby reducing the authority of Scripture, cannot, do not, will not grow, because they have no right to lead.
They can’t look at people and say, “This needs to change. We need to do this. It needs to be like that, because God said.” They get up and say, “We think this. We think that.” And the people say, “Well, we think something else.” If it’s your opinion, my opinion, who cares? And the issue is you’re right. If the church devolves into nothing but a power struggle between people who have just mere opinions and no verses, then the church cannot move forward. God won’t bring new people. God won’t raise up leaders. People won’t become Christians.
Why? Because the Word of God, the Bible says, is living and active and powerful. You want a church that’s alive? You want a church that’s active? You want a church that’s powerful? It must be rooted in Scripture. It must be led by Scripture, governed by Scripture. And what happens is over Scripture churches have a propensity to put all kinds of other things in authority. If you’re a Mormon, it’s the Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price. If you’re a Jehovah’s Witness, it’s the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. If you’re into Christian Science, it’s The Keys to Science and Healing.
If you’re a Catholic, it’s the pope, and it’s the ex cathedra statements from the throne at Rome; it is the councils and creeds through the history of the church. If you’re in a denomination, it’s your book of order, or The Book of Common Prayer, your lectionary, your hymnal – whatever it is. And what Paul is saying is “do not go beyond what is written.” If the Bible doesn’t say it, don’t say it. That God has given us sufficiency in his Word. And it’s not to say that such things as good theological books or books of church order or councils or creeds or the history of the church are bad, but that Scripture must remain final authority – metaphorical Supreme Court of final authority – in the church.
There can be lesser courts of authority – tradition, theologians, church history, good teachers. There are lesser courts of authority, but when Paul says “do not go beyond what is written,” he’s saying that Scripture is the highest and final authority. That Scripture is the means by which everything is ultimately tested and judged, and when you go beyond what is written in Scripture, you end up elevating someone, something, over Scripture. In so doing, you lose your spiritual authority. You can’t say, “God’s Word says such-and-such.” All you can say is, “My opinion is this and that.”
People say, “Well, there’s opinions everywhere.” Why would we give our life to an opinion? Why would we tithe to an opinion? Why would we trust our family, and our future, and our friends, to an opinion? Everyone has opinions. I have opinions. Why in the world would we give ourselves to mere opinions? When the Bible’s opened up, then the Holy Spirit is free to work and penetrate people’s hearts. People hear the voice of God through Scripture. Their lives are changed. They become repentant, obedient, compliant, and the mission of God to love people in the culture can move forward.
So Paul says first thing is if you want to be a leader, if you aspire to spiritual leadership, please don’t seek spiritual leadership thinking it will make you a more Godly person. Don’t, because some people say, “Well, I’ll go into ministry because then I’ll have to read my Bible, and I’ll have to pray, and that pressure will be good for me.” No. Those who teach, those who lead, should only do so because they are already reading their Bible, not because they’re looking for further incentive, right? I mean if the love of Jesus isn’t enough to get you to read the Book, nothing will. That needs to be sorted out between you and Jesus.
So simple things like if you aspire to be a leader, do you read your Bible regularly? Do you look for Jesus in the pages of Scripture – which is the right interpretation of Scripture? Do you memorize verses of the Bible? Do you pray through Scripture? Do you study Scripture so that you understand what is being taught? Are you someone who likes to articulate Scripture to others, and do you lead by Biblical conviction, theological conviction? Paul says if so, then leadership would be good for you – if you’re a person who doesn’t want to go beyond what is written.
And if you don’t want to go beyond what is written, then what must you know? What is written! You’ve got to be a Bible student; got to be a Bible student. And if right now you aspire to leadership, and you’re not a good student of Scripture, then do not nominate yourself for leadership. First things first – start to learn your Bible and hear from God through the Scriptures. First things first; first things first – and this was the best advice I got as a new Christian. I met with my pastor. I was a brand new Christian. I said, “I feel God’s calling me into leadership.”
He said, “You don’t know your Bible well enough to lead. It’s gonna take some years. Start studying.” That was great advice. It was great advice. I spent – I don’t know – five years, six years studying as much as I could. Reading voraciously, studying the Bible. I said, “You know what, you’re right. I can’t just get up and not know my Bible How in the world do I expect people to hear the voice of God, and obey the voice of God, if I don’t even know what God has to say in his Book?
Second thing he says: in addition to God’s Word, Christian leaders are sustained by God’s grace. What he says is: if you have something, it’s because God gave it to you, so don’t brag about it like some bratty trust fund kid, right? Be gracious. Be humble. Accept the fact that your Father in heaven is a good father. The good things he’s given you are good things. And don’t be all boastful about it. God’s grace.
See, we’re saved by God’s grace. We’re gifted by God’s grace to serve in ministry. We’re empowered by God’s grace to do ministry. And then God provides opportunities, resources, people, real estate, dollars, technology – all of which is his grace. What he’s saying is the church is just a bunch of beggars with their hands out, and God fills their hands. And the last thing those kids should do is say, “Look at what I have. Look at who I am. Look at what I’ve done.” What they should do is say, “Look how good my Father is, and look at what he has provided.”
And he says why boast about something if you didn’t earn it? I tell you, in ministry it’s all about grace. Paul is saying the key to leadership is humility; to say wonderful things happen because of the grace of God. We didn’t earn it. We didn’t deserve it. We didn’t merit it. We didn’t accomplish it. God was just really nice to us. Paul’s saying to be a leader, you’re a servant, you’re a steward. To be a leader you acknowledge that your primary audience is Jesus, not people. You please him, not them. That you serve and love them, but you do so in a way that honors him. And that you will be sustained in ministry through the Word of God that will allow you to faithfully serve Jesus, and the grace of God that will show up to enable you to accomplish things that otherwise are completely and utterly impossible.
It’s grace. It’s absolute grace. Please be in prayer that grace would continue to come, and that God would continue to give us favor and open opportunities. And that we’d be humble enough to make sure that we never forget that it gets done because of God’s Word, where the power is, and God’s grace. Because that is how things get done around here. His last and final point is that Christian leaders in ministry must accept that life usually stinks. I love this point. So you walk into a Bible college, you’re like, “We’re gonna serve Jesus! It’s gonna be awesome! Just us and the Holy Ghost, and everybody’s gonna love them! Woo, let’s do the wave again!” Those kids have no clue what they’re talking about; no clue at all, right? Some of you have the same idea getting married, right? “We’re gonna be married! It’s gonna be awesome! We’re gonna live together and serve!” No. No. Water and a cat in a 50-year tussle – that’s what you’re headed for, right? Sinner, sinner; friction, conflict; drama, trauma – then the end – yes, that’s the way it’s gonna go – right?
So some of you have this sort of naïve Holy Spirit / Holy Ghost sort of view of leadership, like, “Oh, it’s gonna be great, me and Jesus, I’m gonna read my Bible all day, and the Holy Spirit’s gonna descend on me, and I’m gonna speak in tongues and then eat! It’s gonna be awesome!” No. There’s some other stuff in there too, right? And I love how Paul, he basically says, “My job stinks.” Period. The end. Just leave it right there. Okay? Because what I don’t want to do is sell leadership as something it’s not.
“You’ll be happy! It’ll make your life” – nah, I’m not gonna tell you any of that. I’ll tell you the truth: it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do. Okay, that’s what he says. Verse 8 – he’s mocking them, because they all want to be leaders thinking it’s like being rock stars, and hip-hop artists on the mic, and like being real estate moguls in business. And they’re all arrogant and proud and wanting to be leaders just to boss people around, be in charge. So he mocks them – verse 8: “Already you have all you want!” Oh, you guys are so successful!
“Already you’ve become rich! You have become kings – and that without us! How I wish that you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you. For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the processions, like men condemned to die in the arena.” They’re bringing us in for the gladiator games to use us as bait for animals and the people that the soldiers and gladiators will run swords through. We’re just gonna be murdered and slaughtered; that’s all that we are. “We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as men.” Even angels think we’re freaks and crazy.
“We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ!” You went to community college. “We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless.” How many of you right now are going, “I want that job! I want that job! I want to get kicked in the head, and I want to be homeless and have people hate me! Yes! Where do I sign up? What does it pay?” “Nothing!” “Oh, then I definitely want that job!” Nobody does, nobody’s looking for this job, right? Nobody’s looking for this job.
“We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless;” here’s the worst part of being a pastor. You gotta be nice to people. Pray for me, okay? I know this is seriously – I’m not even kidding. This is an issue for me. He says, “When we are cursed, we bless.” You’re like, “Hm, what does ‘bless’ mean?” Bless – oh, okay, all right. “When we are persecuted, we endure it;” another hardship – “when we are slandered, we answer kindly.” That’s convicting, isn’t it? It is for me. People cuss me out – oh, boy; yep, not so good – not so good at all.
“Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth,” right? Scum of the Earth Church – that’ll sell. Scum of the Earth Church is a great name – the refuse, the garbage, the dung heap of the world! You’re like, “And where’s the good part?” That’s it. That’s all; the end. Love Paul – you know?
And so he’s telling people, if you really want to be in leadership, you know, you gotta be honest about it. You gotta count the cost. You gotta look at it and say, “Okay, so really, what am I getting into here?” Because some of you have gotten into spiritual leadership, and you’ve been disappointed, right? Well, here’s what he says: first of all, do not get into ministry because you think it’s gonna pay good.
Because you think about it – see, your business, you actually have some idea of what your budget is going to be. Can you imagine if you went into Starbucks this week, and you ordered a bunch of drinks, and they didn’t have a till? And you say, “Hey, where’s the till?” And they said, “Well, we put a bucket here, and we just feel like everyone should give whatever their heart desires.” That Starbucks wouldn’t be there. Imagine if your job, if in your company – let’s say you’re in sales, or you’re working in some agency.
And they just started sending their customers bills that said, “Well, we’re not sure what you should pay for our services or products. We just feel like you should pray about it and give whatever’s on your heart.” How many of your businesses, you would not be doing so well? The church is a business, not in the sense that it’s a company, but the way we do business – meaning how we handle money – is based on grace. We don’t charge tickets, right? We don’t charge per seat. We don’t make people give. It’s an issue of people giving what they feel that the Holy Spirit is inclining them to give.
You can imagine Paul saying, “If you think it’s all about the money, it’s not. Because the money comes and goes, and people give, people don’t give. There’s ups, there’s downs, and it’s different than working in business where you’ve got a steady paycheck and some sort of, you know, “If I sell this much, I get this much royalty, because I’m a salesman, and I get a percentage, and I know what I’m gonna make.”
He says it’s not like that in ministry. A lot of people have seasons of poverty in ministry. A lot of pastors end up putting money on credit cards in the down times. And there’s ups and downs, and ebbs and flows. So it can’t just be about the money. Second thing he says: do not pursue spiritual leadership in the church because you expect respect and honor; that people will just love you, and think well of you, and adore you. And what happens is that people just don’t treat you very well. They just don’t.
People are hurting. People are dying. People are miscarrying. People are giving birth to stillborn babies. Marriages are in trauma. People get molested, raped, abused, addicted. It’s the emotional bleed-out. Paul says don’t think that’s easier than lifting things. I’ve worked jobs where I’ve lifted things, and I slept a lot better than this one, right? So here’s what Paul is saying: you want to be a leader? Praise God. You a good servant? You a good steward? You willing to work for Jesus and his approval alone? Do you love your Bible?
Do you appreciate the grace of God and not take credit for things that you didn’t do – that God enabled you to do? And at the end of the day, are you willing to allow your life to be inconvenienced, to be underpaid, overworked, unappreciated, until you die, and long for the one day when Jesus says, “Nice job.” Live for that day; live for that day. If so, then you’re a person who should nominate themselves for leadership in the church. And the question begs why in the world would anyone want to be a leader? What’s the answer? You love Jesus; you love the church; that’s it.
You say, “I love Jesus, I love the church.” I could make more money, get more fame, get more power. I could do my job and not have to be so dang nice to people who drive me nuts. I wouldn’t have to be Biblical. I wouldn’t have to pray and be humble. Life could be a lot easier, and I could have a lot more fame, glory, power, and all the stuff that most people care about. You say, “Why in the world would anybody want to be a spiritual leader -especially an unpaid person that just gives a certain number of hours for the service of the church?”
Paul’s answer is, I believe, throughout the book, love Jesus; love the church. That’s what I care about. Give my life to people. Give my life to the people that Jesus loves, I want to love, and the people that Jesus is serving, I want to serve them. The people that Jesus died for, I want to die for them; give my life to the people. That is the heart of a true Christian leader. Because sometimes people meet Jesus, they become Christians. Sometimes people get their lives changed. They get off drugs, alcohol. Sometimes people get married, fall in love. Sometimes people have kids, and they love them and raise them. And sometimes people get their lives turned around.
And sometimes people use their gifts. And some people have the joy of being used of God in a significant way. And at the end of the day, if you really love God’s people, then you really care about how they’re doing, and you want to give yourself to their service, and you want to do what Jesus is doing. And that’s giving yourself to the church. So do be in prayer for your leaders.
But we don’t need the kind of leaders that Paul is dealing with in Corinth – just bossy, pushy, single-issue, narrow-minded, arrogant, self-righteous, hyper-spiritual, difficult, obstinate people who are in it for themselves and not in it for Jesus and the church. Please pray that God would help us to protect ourselves from that kind of situation, because it’s deadly and it’s terrible. And for those of you who aspire to leadership, I would encourage you to pursue that. For those of you who have work to do to get there, I would encourage you to discipline yourself to get there.
For those of you that are here and you’re not Christians, today your first step is giving your life to Jesus. He’s God, who lived without sin, died on a cross as a servant and a slave to humbly serve you. He rose, and now he is your leader and you follow him into the Kingdom. If you’re here and you’re a Christian who’s just despised the church, been angry, bitter, burned out; you’ve been abused by leaders or you’ve been a bad leader, it’s a good day to repent and have God’s grace change you, empower you, enable you to start afresh. If you’re here today and you’re faithfully serving, you feel encouraged, then praise God for the grace that he’s given you.
For all of you, when you’re ready you can come for communion, which is remembering Jesus’ body and blood, shed for our sin – that ultimately, everything we do is about honoring him. As well, if you are a Christian you can give of your tithes and offerings. If you’re not a Christian, don’t give. We don’t want your money. We want your heart to be inclined toward Jesus. And then we’ll sing, and we’ll celebrate, and we’ll worship, because there is, in Jesus Christ, a great Head and Leader over the church, and there is a great opportunity for our church in our city and in our region, throughout our state, to raise up wonderful leaders that could do good things, so that the Kingdom could be advanced, so that the church could be expanded, so that Jesus would be praised by more people than ever – and that’s what we’re about.
And so Lord Jesus, we thank you. I thank you that you gave yourself for this church. I thank you for the people who have given themselves for this church. Jesus, we ask that you would rise up leaders in this church – leaders that are good servants and good stewards; that they would serve you and you alone. That they would be sustained by Scripture and grace, and that they would accept the fact that a life of service to you is a life that looks a lot like yours – inconvenience, tears, suffering, hardship, pain, disruptions, and long hours.
God, I pray that we would not grow weary and lose heart; that we would be honest about sometimes the difficulty it is to love people and to serve them in your name. But God, like Jesus and like Paul we ask for a heart of encouragement that would come not from the work, but from the Lord. That Lord Jesus, we would receive your love that we would love you. That we would receive your heart for the church, and we would love the church. And that we would get our joy leaning into that final day when we would stand before you and be praised for the works that we have done.
Please give us patience to endure till that day. Please give us a heart that longs for that day. Please keep our eyes fixed on that day. And Lord Jesus, by grace may we stand before you on that day – that final day – and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into your rest.” And may that be our only reward. In your name we pray. Amen.