It’s not enough to have the weapons (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). You also need the authority to use it ‘the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down’ (2 Corinthians 13:10). And not even that is enough. You also need the wisdom to use it the right way, and for the right purposes. A weapon or authority used the wrong way could do immense harm, both physically and in the situation where Paul is using this analogy. God has given us weapons to tear down strong¬holds, and authority to build up people. Not the other way round.
There were reasons enough for Paul to feel upset with the Corinthians. He’d put in a lot of time, energy, and even suffering, to bring the Gospel to their city. But as soon as he left the area, the new converts strayed away from what they’d been taught. They listened to false apostles, and formed a Church life that was a long way from what Paul had been teaching and training them in. Wasn’t that reason enough for Paul to be really upset with them? Yes, it was. But it wasn’t reason enough to tear down the Church that had been built in Corinth, although it was right to tear down the strongholds of arguments and deceptions.
Paul was a builder, not a demolisher. Reading his epistles is to some extent to read about difficulties, disappointments and problems. But not once does he give up on the people he was addressing! He warns them, he admonishes them, and he corrects them. But he never gives up. The reason is very simple: God didn’t give him the authority to tear down. So what does a builder do when he can’t tear down? He uses his building skills to perfect the existing building. That’s exactly what Paul was doing, and he was doing it because God had given him the ability and desire to do it. He also knew it was what God Himself was doing. God would have had reason enough to tear down and demolish many times, but He’s so much more patient than we are. And so He gave His servant Paul the clear command: ‘Build up!’
Even when you think things are only full of mistakes and problems, build up! A well known man of God once said: ‘God has taught me that there’s not one single church that’s so dead that God can’t wake it up again! Sometimes we pass judgment on ourselves that there’s no hope, that we’re just failures, what has been built isn’t worth anything, and the best we can do is to tear it all down. But God hasn´t given us the authority to do that! He may agree that what He sees is far from perfect, but He doesn’t want us to tear it down. Other times we are tempted to pass the same judgment on others. Yes, the Church is far from perfect. But God hasn´t given up on it! He’s still in the building business, and He still gives authority to build, but not to tear down. ‘Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed’ (Hebrews 12:12-13).
Yes, to ‘build up’ may seem lofty and big, and beyond our reach. But in reality it all comes down to the seemingly small but very practical things of ‘strengthening’. Take strength for yourself, strengthen your brothers and sisters. This year, be one of God’s co-workers to build up, by the grace and authority God has given you! Be an encourager, and you’ll do the work of a skilled builder! A builder of God’s Kingdom in people’s lives!
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