But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10, ESV)
“I worked harder than any of them”
The Lord said that the harvest is plenty but the labourers are few. This remains our problem even to this day there is so many gospel opportunities. There is much work to be done in the preaching of the gospel. We know that we cannot afford to keep quiet when we have been entrusted with the gospel. But for whatever reason, you will admit that you have not given diligence and undivided attention to the work of the gospel as you ought.
Brethren the Lord said that what is needed for the work are labourers – people who work hard and those are willing to spend and be spent for the course of the gospel. And as I say this I am not supposing that I have given myself more than you have – I am also preaching to myself so that I can give myself more than I have.
The Lord Jesus is our example in the labour of the gospel. He was ever willing to serve… Look at how His days were spent. He was ever preaching, ever talking with one or another person, never turning anyone away because he was tired, he was in constant communion with Father in prayer. This should be our example of what our respective ministries should look like if indeed were are closely following in the footsteps of our Master.
Can we say like Paul that “I worked harder than any of them” without lying or boasting?
Yes, if our consciences can allow us to utter this after an honest evaluation and assessment. Yes, because we are what we are by God’s grace! God is at work in us by His Son and Spirit. His Word has been entrusted to us. The Holy Spirit has entrusted us with spiritual gifts. He has endowed us with people who sit under our ministries. He has kept us and provided for our basic needs. So there is no reason why we should not be able to say that “I worked harder than any of them!”
Brethren the gospel is at stake… We have been entrusted with the gospel by God. We are stewards of God’s varied grace and the only faithful thing to do is to labour hard in the gospel. How do we spend time in our respective ministries? I want to preach to myself as much as I want to preach to you. As I see things, the Reformed Faith is not doing so well in Kenya – Why?
1) Because we make excuses – we do not have the resources, the family, limited education, etc.
2) Because we are not working as hard as we ought
3) Because the gospel is not being preached faithfully
Three areas that will show hard work and diligence in the ministry:
1. Devotion to prayer
One of the specific tasks we have for to the church is to pray. The Apostles appointed the Deacons so that they could devote themselves to pray and preach. The church that you lead, need you to always pray for them as much, maybe even more than they need you to preach to them… yes they need you to preach the gospel of God without apologies, but preach prayerfully!
Brethren, I personally believe that prayer is a neglected discipline in our circles! We do not pray as we ought we talk about prayer and we have the right doctrine about prayer but we do not pray as we ought. Is it because we have learned prayer in our theology class more than we have been taught of God on our knees? You should evaluate and know the truth yourself.
Without God you and I can do nothing. We have to recognize that without the grace of God, we are helpless and unfruitful and unproductive. Paul said, “… by the grace of God I am what I am…” before saying that he worked harder than anyone else. He understood that his arm of flesh was weak, his mind was unyielding, his plans were accomplished by God’s will. Therefore he was ardent and fervent, and regular in prayer. His prayer life is described by such phrases as all times, every prayer and supplication, always, without ceasing, etc.
Let us for a minute evaluate Paul’s prayer life as shown in his letters.
1) 1 Corinthians 1:4
“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus…”
Paul gave thanks always for such a wicked church as Corinth! Why? Because of the grace of God given them in Christ Jesus! This should tell you that he was depending on God to help him in all his endeavors and he knew that this church could not be a church without the grace of God. Yet he addresses them later as unspiritual and immature because of the divisions in the church! Cf.3:1ff… but he prayed for them always more than he prayed for the Romans – in fact he requested the Romans to pray for him – I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive with me in your prayers to God on my behalf… (Romans 15:30)
2) Ephesians 1:16
“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers…”
Paul prayed for the Ephesians so that he never ceased! He is not lying – he is speaking the truth. This is a church that he had labored for three and a half years. When he left them for the last time, it was with tears (Acts 20). He indeed loved these people. Do you love the people that you minister to as much… I remember a certain lady in the church I serve accusing us, the Elders of the church, of loving the members “too much!” and for this I thanked the Lord!
2. Devotion to preaching
Look at how he begins chapter 15:1-2a - I would remind you of the gospel I preached to you which you received, in which you stand and by which you have been saved… his purpose then is to remind them the gospel, to remind them that they received it and that they were saved. He goes on to say that he has faithfully delivered to them the same gospel that he received from Christ – that Christ died for our sins… that he was buried, that he was raised in accordance to the Scriptures (v.3) The gospel is that Christ came and died for our sins! As it has already been pointed out to us, the most important thing is proclaiming Christ and Christ crucified.
a) Consider how he preached in his missionary journeys – he said that a wide door for effective work has been opened to him, but there were many adversaries (16:9). He took this work very seriously. Luke records how they went from place to place proclaiming the gospel in spite of the many adversaries – for they were rejected and even suffered many things in the hands of both Jews and Gentiles who opposed them. Yet the Lord led Paul to be an effective gospel preacher and propagator as an apostle to the Gentiles.
b) Consider his letters – look at the many letters he wrote to the various churches. When he could not visit he sent letters with the message of the gospel so that the gospel was not hindered. Even when he was put in prison, he still was able to preach by a way writing letters.
c) Consider his advice – from the pastoral letters to his trainees, we can see how close to his heart preaching was to Paul. He told Timothy,
ü I charge you … wage the good warfare (1 Tim 1:18)
ü For this I was appointed a preacher (1Tim. 2:7)
ü If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task (1Tim. 3:1)
ü Command and teach these things… until I come devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you… practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on your teaching. Persist in in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers (1Tim. 4:11-16)
ü Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labour in preaching and teaching (1Tim.5:17)
ü Teach and urge these things (1 Tim.6:2b)
ü Fan into flame the gift of God… (2Tim.1:6)
3. Devotion to pastoral care
Consider Acts 18 & 20: Ministry in Corinth and Ephesus, where he served with the gospel by proclaiming it day and night, publically as well as house to house.
Consider his letter to Philemon
1) 1 Cor. 9:14
The Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living from the gospel. He appreciated that those who preach the gospel must live and eat from the gospel as the Lord commanded. But we must recognize that the church will only give in proportion to our labour! They will not be more faithful in giving than you are in serving them because the labourer is worthy is wages. If you are unfaithful, the church will be unfaithful and the only way to break this is by you giving yourself fully to the ministry.