Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.
— 1 Corinthians 4:1
We live in a world that loves to take it easy. We want instant results — and we want them right now. Technology has made almost everything instantly accessible. Our entire Western lifestyle is centered around making things as easy, fast, effortless, and painless as possible.
The younger generation is so accustomed to getting everything they want that they don’t understand there is a price to pay for true success. But whether they like it or not, the fact remains: True greatness, great achievements, and real success won’t float to them on clouds that suddenly materialize above their heads. If anyone wants to achieve something great and significant, he or she will have to put a lot of hard work and effort into making it happen.
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Let’s take the apostle Paul as an example. I recently read a report that made this claim: Apart from Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul more dramatically affected Western civilization than any other man in human history. Paul achieved incredible feats with his life. His epistles have impacted world history and leaders, and what he accomplished in his life and ministry remains legendary. So let’s look at this famous Christian leader and ask:
- How did Paul live his life?
- What kind of attitude did he possess regarding his life mission?
- What attitude did he possess that enabled him to dramatically affect his world?
In First Corinthians 4:1, Paul wrote, “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.” I believe that some very important answers to the questions above are found in this interesting statement that Paul himself wrote.
In this verse, Paul calls himself a “minister.” This is the Greek word huperetas, a vivid term that conveys the essential attitude necessary to get a job done — especially the work of the ministry. However, this word doesn’t apply only to ministry. It also denotes the essential attitude a person must possess to become successful in any sphere of life.
Interestingly, this word huperetas, translated “ministers” here, was used in classical Greek society to describe low-class criminals. The first time I studied this Greek word, it seemed so odd that Paul would use this word to describe himself and his attitude toward the ministry. I wondered:
- Why would Paul use such a word?
- Is he using this word as a picture to make a point to us?
After a lot of digging into the original Greek, I found out exactly why Paul used this word. He was a successful man who understood what it took to get a job done — and no word more vividly explains this work ethic than the Greek word huperetas.
Originally this word described the very lowest class of criminals. These criminals were so low, so detestable, and so contemptible that they were outcast and removed from society. Often they were assigned to the bottom galleys of huge shipping vessels, where they literally became the engines of those huge ships.
And the harsh assignment given to these criminals wasn’t temporary either. They were sentenced to live the rest of their lives in the darkness below the deck — endlessly rowing, rowing, and rowing. Their entire existence was devoted to keeping that ship moving toward its ultimate destination! These huperetas were officially called “under-rowers” because they lived and rowed down in the bottom of the ship. Day after day, their job was to heave those massive oars forward and backward, pushing them through the water to make the ship move through the sea.
This is the same word the apostle Paul uses to describe the attitude that is necessary to do what God has called us to do! God has called us to take our place in His plan — to grab hold of an oar, so to speak, and begin to serve Him practically in some way. We are to keep rowing, rowing, rowing, and rowing, doing our part and fulfilling what He has asked us to do.
Some people tend to sit and watch as achievers reach out to do the impossible. But if you are going to join the ranks of those achievers, you’ll have to do more than just sit around and talk about it. You’ll need to say yes to what the Lord is urging you to do.
And remember, these huperetas who rowed the boat didn’t quickly finish their assignment of rowing; it was their responsibility for a lifetime. In the same way, we need to realize that the secret dream God has put in our hearts probably won’t be achieved quickly either. It may be an assignment that will last for the rest of our lives. It takes hard work and a lifelong commitment for us to achieve the great things that God wants to do through you and me!
I heartily recommend that you mentally prepare yourself for a long-term stint at doing what God is calling you to do. It will almost certainly take unbelievable strength and energy to move that vision from the realm of dreams to the realm of reality. So jump into the bottom of the boat; take your place on the rowers’ bench; and begin to row with all your might! With each step of obedience you take and each day of faithfulness you live, you will come closer to the desired destination — the ultimate fulfillment of God’s plans and purposes for your life.
We may live in a world that loves to take it easy and that delights in instant results. But in order to achieve the true greatness God desires for us, we will have to be determined, committed, and willing to do anything necessary to accomplish what He has for us.
No, real success doesn’t float to you on clouds that suddenly materialize above your head. Therefore, I encourage you to make the decision to start putting a lot of hard work and effort into making your assignment successful. It’s going to take every ounce of strength you have to make your dream come to pass, so you might as well resolve to get started today!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I am determining in my heart today to jump into the bottom of the boat, grab an oar, and start rowing with all my might. Doing the minimum is never going to get me where I need to go, so right now I am making the choice to put all my energies forward to achieve what You have planned for me. Help me to be faithful, steadfast, unmoving, and unflinching in the face of opposition. Help me to tell my flesh to be silent when it tries to scream out that I’m doing too much! I choose to crucify the flesh and press forward with all the strength You give me. As I do this, I believe that You will make my dreams come to pass!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I will see the fulfillment of the dream God has put in my heart. I am a hard worker, willing to do whatever it takes, and I have made a long-term commitment to achieve all that God wants to do through me! It will almost certainly take unbelievable strength and energy to move that vision from the realm of dreams to the realm of reality, but I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! With God’s Spirit working in me, I will see the fulfillment of my dreams!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. If you keep operating at your current level of production, will you reach the goals God has given for your life?
2. Be honest! Has your desire to have things “easy” been a hindrance to you? Has your desire for “creature comforts” overpowered your desire to reach your goal regardless of the price you must pay or how long it takes?
3. If you continue at your present momentum, will you dramatically affect your world and environment as the apostle Paul affected his? If not, what changes do you need to make in your thinking to become a great achiever?