20Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them. (1 Cor. 7:20, NIV)
The new believers in Corinth got some things right and some things wrong when it came to living as Christians. They got it right that believing in Jesus wasn’t just a minor add-on to one’s otherwise ordinary life. They correctly concluded that it meant living in a whole new way, with new values, priorities, and practices. Yet, many of the Corinthian Christians wrongly concluded that this new way of living required a radical change in one’s personal situation. Some who were married to non-Christian spouses, for example, believed that they should leave their marriages in order to be fully committed to Jesus. They assumed that it wasn’t possible to be a real Christian in their ordinary lives.
In 1 Corinthians 17, Paul sought to correct this misunderstanding of the Christian life. He urged the believers in v. 17 to “live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them.” He said it again in v. 20: “Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.” This translation rightly conveys the basic sense of the original language. Curiously, though, what Paul actually wrote was, “Let each one remain in the calling [klēsis] in which you were called.” One’s situation in life at the time of one’s calling (or conversion) was not merely an accident. It was something intended by God, something God planned to use for divine purposes.
So, if we were to ask Paul, “Can I be a real Christian in my ordinary life?” he would almost surely answer “Yes.” In fact, he would tell most believers that God’s plan was for them to live out their faith precisely in the context in which they were living and working when they first said “Yes” to Christ. I say “most believers” because Paul would not endorse every possible context in which a person was called. For example, Paul wrote, “Thieves must give up stealing” (Ephesians 4:28). So, if you were involved in thievery, it would be right to leave it. But, for most believers, their challenge was to discover how to live as genuine Christians in the context of their calling.
Now this is not a hard and fast rule. Sometimes our personal context changes for good reasons. My original calling to Christ, for example, came when I was a freshman in high school. I’m quite sure Paul wouldn’t want me, at this stage in my life, to live out my faith as a 57-year-old freshman in high school. Moreover, sometimes God calls people away from one situation to a very different one. Abraham and Sarah, for example, were called to leave their home and journey to a new, distant land (Gen. 12:1-3). Yet, for the most part, God expects those He calls to believe and to serve while remaining in the context where they were when they heard and responded to the gospel. This context could, in some ways, even be seen as one’s calling, one’s divine assignment.
The implications of Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 7 are powerful, especially if you wonder whether you can be a real Christian in your ordinary life. Today, there are some well-intentioned Christians who believe that the only way to truly follow Jesus requires a radical rejection of ordinary life. Real Christians, in this view, aren’t folks who work as teachers, bankers, engineers, house painters, and parents. They have to do radical things for Jesus, like move across the world and invest their lives in the fight against poverty. But, while it’s true that God does call some to very different ways of living and working, it’s not true that all genuine Christians must abandon their current circumstances. In fact, from the perspective of 1 Corinthians 7, these circumstances could even be seen as our mission or calling.
Teach me, Lord, to be a “real Christian” in the midst of my “ordinary” life,
knowing that living for You is never really ordinary.
29He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. 30Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, 31but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:29-31, NKJV)
I recently read an article in which there was this quote, “Waiting is not an assignment relegated to the neglected and rejected. Rather, as the Bible can attest, waiting has always been for the chosen ones, the ones called to do things that only God can do.” Especially during this season for our church, I was moved by this statement, because most often the act of waiting is categorized by a sense of passivity, unproductivity, and weakness. Waiting in its very essence is intangible and unseen, yet holds great power in our internal worlds and spiritual lives. The act of waiting on anything sometimes feels strenuous and painful depending on what we are waiting for. Depending on how we wait and how we posture ourselves in the process, it has the power to propel us forward or deter us.
In Isaiah 40:31 it says, “… but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."
In the Scriptures, the act of waiting on God was a means to receive God’s strength – it was not a process to inflict fear, pain, or a mentality of lack. In the Scriptures, those who waited on God encountered some of the biggest miracles. In my own life, the times in which I postured myself to receive God’s strength as I waited for breakthrough have propelled me forward into the things of God. The more trained we are to wait and the more we build trust with God, the more we see of Him, and the more we realize the wait reveals His utmost strength. Waiting reveals faith; no matter how much or little we feel we have, faith is born in these times.
For those who feel weary today, I encourage and even challenge you to reposition yourselves. Waiting is not your enemy, as much as it sometimes feels that way. You are not waiting on humans, or waiting on your circumstances; you are waiting on the living God. May the act of waiting be your greatest spiritual weapon, and one you can trust as you seek God’s will. His ways are higher than ours, and He is never late in His plans to be faithful to you.
What is an area of your life where you can you reframe and reposition yourself in a posture of waiting to receive God’s strength?
O God, my Gracious Father, thank You for the gift of waiting. I pray that You steel my heart, soul, and mind to receive Your strength in this season of my life. Help me reframe my thoughts about my season of waiting so that I would feel empowered by Your Spirit to do all of the things You have asked me to do. Holy Spirit, refresh my soul.
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. (Ephesians 6:10-11)
In the first 9 verses of Ephesians 6, Paul sets forth the “household code” instructions for wives, husbands, children, parents, slaves, and masters. Verses 10-20 present another challenging passage. Bibles that supply headings for Ephesians 6:10-20 entitle it with something like “Our Spiritual Battle” or “Spiritual Warfare” or “Be Strong in the Battle.” In the NIV, it is entitled “The Armor of God.” This passage does indeed reveal the spiritual dimensions of the struggles we face in life and how we can both endure in and prevail over them.
If there’s one main point in Ephesians 6:10-20, one truth we need to understand, one imperative we need to obey, it comes right at the start. You can’t miss it: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power” (6:10). Be strong “in the Lord” by relying on the One who created all things. Be strong in the Lord who saved you from death into life. Be strong by resting in God, trusting God, being filled by God, being loved by God.
Though verse 10 doesn’t say this explicitly, it might have read, “Be strong in the Lord, and not in yourself.” Yes, God’s strength lives within us through the Holy Spirit. But we are not to live by our own inner strength if we want to stand firm in the struggles we face. Why not? Because our own strength is inadequate. And God’s strength, readily available to us, is more than adequate. As verse 10 notes, God’s power is “mighty.”
Of course, the question we want to ask at this point is: How? How can we be strong in the Lord? How do we access His mighty power? We’ll find the answers we need in the rest of our passage. You might want to take a peek at all of Ephesians 6:10-20 if you’re curious about its teaching. Our passage looks underneath the surface, even beneath systemic social issues, to identify the deepest struggle we face. Verse 12 reads, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Behind and beneath the battles of our lives is a fundamental spiritual battle between God and the forces of evil. We are caught in this fight.
I will freely admit that I don’t naturally think of life in terms of spiritual warfare. In fact, sometimes the antics of Christians who engage in what they call spiritual warfare turn me off completely. But I also want to take Scripture seriously, to be guided, taught, corrected, and inspired by God’s Word. So, I don’t dismiss Ephesians 6:10-20 because it doesn’t fit my natural worldview. For now, I want to invite you to think of the following question: “How do you respond to the notion that our true battle is spiritual?”
Oh God, I confess my ignorance and hesitation. I ask You to teach me what is true. Give me an openness to learning and growing. And give me eyes to see what cannot be seen visibly. Help me to be strong in You and to know how I might live differently in light of the spiritual dimensions of life.