Our temptation is to be excessively impatient with others and to demand instant growth and change. For those in leadership at any level, you know what I am talking about. After a year, I may have read a dozen Christian books and listened to hundreds of sermons and over that year, I may have changed incrementally in a tiny, little area. And then what if after preaching one sermon or after one conversation, I expected everyone in the congregation to change overnight according to my timetable? That would be extremely unfair. We need to remind each other — we are not in heaven yet. I need to tell myself — it’s a fallen world. That’s right. Remember we are not in heaven yet. We are not working with people with glorified bodies yet. We are all works in progress.
Have you noticed that there are a number of references in the Bible for walking with the Lord, in His ways, in His truth? Walking, not sprinting, Christian life is not a dash, it’s not a long jump. We need to appreciate those who walk with the Lord. Faithfully putting one foot in front of another. Nothing flashy. I think if you are too weak to walk, God is pleased even with shuffling of feet. Shuffling with the Lord. Okay, if not shuffling, then maybe leaning. Okay, leaning is too difficult? How about just facing the right direction? Compared to those, walking is huge, it’s warp speed.
We need to pause and perceive how God is at work in someone’s life because they are often unaware. I am the least perceptive person when it comes to my own growth.
Walking, shuffling, leaning, even facing the right direction — these are evidences that God is at work.
Henry Blackaby said that God is often working all around you and in your life. And you could be experiencing God day after day. But you don’t know how to recognize it. It’s our job as Christians to help people recognize evidences of grace and to motivate others by grace.
In the Corinthian church, it appears that the leaders were only bringing attention to themselves or to great, overt manifestations of spiritual power. Sure, God is at work when people are given the ability to speak in tongues and other supernatural manifestations. But God is equally at work when he releases someone from their bitterness. That is power. That is God doing some of his finest work. Let’s bring those kinds of evidences of grace to our attention and share testimonies to encourage and edify this body of Christ. We need to bring such things, even seemingly small things, to our attention because we are often unaware of the incremental work that God is doing in our hearts and lives.
Giving thanks as our default posture toward one another is not easy to do. In churches, Christians could look at one another and they would experience many attitudes and emotions but I am not sure how high thanksgiving would be on their list. Instead, I would assume that many of them would be annoyed at someone, or critical towards another, or judgmental. That guy is not pulling his weight in this church. That brother is just plain lazy. That sister just gossips all the time. She is super critical. I feel so tired and alone — can someone help a brother out? Would this sum up our church? I would hope not. Instead, can we begin by thanking God for one another because of the evidences of grace that we see in that brother, that sister sitting beside me?
For Paul, it was not like he was turning a blind eye to all the problems. He was going to spend the rest of the letter dealing with the issues at Corinth. But he chose to begin with thanksgiving. That’s significant. Let’s emulate his example. Let’s thank God and rejoice and celebrate evidences of grace in each other’s lives.
Here are some ways to apply this point: 1) Toward your spouse — which are you more aware of? Evidences of grace or areas of growth? Or how does your spouse make you feel? Do you feel that he/she focuses on evidences of grace in your life? Or do they make you feel like you have so many areas of growth, areas that need to be changed right away? If you focus on evidences of grace, there will be an immediate and transforming effect in your marriage.
2) Towards children. Has it been more than a week since you have shown them affection and encouragement? Is your home an environment characterized by adjustment, or is it characterized by grace? If you focus on adjustment, the Bible warns that you are going to exasperate your children.
In our elder’s and deacon’s meetings, in our member’s meetings and prayer meetings, I hope we can practice this and create an atmosphere of thanksgiving to God for each of us. An atmosphere of thanksgiving and grace gives us faith for change and perseverance for the process.
When you are placing the accent on evidences of grace over areas of growth, you are not simply imitating Paul, you are imitating God himself. The Corinthians are arrogant. They have been influenced by the wisdom of the world. They have been wrongly judging Paul. Then, I read 1 Cor 4:5. Please turn with me there. I was floored when I read this verse.
1 Cor 4:5 – 5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts…
The context here is leaders being exposed. Then I did not anticipate the latter half of the verse.
1 Cor 4:5 – …At that time each will receive his praise from God.
What’s up with this? Being examined by the omniscient God in the realm of motives, did you anticipate praise? I would expect to be rebuked. But he doesn’t. Instead, God honors us. It’s uncomfortable when you are honored among people. How is it going to feel when God himself examines you and me? Ray, upon examination, I offer you praise for evidences of grace. I will be tempted to argue. But I won’t because I will be afraid. I shouldn’t do it publicly in front of the cloud of witnesses, the saints throughout history who will be watching? Maybe I’d argue when I get a one-on-one session with the Lord, but not initially.
When the Inscrutable One, God Above, whose ways are much higher than our ways, when this God scrutinizes you in the realm of motives, who of us can stand? God sets for us an example. he has every right to search our hearts and to condemn us, but the great news is, He doesn’t. Instead, God praises us. Who are we to be critical of others when God treats us this way?
Paul was thankful because of his divine perspective of the Corinthians. Specifically, he was able to recognize God’s call in their lives. Second, he saw evidences of grace. And lastly, he had confidence in the faithfulness of God.
1 Cor 1 – 8 He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
He will keep you strong to the end. This church was anything but strong at present. Anything but blameless. How could Paul be confident to say these things? His confidence did not lie in the Corinthians. You can say v8 about your church only when you read v9. Confidence is not in the leaders gathered here. Our confidence is in the faithfulness of our God.
Phil 1:6 – …he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
The Corinthians were weak, filled with blame, but that’s not the end of the story. I can have that same confidence in our church. Why? Not because we ourselves are so great. Our confidences come from the fact that He is faithful and He is going to complete the good work that he began.