To some people, the Apostle Paul's lifestyle made no sense. His struggles and suffering seemed a waste: so he set the record straight. He was willing to sacrifice so much because he knew that faith in Christ would strengthen the churches in five ways: encouragement, unity, understanding, wisdom and knowledge. All these are found in Christ. Although hidden from the unbeliever, the apostolic task was to reveal the full riches of Christ to those who would believe.
Firstly, encouragement: Christ strengthens the heart, enabling desires and decisions to please Him; trusting His promises and keeping going despite opposition. A church without that sort of encouragement will become a club where people increasingly distrust each other. Secondly, unity in love: true love is always 'other centred'. Those who love sacrificially, as Christ loves, will want to give to others and not insist on getting their own way: without this mindset, unity is impossible. Thirdly, understanding - this is the ability to see how everything fits together. Because Christ is the Creator, Sustainer, Saviour, Redeemer and much more ... He is the centre of everything. Without understanding that, believers and whole churches will invent other epicentres of belief and drift away from Him. They will be unable to, fourthly, act with wisdom because they will not know how to relate with God and serve His purpose. They will be unable to, fifthly, know what is right or wrong.
Faith in Jesus Christ starts a transformation of mind and heart. Nothing can make sense without Him, but in Him the mystery of God is unlocked. Only then can we know how to relate in His church and glorify Him in His world. That is why we have the apostolic explanation of the mystery of Christ in the Bible, so that every generation including ours may know how to relate with the God who made us, and with each other. In the same way that Paul knew that his struggles for the churches were worthwhile, so every believer who sacrifices time, money, reputation and 'normal' pleasures for the sake of Christ and the gospel is glad. The result is the beauty of changed lives, souls are saved and churches are built securely, as we proclaim and trust the apostolic explanation of Jesus Christ. All that may seem too big for any of us: but start where you are ... live His life, tell His story and relate together in His love.
© Dr Paul Adams