Michael Youssef - Healthy Living in a Sick World - Part 12
A steward is entrusted by God to manage our bodies, our monies, and our possessions, our time, and our gifts. All are managed for God and on God's behalf. The trouble always, always begin whether it be an individual or a community or a society or a country, is when we begin to think that we are the owners. In fact, 1 Corinthians chapter 9 is all about stewardship. In the last message, we saw the apostle Paul speaking about the stewardship of our liberty in Christ, the stewardship of our freedom in Christ, and he said our stewardship holds our liberty with love. That our freedom in Christ is tempered with consideration for the weaker believer.
Chapter 9 divides itself into two sections very easily. In verses 1 to 14 Paul gives us six, six, six reasons as to why we should give of ourselves to gospel work. I'm gonna repeat that word gospel work so many times in this message until you get it. Six reasons why we should support gospel work. Then in verses 15 to 27, the second half of the chapter, he gives us an overriding reason as to why we must run the race to win. First, he gives us six reasons as to why we have no option but be stewards.
Reason number one, verses 1 to 6, reason number one: giving to gospel causes, I keep saying gospel causes or gospel-preaching ministry, is a must. Secondly, he says, verse 7, because giving to gospel ministry helps frees up the ministers to minister. Thirdly, verses 8 to 11, he said giving to gospel ministry is very biblical. It's run through all the Scripture. Fourthly, verse 12, the apostles have practiced it and taught it. Five, verse 13, God ordained giving to gospel ministry. And six, verse 14, Jesus commands giving to gospel ministry. In 1 Corinthians chapter 9, verses 1 to 6, Paul tells the Corinthians as to why they should give to gospel ministries.
Here we go: because the gospel ministry produces eternal results. It produces men and women who escaped from hell to heaven. It produces changed lives. It produces mended hearts that are broken. It produces Christians who become disciples who disciple others. Now Paul points out to the Corinthians themselves, he said, "You are the proof of that ministry. You're the seal of my effectiveness of my ministry, gospel ministry, in you. Therefore, you need to support gospel ministry," even though he himself did not want anything. I'm gonna come back to that.
Look at verse 7: Your giving will free up ministers to minister. He said just like the soldier does not provide for his own rations, neither should the soldier, the foot soldier, in God's army. Just like the farmer who plants a vineyard shares in the fruit of that vineyard, so is the planter of God's vineyard. Just like the shepherd of the flock drinks milk out of the flock, so does the spiritual shepherd.
Thirdly, verses 8 to 11, it is biblical, and here the apostle Paul quotes Deuteronomy: "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading the grain". Here's a Youssef interpretation. Listen to me. You do not give to whoever screamed the loudest, but you give where you've been spiritually fed. Giving where you're spiritually fed and encouraged and challenged is truly giving back to God himself. Giving to gospel ministry is also in order to see to it that others are fed, encouraged, and challenged. But there's more.
Only the spiritually well-fed believer will give to those who provide them with their spiritual nourishment. When you give to biblical sound ministry, you are not giving to a cause. You are giving directly to God. Did you know that? You're giving directly to God. And God is the one who will multiply the seed. He's the only one who can. The Bible said he is no man's debtor. He will not be holden to you. The Scripture said: "He who sows sparingly will reap also sparingly, but he who sows generously will reap generously".
Fourthly, all of the apostles practiced it, verse 12. While Paul chose not to receive support from the Corinthians deliberately, I'm gonna explain this to you, but in Acts 16 we see that he received support from the Bereans, he received it from the Thessalonians and from the Philippians and from the Macedonians. Why? Because Paul knew that in this particular case, the case of the Corinthians, had he received support from them, it would hinder the gospel. That was his conviction. Paul said while it is his choice not to receive support from the Corinthians, others did receive their support from the Corinthian. He said that's absolutely fine. It is absolutely fine for them.
Fifthly, in verse 13, because God ordained this type of stewardship. See, the priests in the temple, in the Old Testament, they all were supported by the tithes and the offerings in the temple. But even way before the temple, way before the priesthood of the Levites, way before the law of Moses was given and the Ten Commandments and all of that, way before that, Abraham tithed not his income but his whole net worth to Melchizedek who's a type of Christ, the great high priest.
Sixthly, verse 14, because Jesus commanded it. You know, when Jesus sent the disciples, 70 of them, he sent them out, two by two, and he sent them in Luke chapter 10, verse 7. When he sent them out, he said, "The labor is worthy of his hire". And that they will receive their support as they faithfully serve the flock of God. As they blessed others, they will be blessed. Now I come to the second half of this chapter. The running of the race for the Christian life is a stewardship. Life and the running of the race of life, Paul said, to him personally and to every believer, it should be the whole ministry and the whole life is a stewardship. Paul is saying, "I am willing to go to any length in order to win people to Christ".
And that is why, verses 24 to 27, Paul exhorts all believers to run the race well. How? By limiting our liberty through self-control. Oh, self-control. That's another word that's not used these days: self-control. Limiting our liberty through self-control. Why? Because God's winners do not turn their freedom into laziness because God's winners understand that a steward must exercise self-control, and that is why Paul gives us an example of the athlete.
Look at in Scripture with me please. And he's speaking to the Corinthians about athletes because they understood what athletes are all about. Corinth hosted the Isthmian athletic events. The Isthmian Games, next to the Olympics, was the most famous. And the Corinthians understood, because they saw with their own eyes how hard those athletes exercise, how hard they work, in order to win. And yet, out of a large number of athletes, only one wins. Did you get that? Only one wins.
Now in the Christian race, Paul is saying, "We don't compete with each other. We're not competing with each other, no, no, no. We are competing against obstacles. We are competing against temptations that we face. We're competing against the enemy of our soul". 'Cause God does not just want one of his children to be winners. He wants every one of his children to be winners, everyone, everyone to be a winner. It is the longing of his heart. In the Isthmian Games the prize was a pine wreath. A pine wreath. You worked so hard all year, and you run your heart out to get this. This type of wreath is worthless, but it represented to the athletes at the time fame and acclaim and hero worship, and these athletes were immortalized.
But listen carefully, this type of immortality was as mortal as both the wreath and the athlete. All die, both die. Both die. But believers in Jesus do not run for a short-lived wreath that is literally be dead... in a few weeks time. That's all it is. It's falling apart. No, we don't do that. That's not for us. Believers in Jesus do not run for a short-lived fame. Believers in Jesus do not run for a short-lived cheer, but we run to receive the crowns that are imperishable in the life that is truly immortal. For a student to succeed, he must study hard. For an athlete to win, he must work out for long hours. For an artist to be an accomplished, long hours of practice are required.
Ah, but for the believer to live a life that is above mediocrity, we have to be sacrificial givers of everything, even of what is near and dear. For the believer to live a life of an effective witness, spiritual discipline must be exercised. Look at the athletes again. The athletes know that they have to restrain their liberty in order to win. They must discipline their sleep. They must discipline their diet. They must discipline their exercise program. The one thing that an athlete cannot afford to do is to live by his feelings. They cannot allow their body to tell their mind what to do, and yet that's what many believers in the Lord Jesus Christ do today.
They let their bodies dictate to their minds what to do. I don't feel like praying, I don't feel like studying the Word of God, I don't feel like going to church, I don't feel like serving, I don't feel like witnessing, I don't feel like giving. The Word of God exhorts us again and again and again, just like the athlete here in this passage. Like the athlete, we must let our minds tell our bodies what to do, not the other way around. Just like the athlete cannot allow his feelings to instruct his mind, so must the believer. Just like the athlete's mind leads his body, so must the believer in Jesus. Can I get an amen? Why? Why?
Verse 27, the last verse in the chapter, tells you why. Paul said, "I do this lest I become disqualified". Lest I become disqualified. There are some who believe when Paul says, "Lest I become disqualified" meaning losing his salvation, but it's not gonna surprise any of you to know that I have a different point of view. If we're talking about true believers, not the professing Christians. I'm talking about true believers. Then I believe the Scripture's very clear that salvation for the true believer is sealed in Jesus for all of eternity. And when a true believer persists in sin, God has a way of disciplining the true believer.
Remember from chapter 5, he says, "Even if it comes to a point of taking his life in order to save his soul," that's how serious God takes his truly adopted children. He has a way of dragging you back to himself, kicking and screaming. I know because I did that. Scripture's very clear nothing shall separate us. That is talking about the elect of God. Nothing shall separate us from the love of God, even if he has to drag you back, kicking and screaming.
Listen to me. In fact, that is why I think some Christians are lurching from defeat to defeat to defeat to defeat and living a defeated life. Some believers are like those athletes who start with great deal of enthusiasm and a desire to win, and they work hard and they start their training seriously and then they lose interest and stop running the race of faith.
Let me ask you this: Have you come to a point of feeling that you just cannot run the race anymore and you are disqualifying yourself from the crown of righteousness, from the crowns that are prepared for the believers? Have you given up the race? Have you stopped your spiritual training program and you're listening to the devil who says, "Well, now you've failed, just stay failed. You can't get up anymore". He's lying to you. I wanna tell you today on the authority of God's Word, get back into the training program. Get back into the race. Get back into spiritual workout program, because God wants you to win. Say that with me. God wants you to win. God is cheering for you. He wants you to be a winner. God wants you to be victorious in Jesus's name.