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. 1 Cor. 15:10
Notice the wording in this scripture. The Apostle Paul says grace was “bestowed” upon him. We bestow crowns and things like that upon people. In other words, Paul considered it an honor that God would impart His grace to him.
But here, again, notice the word “laboured”. That is talking of responsibility. In other words, grace was given to Paul, not to simply “Sputnik” him to heaven, but so he could do some work first. God’s grace calls us to responsibility! God is looking to making us mature, responsible sons and daughters in His Kingdom.
In Philippians 1:29-30 we read, “29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; 30 Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.”
The call to suffer is a call to responsibility in the Spirit. That is what we call walking in the grace of God. But the invitation to walk in the grace of God is an incomparable privilege rather than an inconvenience, as many of us view it. The invitation to partake of our Lord’s sufferings is something we should eagerly look forward to.
For many of us, though, it is like we would rather believe and then be allowed to go back to our old way of living. Y’know, get saved and continue in sin.
But God calls us to share in His holy nature through “suffering for Christ’s sake”, as we just read in verse 30. Actually, that is one of the reasons that our Lord Jesus came to earth: to show us the way to attaining God’s nature in us. Jesus came to show us the way to the cross, that we may die just as He died, and be raised up in resurrection life.
If you are living a comfortable, trouble-free life, may the Name of the Lord be praised. I am sure that Jesus, Paul and the rest of the early team also had some luxurious moments in their lives. When He was here on earth, our Lord Jesus had women who ministered to Him (Lk. 8:3), and we cannot say exactly that He never once sat down to enjoy a piece of fried chicken!
We even read of one time when Jesus wanted to take His disciples on a picnic… but the crowds came calling with their needs, and He was forced to abandon the excursion (Mk. 6:31).
The Apostle Paul must have known some earthly joy, too, despite all his sufferings, for he writes in Philippians: “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Phil. 4:12).
The church in Macedonia, especially, wholeheartedly ministered to Paul’s needs… well, whenever they could, for they were extremely poor.
But the easy lifestyle is not the general picture that we get in the New Testament. The over-riding idea in the gospels is one of suffering – and death.
That is why we need to hear a gospel that encourages us to welcome the sufferings of Christ into our lives with the same readiness with which we are willing to embrace the good life. Fortunately, this was the gospel that Jesus preached. Paul also preached the same gospel, and so did the other early apostles.
The good life will never confront the flesh; and if the flesh is not confronted we will never grow to become mature sons and daughters in the Kingdom of God. We will remain babies forever. That is why the much-loved gospel of prosperity cannot be of God. It is a gospel that appeases the flesh and imprisons God’s people in babyhood.
Contrariwise, the Lord brings us a gospel that crucifies the flesh. Through the adverse situations that He brings into our lives, God calls to each one of us to take up our cross and follow Christ – follow Christ into sonship.
Upon realizing what was expected of him, the Apostle Paul would say in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10: “9… Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong”.
Our infirmities (the willingness to undergo buffeting) coupled with the sufferings themselves make us partakers of the grace of God in a way that nothing else can. We become mature, responsible sons and daughters in the Kingdom of God.
[Below: A street in Musoma Town]