Opportunity & Opposition

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.  But in verses 8 and 9 he makes a very curious statement.  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 you should expect stout opposition.  Kingdom work, by its very nature, 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 had faith to believe and see that this is a wide open door from God for effective work.  He simply went in with both eyes open and a keen sense of spiritual insight. He knew that what he advanced in faith would be faithfully opposed. Paul is not daunted by this forecast because he has a clear sense of calling and direction from God.  He understood opposition well because he use to be the opposition before Jesus changed his life.

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.

Lead well!

4 replies
  1. AmyLynn Hunt
    AmyLynn Hunt says:

    I actually can’t imagine success without a lot of sweat & tears and set-backs on the way. Maybe because i’ve lived with a chronic illness and have seen so many people go through so much. I sort of can’t feel or see that it was a success unless i see the “trip there”, you know? Everything that led me to this place. And i think we’ll get to see so much of that once we pass from this life – victories we had and the stuff of earth that seemed os bad at the time, but was all used for God’s glory.

    Sorry, not so well-spoken today, but i really get it. Wonderful message, thank you Gary!! 🙂

    • garunn
      garunn says:

      Amy-thanks so much for your comments. You could have written this post. I know you have been through a lot and have stayed true to your walk and calling. Thanks for your model!

  2. Joseph Okpanachi
    Joseph Okpanachi says:

    Gary, very succinct, lucid and biblical. This is an important challenge and reminder for anyone of us who dare to join God on His mission. So goes the traditional saying: “It is no secret what God can do.” But never without difficulties for those who are “co-laborers with God.” As I said in my book: “Leading Through Hope,” “Exploring opportunities requires hard work and preparation as well as a willingness to take risks. This is where the rubber of hope meets the road of opportunity.” Sometimes opportunity is not a “feel good” thing, nor does it imply that every problem necessarily has an inherent opportunity for good. Nonetheless, it does say that our response to and definition of the situation helps to redefine and thus influence the “problem.” Ah, the sovereignty of God! Thanks for exploring this important topic, and its relationship to mission.


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