Today’s Reading: 1 Corinthians 3
In an old Peanuts cartoon, Lucy demanded that her brother, Linus, change television channels, and then threatened him with her fist if he didn’t.
“What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?” asked Linus.
“These five fingers,” said Lucy. “Individually they are nothing, but when I curl them together like this into a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold.”
“What channel do you want?” sighed Linus. Turning away, he looked at his fingers and said, “Why can’t you guys get organized like that?”
Just as Lucy’s fingers working together to form a fist can get Linus to change a channel, the body of Christ working together can get a soul bound for hell to heaven. In today’s chapter, the apostle Paul speaks to the power of teamwork.
When Herman Edwards was coaching the NFL Kansas City Chiefs, in regard to teamwork, he insightfully challenged the Chiefs: “The players that play on this football team will play for the name on the side of the helmet and not the name on the back of the jersey.”
The name we play for is God. And here is what we are to remember as we work together:
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. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:4-9)
Paul and Apollos were the names on the backs of the jerseys. Let me give you five words that come to mind especially when I read verse 8: “He who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.”
1. Teamwork. Each member surrenders a high profile. For those who have an ego, this is difficult. We all fight this. Don’t believe it? When you see a group photo, who do you look for first? Yourself! When one member is determined to stand out, then the whole team loses. What causes disunity in the church? A bruised ego. In order for a team to be a team, its members must each be willing to have a low profile. Teamwork means we surrender. We surrender identity, surrender independence, surrender inflexibility, surrender indifference, surrender inequality, surrender self-interest.
2. Talent. Planting and watering are metaphors that refer to a specific gift of ministry people have. The point is that none of us has them all and when you add up everything all of us are doing together, our jobs equal one work.
3. Test. This is the willingness to become one, to go unnoticed and unrecognized. If Paul had said, “I have planted and God gave the increase,” there would be room for self-importance. How humbling it is that God uses more than one person in a person’s conversion! There is not one of us who owes their conversion and growth to just one person. The test is the willingness to let Jesus be wonderful.
4. Time. What does “each will receive his own reward” mean? This refers to the future. This may disappoint you. We all want to be paid now. It says, “will receive,” which is future tense. If we keep a low profile now, we get high pay then.
Do you only get involved in church activities that are working? Or something that gets immediate results and is high on the radar? Then you want your reward now.
5. Treasure. There is a prize at the end of this. And it’s worth it. What Paul is talking about here are people. Lives being transformed. When the body of Christ works together, amazing things can happen. When one waters and one plants, a miracle takes place—the miracle of changed lives.
That’s what happens when we work together: lives are changed, and God is glorified.
Keith Green, one of my favorite Christian artists from the 1970s and 80s wrote a song called “Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful.” In it, he sings, “When I’m doing well, help me to never seek a crown, for my reward is giving glory to You.”
That’s the end of working together. When we are doing well, our reward is giving glory to our beautiful Lord.