“Yet, by God’s grace, I am what I am, and his grace towards me is not in vain; rather, I toiled more than all of the others, yet not I, but the grace of God which is with me.”
(1 Corinthians 15:10)
Paul reiterates his point once again. His apostleship is a result of nothing that he had learned or done. He did not merit anything except God’s condemnation. It is by God’s grace that he was called to be an apostle and it is only by God’s grace that he was strengthened to labor in the mission field harder than the others. Paul wants us to understand that not only is he a man who is totally sold out to God, but he is a man who works and acts totally at the good pleasure of God. There is not one success or conversion that he can lay claim to. He labored in the field, but God did the work.
Oh, how wonderful it would be if all believers were able to adopt this attitude. All too often we are quick to accept the credit for our successes in life. I have heard many preachers speak of people being converted under their preaching or laymen speaking of the people that they have “led to Christ.” This is common language to use, but it is not accurate. A person is converted because the Holy Spirit is moving in their life, regenerating their dead soul and bringing faith where there was none. A person is led to Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit as well. Indeed, our preaching or our witnessing is an important part of the process; God allows us to participate in the Holy Spirit’s work and to be vessels through which the Holy Spirit flows. Yet, if it were up to us, on our own power and strength, not one person would be converted.
Frankly, I find that comforting. While I strive to work hard in the fields, sharing the gospel with others, I am keenly aware that the success or failure of my work does not depend on just how persuasive my arguments happen to be. That takes a big burden off of my shoulders. It prevents me from staying up all night when someone rejects the gospel, wondering if I could have used different words and illustrations to make my argument more convincing. It also prevents me from taking pride in the successes that God allows me to participate in.
Indeed, there is much work to be done, and God has commanded us to go into the fields and reap. For some, those fields will be in foreign lands with peoples who speak an unknown language. For others, the fields will be close to home and consist of unbelieving family members, neighbors, or co-workers. Regardless of the locality of the field, we are to labor. But though we labor, it is the power of God working in and through us that brings any successes we might see. Paul understood that the only thing good in him was Christ in him. It is no different for you or I.