Parts of an email I had the privilege of writing earlier today…
Yesterday at church, Halim talked about the first 18 verses of chapter 9 in 1 Corinthians. In those verses, Paul defends himself for his ‘inalienable’ right of being supported by the church to which he gives all of his own money, time, and efforts. Paul validates himself as an apostle, and then asks relentlessly, “since we [Paul and Barnabas] have planted spiritual seed among you, aren’t we entitled to a harvest of physical food and drink?” This seems like a rhetorical question and I read it and want to scream, YES! Paul, you have done so much for the church…you are surely entitled to so something to eat…you spend your days writing and preaching, instead of working in the town, but that doesn’t mean you should be depraved of food or shelter…I would surely feed you. And then Paul goes on, “If you support others who preach to you, shouldn’t we have an even greater right to be supported?” Again…yes….. But also again, Paul goes on.
“But…” – But what, Paul? I said I would feed you! Come! Sit! Eat! But Paul doesn’t want to eat, he says “But we have never used this right. We would rather put up with anything than be an obstacle to the Good News about Christ.” Ahhhhhh…and there it is, suffering for the gospel. Suffering? Yes. Suffering. But this…is not suffering for our own Glory, or for our own demise or selfish sorrow, rather, it is suffering because whatever that particular suffering is, will bring more glory to God that not suffering.
This made me think about some dear friends. Childbirth. The beauty in the unrequited suffering that is childbirth. My God was brought sweet glory when my friend endured and brought her daughter into this world, as family and friends sat in awe, anxious in excitement. She and her husband have taught us so much about living wholly for God. They’ve poured resources and wisdom into us and then challenged us to figure out how it is that we think God wants us to live. Their pensive thoughtfulness through medicine has led us to think carefully – not to effortlessly negate simple sufferings with a quick fix, but to endure them, and to learn from what God is telling us.
And in conclusion, Paul finishes, “If I were doing this on my own initiative, I would deserve payment. But I have no choice, for God has given me this sacred trust. What then is my pay? It is the opportunity to preach the Good News without charging anyone. That’s why I never demand my rights when I preach the Good News.”
Right now, as suffering is endured, preach the Good News in your joy for your family. Encourage with your genuine care and love, and your restlessness and determination not to wallow in your suffering.