Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity (1 Corinthians 16:12).
Even our very best plans often meet with significant snags. Many variables can conspire to derail our plans, but one in particular often proves a great help or hindrance in our efforts: people. Planning would be so easy if it weren’t for other people with other opinions!
Pastoring, marriage, child-rearing, and evangelism would all be a cinch if you just didn’t have to deal with other people’s opinions.
There is a famous military motto, “No plan of war survives first contact with the enemy.” Why is this? Because of people! They just don’t always do what you want them to. In fact, there wouldn’t be any war at all in the world, if everyone would just do what I tell them to do, right?
Yet the fact is, in almost every area of the Christian life our plans, and decisions, and schedule, and the very success of our labors will greatly depend on other people. So it is crucial that we learn to work with other people in order to prioritize and accomplish mutual goals.
It is crucial that we learn to work with other people in order to prioritize and accomplish mutual goals.
Paul models this kind of purposeful-yet-flexible labor in his interaction with Apollos and communication with the church at Corinth. We learn there was a strong disagreement between Paul and another minister Apollos. Paul emphasizes, 1) that he had strongly (πολύς- great/much/many times) urged Apollos to visit Corinth, and 2) that it was not “at all” Apollos’ will to do so! Paul had good intentions, and yet Apollos had an entirely different view of things.
So we learn something from Paul through this tension. Paul is gracious and flexible and loving even when there is strong disagreement.
Paul says, in effect, “Apollos will come whenever he has opportunity; this is ultimately Apollos’ decision to make. I can’t force him to see things my way, but he’s still my brother and I’m sure he will come whenever he thinks it is best to do so.” Paul’s urging Apollos to visit Corinth expresses his deep respect for, and fundamental agreement with, Apollos’ ministry. When Paul calls Apollos “our brother,” he reminds the Corinthians that they are all still in this labor together.
Christ is glorified when we value him, his cause, and his people more than we value our own plans.
We have to learn–as pastors, or parents, or employers, or missionaries, or students, or spouses, or singles–to be flexible, not only to God’s obvious providential overruling of our plans, but also to the monkey wrenches that providence allows people to throw into our greatest purposes.
Christ is glorified when we value him, his cause, and his people more than we value our own plans. And when we learn to work with people, in spite of all their differing opinions and personalities, in order to accomplish kingdom goals — we will find that we are able to accomplish far more together than we ever could on our own.