Jump Start # 2297
2 Corinthians 12:20 “For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there may be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances.”
You may not be what I wish. What a revealing and profound statement. We encounter this in different areas of life. I was in a Korean restaurant. I could not pronounce any of the menu items. I could not understand what the descriptions were. To my delight, there were pictures. I ordered based upon the pictures. In small print at the bottom of the menu was the statement, “Food may not look like pictures.” It may not be what I wish.
This happens when we open presents. It may not be as we wish. This could happen with someone a person is dating. It may not be what we wish. A car we purchase, may not be what we wish. A hotel may not be what we wish. Our retirement savings may not be what we wish. Layer after layer in life we can experience “it may not be what we wish.”
But here, we are dealing with faith and people who are not what they ought to be. Rather than being righteous and walking with the Lord, Paul was fearful that they may be just the opposite. He lists eight serious relationship conflicts. These eight sins would cause trouble and lead to division. There is no unity and there is no peace when strife, disputes, and disturbances abound. Rather than finding a warm, loving church, Paul feared that it might be a real dog-fight.
Now, in our times today some folks would get on Paul for thinking this way. They’d tell the apostle to be thinking the best, not the worst. They’d tell him to be more positive and more encouraging. But Paul had reason to think this way. In the first letter, Paul learned of division among them. Those issues don’t go away quickly.
There are some lessons for us here:
First, when we do not keep Christ before our eyes, we tend to become selfish and self centered. The sins that Paul was afraid that they were slipping into are a result of selfishness. We fuss with others because of how we see things through our eyes, rather than the Lord’s eyes. Instead of forgiving, we fight. Rather than being kind, we push and demand. Pride replaces humility. Jealousy rises to the top. Why would they go back to these ways? They left Christ out of the picture. They thought about themselves more than they should have.
Second, the steps backwards can happen so much faster than the steps forward. It takes learning, thinking and conversion, to move away from sin and self towards Christ. This is always a process. The prodigal came to his senses, but it took feeding the pigs and thinking about how good the servants back home had things. Going forward is a challenge. Going backwards, to where we came from, is so easy. These days, it begins by disconnecting spiritually. The prayers stop. The reading of God’s word stops. A person may still sit in the church building, but his mind and heart is back in the far country. If nothing changes, it won’t be long, and he won’t even attend worship. Everyone is shocked. They all wonder what happened. But months before this, he was heading that direction. He unplugged himself from the Lord and his spiritual heart simply died.
Third, Paul had high hopes for the Corinthians. He longed to see them thriving spiritually. He hoped that they were united, growing, and changing lives for the Lord. He could see men developing into leadership roles. He could see a church that became a model of what God wanted. High hopes. This is what we have as we attend every wedding. We have hopes for a long and wonderful marriage by that couple. This is what we have with every person that is converted to Christ. We have the hopes and wishes that they grow and become teachers and can lead others to Christ. Congregations begin with the hopes and dreams of outgrowing the storefront that they rent. They have the hopes and dreams of appointing elders and deacons. They have the dreams of becoming financially able to stand on their own feet and to impact the world.
Fourth, the difference between wishing and reality is found in what one does. A person could say, “I wish I could retire.” That becomes a reality when a person has made the right choices earlier in his life. Wishing upon a star, four-leaf clovers, and crossing your fingers, may convince you that you have good luck, but truth be, we become what we are by the choices that we make. The Corinthians would be strong, faithful and committed, if they followed that course spiritually. Wishing someone to be converted won’t do it. You have to pray about it. You have to talk to them. Wishing for elders won’t magically give you them. They don’t drop from the sky like manna. Men have to be making the right choices while they are young. Wishing for a loving, warm, welcoming congregation won’t happen if you leave as soon as the Amen is said. So often, we wish for others to make things the way it ought to be and then we just get to enjoy them. We want a great church. We want a great leadership. We want great preaching. We want activities that connect us to others. We want. We want. We want. And, some will leave looking for those things. One place to the next. Then on to another place. They wish they could just find a church to land at. They fail to understand, we are what we are by the choices we each make.
Finally, have you ever thought, “What does God wish for me?” Could you answer that? God wants you to trust Him. God wants you to worship Him. God wants you to follow Him. God wants you to love Him. God wants you to put Him first.
As Paul said, I fear that you are not what I wish? Is that something God might fear about us? You are not what I wish? Maybe it’s time to get back to being what God wanted.