I am moved to hang on to some basic teaching today.
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1 Corinthians 3:5-7)
This morning, as I listened to God and prayed for the church, I took heart in my memory of the statement above. Paul was lamenting the deep problems in the church in Corinth, where he had spent so much time laboring and loving. They shocked each other with their immorality. They divided up the church in factions. They had a strong contingent who thought they were spectacular, and righter than Paul, even. Some of them re-thought the gospel to reflect themselves rather than Jesus.
Some days, I look out over my beloved community of Circle of Hope and am tempted to just see the holes in the Swiss cheese. It is not a nourishing practice. Today God saved me from that by reminding me of what he has done, which is what he is likely to do again. Circle of Hope is so astoundingly rich in faith, hope and love that I begin to get nervous when there is a little dip in our storehouse of all the good things God has given us. My standards are very high. I forget that God created it from nothing not too long ago.
It is, again, like Paul told the Corinthians: “Think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. (1 Cor. 1:26-30)
I totally relied on this wisdom from Paul when I came to Philadelphia. I am convicted today to keep walking in it. God is bigger than our capabilities and our critics. God is greater than our wonderful history and our sinfulness. God is hopeful because of our good track record and in spite of our mediocritizing.
If we live or die, as the church, Jesus is Lord. But I am sure we will live and God will cause the growth. Here are several reasons to believe that such a life is likely which come from just the people I talked to yesterday:
- A man walked into our door last week looking to be restored to God after medicating his mental illness with drugs and alcohol. He is finding rest.
- A man is overcoming his sin and the wreckage it has caused in his family and circle of friends.
- A man is experiencing the fruit of his act of courage in taking risks to follow his truest calling and it has opened up the door to welcome God into the deep parts of his being.
- A woman is celebrating how our church came through for her when her husband was jailed and is thankful that her own new faith sustained her.
God is causing the growth. Like Jesus says, the kingdom of God is like a seed that grows day and night and one can only be in awe of it, not cause it. We plant and water, but nothing will happen without God creating the environment in which it can flourish. And that is just what God does.