“… but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.”(1 Corinthians 9:12b, ESV)
In chapter 7 of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he addressed the issues related to having a divided heart and divided interests when one is married and called to care for a family. In Chapter 8, Paul addressed the issue of Christian liberty and how that liberty can not only be a blessing, but can also harm the weak faith of another Christian. Paul is stating the marital responsibilities and emphasis on our rights in Christian liberties can get in the way of our greater mission.
And in chapter 9, Paul continued in this same vein of thought. While Paul had personally chosen to work to support his own needs, he did not think that it was wrong for the local church to support the work of the minister of the gospel in order for him to focus his time and energy in laboring for Christ. But Paul wanted to be able to continue “tent-making” in order to be free from the accusation that he was using the church to make a living, much like the false teachers around him. He valued this above the right he had to be supported by the work of the ministry. To Paul, the mission was far more important than his own comfort or ability to rest.
As Paul continued developing this idea throughout the chapter, he builds upon the idea found in verse 12–it is better to “endure anything than to put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.” It would be better to stay single, better to abstain from meat, better to labor in the day and minister at night for the sake of the gospel.
Paul’s focus was laser-like. He was constantly looking for opportunities, strategies, places of commonality for any way to proclaim the gospel to the lost. It didn’t matter if they were Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male of female–he wanted to preach Christ crucified to everyone everywhere at any time.
I think that at times what I see in our world, the focus is on comfort and a better life. This is clearly an issue in the US, but it also is true of human existence. We seek for better. We work for more ease and comfort. That isn’t always bad. But when this idea becomes centralized in our heart and it begins to become the force that drives our lives, it shows that we have begun to move ever so slowly away from the mission we so passionately embraced at our conversion.
By way of reminder, Paul told the church in Corinth that this tent of a body not only will break down, but it will be glorified one day: “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” (2 Corinthians 5:1–9, ESV)
We might willingly live hard lives for Christ. We might suffer greatly, and endure much–sometimes by choice in our commitment to Christ–but one day we will find our Sabbath rest in Christ. May we not seek to enjoy a cheap substitute rest now, but instead walk with Christ and his Apostles, willing to endure suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Our mission has not ended.
Lord, help us endure to the end!