“You are graduating from a good university with a valuable degree. Are you sure you want to do this to yourself? Why don’t you apply for jobs that pay, just in case?” These are the questions I heard, over and over, as I prepared to graduate. I had committed to serve in a support-raised position at a church in Austin, and some members of my family struggled to understand my choice. When I broke tradition, received questions about it, and then asked my family to support me, you better believe I was on my knees daily, praying for wisdom and guidance from the Lord.
- When was a time your friends and family were confused about a choice you made or value you upheld because of your faith?
READ THE WORD: 1 CORINTHIANS 9:1-14 (ESV)
9:1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? 2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
3 This is my defense to those who would examine me. 4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? 7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?
8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?
Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.
- What did the Lord command in verse 14?
- Why did Paul feel the need to defend himself (vss. 3-6)? What were the Corinthians bothered about?
- Paul explained that while he may not have exercised his rights to material support from the church as an apostle, he still had these rights—his choice to work as a tentmaker did not affect his authority over the Corinthian church. Why do you think he would give up these rights?
- Paul chose to support himself so the work required of him wouldn’t suffer from speculation that he was serving the city for the support alone. How did Paul surrendering his rights as an apostle for the sake of his ministry reflect the life and surrendering of Jesus Christ?
- Where are you being called to give up your rights and endure, like Paul, for the sake of Christ and the gospel?
RESPOND TO GOD
As I raised support to serve at Austin Ridge Bible Church, I was able to share my heart behind vocational ministry with my family. But, in order to follow God’s call, I had to endure the loss of their approval about raising support. In love, Paul validated his commitment as an apostle and to the Lord by assuring the church that he would rather endure anything than prevent the advancement of the gospel. Maybe you aren’t like Paul in being called to sacrifice receiving financial support, but we all are called to give up rights for the sake of God’s call and the gospel. As we surrender our tendency to live selfishly and inwardly, our life will be a living illustration of the love and greater purpose of the kingdom of God.
- Ask God to reveal the areas and/or rights in your life that are hindering the advancement of the gospel and surrender those completely to him.