Don’t miss this week’s Connect Podcast where we’ll dive into God’s Word as we continue our study through the book of 1 Corinthians. In this study, we’ll dive into 1 Corinthians 7:17-40, starting in verse 17, dealing with when and how you should make changes in your situation. If you want to grow in your faith and make a difference in your world, this is for you.
On a 10-day mission trip to the Amazon River, I couldn’t help but notice that even though the people who lived along the river would be considered to be living in poverty by American standards, the scenery they had and the beautiful land they lived on would be coveted by anyone in the U.S. Though the were extremely poor, they seemed to live with more contentment than people who had so much more wealth than they did.
In a letter to mentor a younger minister, the apostle Paul wrote:
Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. 1 Timothy 6:6-8
When we experience new life in Jesus Christ, it’s easy to think a change in our outward appearance, position, or circumstances will make us more useful to God or more satisfied. But you might just miss out on one of the greatest opportunities available to you.
In 1 Corinthians 7:17-40, Paul talks about how to make wise decisions. Some things are easy: murder, steal, drunk, purity. But there are times where the answer is not so clear, such as, where should I live? what job should I have?
Some people in Corinth who were just experiencing new freedoms in the body of Christ, thought they should divorce their pagan spouses, or stay celibate in marriage to be better Christians. In the context of an overly-sexualized society, and of a coming persecution—it seemed to make sense to them.
But Paul instructs them not to make radical changes. The real need is to reflect Christ wherever you are and let the internal changes He is making shine out.
Some of the Corinthian believers were just breaking loose from everything. For example, some believers thought: if this world is sinful and corrupt, then a believer must have nothing to do with the world or with those who live in this world. So, they cut themselves off from their previous relationships.
Others thought, if believers shouldn’t be unequally yoked together with unbelievers, then they should separate from their unbelieving spouses.
Believers were questioning their place in life and becoming dissatisfied, feeling they had been dealt a terrible hand in life. So, they had to change their life, no matter who it affected or hurt. Some believers were changing their jobs, religion, friends; and some were even breaking up their families to change their place in life.
Paul reminds them not to worry about what you could be for God. Instead, be concerned about what you already are!
Fact 1: God calls people from every background and level of society.
17 Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you. This is my rule for all the churches.
Do what God has called you to do until he puts you somewhere else!
Love, serve, do what has called you to do until God shows you what’s next! God has you there for a reason. Think about all the areas you don’t have control over such as, where or when you were born, or your background. God has a hand in all of that.
You can serve God now, right where you are. You don’t have to wait. No matter your age, if you’re a man or a woman, or your race.
Outward rituals aren’t what’s most important.
18 For instance, a man who was circumcised before he became a believer should not try to reverse it. And the man who was uncircumcised when he became a believer should not be circumcised now.
What does matter? The heart is the most important. The inner part of your life.
19 For it makes no difference whether or not a man has been circumcised. The important thing is to keep God’s commandments.
Your job and your income level doesn’t matter.
20 Yes, each of you should remain as you were when God called you.
Part of Paul’s message is that your mission field is right in front of you, with your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and those you meet on the street while you’re living your everyday life.
You can serve God effectively even if you didn’t come from a great background.
“Next to faith, this is the highest art: to be content in the calling in which God has placed you. I have not learned it yet.”Martin Luther
21 Are you a slave? Don’t let that worry you—but if you get a chance to be free, take it.
You could even ask, “What if I’m in prison?” Serve God while you’re there. God can use you right where you are. Get free if you can. But don’t stop serving.
22 And remember, if you were a slave when the Lord called you, you are now free in the Lord. And if you were free when the Lord called you, you are now a slave of Christ.
If you wonder if you should be somewhere else. It starts by serving where you are. Then God will show you what’s next.
Remember that you are bought by Christ.
23 God paid a high price for you, so don’t be enslaved by the world.
Be faithful where you are.
24 Each of you, dear brothers and sisters, should remain as you were when God first called you.
How do you decide what to do when you’re not sure what you should do?
Look for God’s perfect timing.
God is never too soon or too late.
25 Now regarding your question about the young women who are not yet married. I do not have a command from the Lord for them. But the Lord in his mercy has given me wisdom that can be trusted, and I will share it with you. 26 Because of the present crisis, I think it is best to remain as you are. 27 If you have a wife, do not seek to end the marriage. If you do not have a wife, do not seek to get married. 2
Look at the timing of what you’re facing. It may not be right or wrong, but bad timing.
Maybe you need to work through a circumstance or grow through what you’re facing first.
Don’t go in unaware.
Be aware of problems.
28 But if you do get married, it is not a sin. And if a young woman gets married, it is not a sin. However, those who get married at this time will have troubles, and I am trying to spare you those problems.
Paul suggests that remaining single in “this present crisis” would be good. However, Paul is not saying it is sinful to get married either. He just doesn’t want them using all their energy finding a spouse, given the expected troubles of being a Christian in an increasingly hostile Roman Empire.
Paul doesn’t want marriage, money, power, or position to be the ultimate goals in life. Given the coming persecution, he wants them to be as free from concerns as possible.
Don’t get married to get out of problems. You will always take your problems with you. The same thing is true with changing churches or jobs. You will keep repeating the same problems over and over.
If you don’t pass the test the first time, you’ll have to keep taking it over and over.
Be aware of the Goal.
The main goal of your life is always to win people to faith in Jesus. Keep God first! Live out your life mission!
We need to put ourselves in the place where we can best serve God.
Remember verse 24: “Brothers, each person should remain with God in whatever situation he was called.” Don’t focus on the outward change in circumstance, but the inward change in character!
It’s pretty easy to change the outward circumstances as if that is the answer. For some it is their physical location, job, or relationship. For others it might be what you wear, or something external. But the inward change of character is actually much harder, and much more important, like a marriage to someone who doesn’t believe or working for a bad boss. But the potential for impact is much, much greater!
So, don’t sweat the circumstances, focus on the change and reflection of your internal character.