8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
11 Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed. 1 Cor. 15:8-11
My wife and I arrived in Arusha this afternoon, where we will spend the night before departing tomorrow for Nairobi to attend my sister-in-law’s funeral. As I was relaxing in my room and savouring the cool Arusha weather, my spirit calmed down and I found myself reflecting on an incident that had taken place not too long ago.
A travelling brother had passed by my house and he had the sweetest words of praise for my work in Singida. But in speaking, he said something that my spirit utterly repelled against. He attempted to compare me to some of the other brethren we work with. As he spoke, the Holy Spirit impressed upon my spirit the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. And the Lord was impressing upon me that nothing done on His behalf was about us; that, on the contrary, it is all about the grace of God in us.
Through the words of the Apostle Paul, I realized that we are simply… nothing. Paul himself used the same word about himself: in 2 Cor. 12:11 he writes,
“… in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.”
And here, in our key scripture, he says:
“… by the grace of God I am what I am… I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”
Concerning his ministry, Paul said, “not I”.
In fact, what Paul had to say about himself was interesting:
“8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (v. 8-9)
Paul has a very negative view about himself without the grace of God. He was “as of one born out of due time… the least of the apostles… not meet to be called an apostle”.
But when the grace of God came into His life, it began working and the fruit of that work became evident; and thereafter it is this fruit of the Spirit alone that would matter in his life.
It is not us. We cannot claim to do God’s works. On the contrary, it is God’s grace in us that works the works of God. If it is us, then whatever we are doing is not God’s work; it is our work, and it not only has no lasting value and it is bound to perish but, even more ominously, it is an abomination to God.
With Paul, it was so much about the grace of God that, even though he worked more than the other apostles, yet he said:
“Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.” (v. 11)
Wow! In other words, Paul was saying, “It is not about me. It is not about them. Rather, it is about the grace of God in us.”
Neither Paul nor the other apostles were competing against one another.
Any other viewpoint breeds pride and competition. It produces the works of the flesh. The Spirit of God is not involved in such attitudes and, therefore, even though there might appear to be a big thing going on on the outside, yet it is all a work of the flesh and people’s spirits are not edified.
We are free to do whatever God has called us to. There is no law against the doing. But it is our attitude that is everything, for we must always give place to and acknowledge the Holy Spirit’s working in us. And it is only through a revelation of the crucified Christ (as Paul had) that we can carry this heart and allow God to be what He desires to be in us – Lord of lords and King of kings, to whom alone be glory, honor and majesty.
[Does what you do bring glory to God – or to you?]