Study 9 THE FIVE-FOLD SECRET OF THE LIFE THAT WINS
HOLDING OUT THE WORD OF LIFE
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: 1 Corinthians 16:1-24)
The outline for this study is in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14. These verses might be said to contain a formula for victorious living, for the kind of Christian life that God has made possible and that He desires for His children – and that His children desire to live! You will see that they contain very practical and down-to-earth advice. There is a military tone about the commands that are stated here; it is almost as though soldiers were going into battle, but before going their general addressed them and said, “Be on your guard…stand firm…be men of courage…be strong…do everything in love!” We should remember that as Christians we are soldiers (2 Timothy 2:3), engaged in a terrific warfare (Ephesians 6:12). But thank God, we have a great Captain! – look up Hebrews 2:10. How are we to win through? Let us examine the five-fold secret of victory that Paul outlines for us:-
1. Always be on your guard
This is the significance of the words in verse 13. They mean, ‘Keep awake and be vigilant!’ The picture is of a sentry on duty. He must be on the alert all the time. Our three great enemies are the world, the flesh and the Devil, and unless we are on guard and doing constant sentry duty we shall be overcome by these enemies.
- 1. The World is the enemy without. Corinth was the most important city of Greece, a great centre of commerce and of educational institutions, but it was a notoriously wicked city. It was rich and beautiful, but it was sinful and corrupt. What a powerful enemy the world is – look up 1 John 2:15-17!
- 2. The Flesh is the enemy within. The “flesh” is evil and corrupt and it is incapable of improvement (Romans 7:18). We very quickly fall a prey to our old nature, which is seen when we show anger, bad temper, pride, irritability, and when we are critical of others.
- 3. The Devil is the enemy around. Satan is a real and a powerful foe and he is determined to bring about our downfall (1 Peter 5:8). But we are not to be “unaware of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11).
2. Stand firm in the faith
Compare our verse with 1 Corinthians 15:58. The word really means ‘stay put’ – have spiritual convictions and stick to them. If we are going to have spiritual convictions and stick to them we must be men and women of the Word – look up 2 Timothy 2:15. We shall never grow up into spiritual maturity and be strong in the Lord and in His power unless we feed constantly upon the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:15-17), and especially underline verse 13. But it is important to notice that the words “stand firm in the faith” also mean, ‘Keep on trusting, do not lose faith’. In the midst of international tensions and personal trials and testings, when reverses and losses come upon us, Satan’s primary objective is to shatter our faith – look up Luke 22:31-32; therefore, stand firm in the faith! – let your whole trust be in the Lord who will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5-6).
3. Be men of courage
How long have you been a Christian? Perhaps you need the advice, ‘Act your age!’ – look up 1 Corinthians 13:11. Christians are often childish and petty and they behave like babies; they have not grown up – look up 1 Corinthians 3:1-4. Such behaviour is an indication of spiritual immaturity. We must rise to the full stature of our manhood in Christ. But how can we do this, and what are our resources? Here is the answer:-
4. Do not rely upon yourself
When Paul says in verse 13, “Be strong…” he is not for a moment suggesting that we have any strength of our own. We are incapable of facing the world, the flesh and the Devil, of being victorious over these enemies, of living a life that pleases God in our own strength – read Ephesians 6:10-17 and you will discover that there is no need for defeat. Every time we are defeated the reason is that we have been relying upon our own resources. The plain, simple advice is this: Don’t rely on yourself! – look up 2 Corinthians 3:5-6. But there is one more very important secret of the life that wins, perhaps the most important of all:-
5. Let love regulate all that you do
This is the meaning of verse 14. Love is the hallmark, the distinguishing feature of the Christian: love to the Lord Jesus (John 14:15); and love for all the Lord’s people (John 13:34-35). It would help to read 1 Corinthians chapter 13 every day for a month. Let’s remind ourselves of verses 1 to 7:-
- “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
- “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”