Scripture:

1 Cor. 9

Vs 10 Does (God) not certainly speak for our sake? It (the law) was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop.
Vs 15 But I, Paul, have made no use of any of these rights,
Vs 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship.
Vs 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
Vs 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
Vs 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.
Vs 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control

Observation:

Paul is explaining to the Corinthian church what he has a right to receive versus what he is actually receiving.
Paul has a right, like the plowman or the thresher, to receive something for his work … “a share in the crop”.
But Paul is deliberately denying himself this right because he is “entrusted with a stewardship”.
This is to work on someone else’s behalf. Paul works on behalf of God and His gospel.
For this, Paul doesn’t receive a “share of the crop”. Paul receives a “share of blessings”.
To focus efforts on “a share of the crop” is to value “a perishable wreath”.
Paul wants us, as Christians, to value to “imperishable”.
To do this in a world so out of focus will require intentionality, discipline, and self-control.

Application:

I like to think of myself as my own boss, but Paul has been reminding me that I have been bought with a price.
I am not my own.
Here Paul reminds me that not just my body is not my own, but even my actions are not my own.
Even my work is not my own! I have stewardship.
I must have the right focus … and not simply a focus on “my work” or “getting the job done” (“plowing & threshing”).
I must focus, as Paul says, on “doing it all for the sake of the Gospel”.
There are so many distractions, though, the world does not want me to focus on the gospel.
Even as I type this I’m receiving Groupon Deals emailed to me … because “I’ve earned a long weekend”!
“I’ve earned it?” Really? … Paul says he makes no use of what he’s earned … He’s focused on the gospel.
But here comes another email … and another … and now a text … and another …
The world does not want me to focus on the gospel … it wants me to focus on “what I’ve earned”.
And now a knock on my office door … UGH!  … another distraction, now from an office colleague.
I think in my head “Go away! I’m trying to get something done …. I’m doing my devotional!”
“For the sake of the Gospel … Go away!!!”     
My colleague walks into my office. I’m sure she wants to tell me about her big 3-day weekend plans.
I thought wrong. … She’s not excited, she’s clearly distraught about something.
She sits down at my desk and tells me her daughter is getting a divorce.
I’m glad I didn’t tell her to “Go away”.
The easy Christian answer is “God hates divorce”.
She tells me her son-in-law is a sex addict, and he’s habitually frequenting prostitutes. (yes, you read that right.)
I’m really glad I didn’t blurt out, “God hates divorce”.
I think to myself, “Focus on the Gospel. Focus on the Gospel.”
I know she’s talking to me right now because I’m the “Christian guy” in the office.
So, I ask her, “Do your daughter and son-in-law have any sort of ‘faith’? Do they believe in God?”
“Oh yeah!”, she says … “He’s an active member in their church!” (not Good Life, by the way)
Ughh … What do I say to that?! … “We’re all sinners”? …. “We all need forgiveness”? … “Grace abounds”?
A rolodex of 50 things spin through my mind … they are all clichés … pure Christian triteness.
I can only finally whisper out … “I am so … so… sorry”.
It’s the only thing I can actually say …. And then I just sit there.
She talks … I nod … She cries … I cry.
I say again, “I am so … so … sorry”.

I’m so glad I didn’t tell her to “Go away” because I’m trying to do my religious thing.
This morning there is no “getting things done” … there is no “threshing and plowing” … there is no “sharing in the crops”.
But there is hope … there is a focus on the “unperishable”.
I don’t know where this story goes. But I know I’m in it now “for the sake of the gospel”.

Prayer:

Thank you, God, for Your Gospel.
Give me discipline and self-control to not focus on the wrong things
Help me do all things for the sake of the Gospel
Help this young family, and particularly this young husband
Help my colleague
May they each come close to you in this
In Jesus name
Amen