I was reading in 1 Corinthians today for my devotion and something caught my attention that I had never noticed before. In 1 Corinthians 16 Paul is wrapping up his first of probably four letters to the Corinthian church. He exhorts them about giving to the needs of the saints, he passes on various greetings and final instructions, and he outlines a few of his travel plans. He makes a very curious statement in verses eight and nine. He states, “But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”
Paul combines two things that we rarely tend to link together-opportunity and opposition. We know historically that Paul spent more time in the city of Ephesus than any other city he visited (except possibly his jail term in Rome). We know from Luke’s account in Acts 19 that Paul certainly was effective in his work for the Kingdom of God in Ephesus. And we know from that same account that it was actually his effective work that brought on some daunting adversaries.
We typically tend to see effective work, and therefore it’s resulting success, as void of any conflict. Success is supposed to be all hype and celebration. Success is not supposed to include difficult times or riotous opposition. But when you lead for the cause of Christ and towards the Kingdom of God we should actually expect stout opposition. By its very nature Kingdom work implies that you are representing the King and extending His domain. Never forget that there is another king who vehemently opposes any such efforts. It should never surprise us that opposition would arise from this alternative and false kingdom. It actually should surprise us when we don’t tangibly see some form of opposition. In Paul’s case he was immediately confronted by hawkers of a pagan deity because he had ruined their business by pointing people to the one true King. Notice that Paul still has faith to believe and see that this is a wide open door from God for effective work. He simply goes in with both eyes open and a keen sense of spiritual insight to know that what he advances in faith will be faithfully opposed. Paul is not daunted by this forecast because he has a clear sense of calling and direction from God. And he understood opposition well-he use to be the opposition before Jesus changed his life.
You and I should not be naive either. If we are leading on mission we should expect opposition. But we must still walk through the wide open doors of effective work for His Kingdom and His glory-knowing that He is the greater King.