Continuing with part 3 of this 4-part series, we are looking at how God’s purpose for us is greater than others’ perceptions of us (or our perception of others). Regardless of the situation, God can turn all things around for His glory when we are faithful to follow Him.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians that people were taking pride in which Christian leader they followed, and it was shifting attention off of who was really causing the Gospel to spread:
“For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.” – 1 Corinthians 3:4-6 (NASB)
Paul and Apollos were known for sharing the Gospel, but the focus that people were putting on which man they followed was distracting from what was actually important: God was the one who called both Paul and Apollos, God was the one who caused the churches to grow, and He was calling each Christian to follow Him wholeheartedly too.
Different Perceptions, Same Goal
Curiously, both men are described very differently. Apollos was described as being an “eloquent man” who spoke boldly (Acts 18:24-28). Paul on the other hand was described as:
“For they say, ‘His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible.’” – 2 Corinthians 10:10 (NASB)
Isn’t that interesting seeing as how we hear more about Paul than Apollos now! But it shows Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 3:6 even stronger:
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.”
Paul and Apollos had different personalities, and God had plans for both of them to draw others closer to Him. It was never a competition. Regardless of how other people perceived them, God caused their work to be fruitful as they were faithful to Him. And even though both were known for their fervency in sharing the Gospel, it was God who caused the church to grow.
In our own lives, we can be encouraged with the truth that God has created each of us uniquely, and He knows how to continue molding us into who He has made us to be. Rather than looking around wishing we were more like someone else, we can become not just content but joyful in the life He has given us!
On the other hand, Paul sets an example for us to follow when people begin to place too much focus on the person they follow, rather than on God. Paul didn’t let his opinion of himself become inflated just because some people took pride in learning from him, and he didn’t debate about which ministry was stronger. There wouldn’t have been a point in that; fruit doesn’t come from human pride and self-centeredness.
Instead, Paul called the unfruitful conversation out and redirected attention to what was important: It was God causing growth as Apollos and Paul were faithful to obey what God was leading them to do. In doing so, Paul also shifted attention to the unity of the Body of Christ, which requires all parts using their gifts together. There is no competition because every part, every person, is uniquely made by God, created to do good works which God prepared beforehand for us to do (Eph. 2:10). We need each other, and we need each other working together.
Finally, we are also given the invitation to rest in the fact that it is God who causes growth, change, healing – whatever hope it is that you have been holding on to. He doesn’t ask us to force these things in our own strength, He asks us to be faithful to follow Him and steward what He’s given us while trusting Him through the journey. Even when it’s hard or we face opposition, God is faithful to be there with us, guiding us through:
“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NASB)
Here’s to our journey!