By Pastor Glenn Pease
Successful people almost always attribute their success, in large measure, to the influence and inspiration of some other person. Henry Ford tells of how he was in a period of uncertainty about building his gas engine. He was discouraged about it, and was letting the idea go dead in him. It was at this point that he met Thomas Edison at a convention in New York City. Edison got him to explain his idea, and draw his plan on a menu card. When Ford finished, Edison banged his fist on the table and said, "Young man, that's the thing; you have it! Keep at it!" This word of encouragement from the world's greatest inventive genius is just what Ford needed. He wrote, "That bang on the table that night was worth world's to me." He went back from that convention and built his engine. He had it in him to do it, but it may never have gotten done without that encouragement from Edison.
Ralph Waldo Emerson spoke wisdom when he said, "Our chief want in life is somebody who shall make us do what we can." Paul was striving to be that person to the Corinthian Christians. He was trying to be that external stimulus that motivates people to be all they can be. In part one of our study of success we stressed the basic truth that the arena where the battle for success is fought is within. We must never lose sight of this truth. Dr. Maxwell Maltz, the celebrated plastic surgeon and psychologist, and author of Psycho-Cybernetics, wrote, "Your mind is the battleground in which you win or lose....it is a battleground in which you lose the war against negative feelings or in which you win this essential battle and go on to face life with success-type approaches."
Because this is a vital part of the story of successful living, Paul emphasizes, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." A vital part is not the whole, however. The heart is vital, but it is not the whole of the body. The battle is within, but it is also a fact that a successful battle within depends upon influences from without. It is almost impossible to be successful alone. We need the positive influences of others to bring out the best in us.
Victor Goertzel and his wife read over 5,000 volumes of biography to produce their book Cradles Of Eminence. They examine the childhood and home life of 400 of the most famous men and women of the 20th century. They concluded that if you want to be successful you have got to be influenced by the right people. In the majority of cases these successful people were influenced by one or both parents who had a strong drive toward intellectual or creative achievement. The external influence of someone is what motivated them to will to win within.
Joseph Brunten Jr., who was born and educated in Pittsburgh, tells of the influence that motivated him to climb to Chief Scout Executive of Boy Scouts of America. He was on a hike with a scout troop as a boy, and they had gone a long way and were tired. When the scout master said to rest they all flopped on the grass. Then the scout master said, "Look about you. What do you see?" All in chorus they shouted, "Grass!" He ordered each patrol to lash 4 sticks together in a crude frame about a foot square, and place it on the ground. This was to be their world for the next hour. The boys were puzzled, but they began to observe. In minutes they realized there was more than just grass. There was a world of great variety with different plants, spiders, mites, earthworm mounds, and even a bit of fluff off a rabbit's tail. There were rock particles, pebbles, and minerals.
Joseph never forgot that experience, and he writes, "In one hour I received one of the most important lessons I have ever had in my life. I learned to observe instead of just to see. I learned to look below the surface instead of to judge by appearance." The scout master happened to be his father, and this lesson on seeing was a motivating factor in his success.
Success through seeing is common for successful people, for they usually see more than others. William T. Brady, one of America's most successful executives, told of the little girl who was taken for a cruise around Manhatten Island on a clear day. Suddenly she exclaimed, "Daddy, I can look farther than my eyes can see." Brady who knows what success is all about said that is the key- to look farther than our eyes can see. The person who can help us do that is a key factor in our success. The Apostle Paul was being that person to the failing Corinthian Christians. They were failing because they were superficial. They saw only in front of their noses. Paul lifted their sights to the future and to eternity. Look ahead to the day of judgment and reward said Paul. Build what will last, or in the end you will lose. Parents need to help their children see the future, and not let them get locked into the present as all there is. Paul is striving to be that positive parental influence in the lives of these spiritual children that will lead them upward and onward to successful Christian lives. He is scolding them like foolish children that they might wake up, grow up, look ahead, and become more mature in Christ.
This analogy from the family is not forced on the text, but is actually found in the context. In chapter 4 verses 14-16 we read, "I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you then be imitators of me." This means that the pattern for Christian success follows the same principle as the pattern for success in all realm of life. Parental influence is a key to success in the physical and spiritual life. The battle has to be won within, but in order for this to happen there must be an openness to positive external influence.
As third parties looking on we can put ourselves in either the place of the influencer(Paul), or the influencees(Corinthians). In order to grow ourselves we need to let the text speak to us, and in order to be a help to others we need to examine what Paul is doing in the text. Why does he take this approach, and what is its value for us today? Lets examine first the fact that it is-
I. A NEGATIVE APPROACH.
Paul is so negative here that we know their must be another paradox involved, for he is a positive thinker. We can only conclude that somehow a negative approach is sometimes the most positive method of influence. He tells it like it is, and what is isn't very good. He tells them that they are not spiritual at all. They are so unspiritual that they can't appreciate all the gourmet spiritual food he has for them. He would like to throw a banquet and have a feast, but all they are fit for is a baby bottle of milk. Paul is expressing his own frustration. In the previous chapter he has written of the marvelous wisdom God has revealed. He has revealed secrets beyond what the eyes of man have ever seen, or the ears of man have ever heard, or the mind of man ever conceived. He has knowledge that is possessed only by the mind of god Himself, and he ends chapter two by saying, "We have the mind of Christ."
Paul is already ready for the marriage supper of the Lamb. He is in on the secrets of the ages. He is sinking the teeth of his mind into spiritual steaks as thick as the skulls of these Corinthian Christians. He now comes to chapter three and he has to start with a but. The feast is ready, but you are not. The meat is available, but you cannot digest it. There is always a but that breaks in between the ideal and the real. Success is in getting rid of that but. When the Christian life is murdered it is not mystery. It is not the butler, but the but that did it. The potential is there, but it never becomes actual because of that but.
Here is the Apostle Paul with a degree from the school of direct revelation from God, and he is stuck with a class of babes. They not only do not have the capacity to digest anything but milk, but they even fight over the milk. They are so childish in their jealousy and strife that Paul says they are no different than ordinary men. They are so shallow in their spiritual life that the naked eye cannot detect any distinction between them and the non-Christian. That is really sharp rebuke, and not constructive criticism. It is cutting negative criticism. Yet Paul says he is doing it, not to crush them and stomp them into the ground. His motive is to lift them, and be a positive influence in helping them to mature. Is this a wise approach for anyone trying to be a positive influence? Can immature people be made better by this method? Can parents or Christian leaders profit from this approach of Paul?
First we need to see that Paul had good precedent for this negative approach to a positive goal. Jesus wanted nothing but the best for Peter, but on one occasion we read in Mark 8:33, "he rebuked Peter, and said get behind me, Satan! For you are not on ;the side of God, but of men." Even to the Apostle of love, John, and his brother James, Jesus had to speak negative words of rebuke. When they wanted to call down fire from heaven on the Samaritans we read in Luke 8:55, "But he turned an rebuked them and said, you do not know what manner of spirit you are of, for the Son of man came not to destroy men's lives but to save them." The study of the positive value of the negative is a subject greater than we can deal with here, but the fact is both the Old and New Testaments make its value clear. Eccles. 7:5 says, "It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools." A number of Proverbs say the same thing. In other words those who always sing your praises are not necessarily the most positive influence in motivating you to success.
A mother in Pittsburgh told of driving 400 miles to New Your City with her husband and two little boys. Ivan in the back seat was a perfect angel. He just sat quietly deep in thought. She was impressed and thought to herself that he deserves some praise. Just as they entered the Lincoln Tunnel she turned and told him what a wonderful boy he was. I'm so proud of you," she said. A minute later the world of tranquility cam to an end. Ivan pulled out the ashtray and spilled the contents all over them. The ashes and butts and smoke kept coming like atomic fall out. They were in a tunnel in heavy traffic and choking like crazy. She said if there had not been so many other cars around she might have murdered him on the spot. They were so shocked and mystified by his behavior they took his to a doctor.
This is what the doctor learned. Ivan had been quiet because he was thinking of how to get rid of his younger brother who was snuggled between mom and dad in the front while he was alone in the back. Jealousy filled his whole being, and when the mother praised him he felt guilty. ?To show he didn't deserve it he dumped the ashtray. Undeserved praise can give rise to tension and guilt, and actually hinder maturity. The Corinthian Christians were jealous and envious of one another, and they were struggling for superiority. Paul did not close his eyes to their immature behavior and praise them for their zeal. He rebuked them for their sub-Christian attitudes, for only by seeing themselves for what they really were could they ever get moving toward what they ought to be. Paul was a master builder, and he knew that sometimes you must tear down before you can build up.
If a child, or a Christian brother is on the road of failure, the most positive influence you can have is often the negative of rebuke. Paul wrote to Titus on how to handle those with false ideas and in 1:13 said, "Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith." There is the paradox as clear as a bell. The positive goal can only be attained at times by a negative approach. Christian positive thinking is not so superficial as to think that one must be always positive. A Christian positive thinker will follow both his Lord and the greatest Apostle, and be negative when necessary, for there can be blessings in bumps. Two year old Kevin O'Connor was being rushed to a Philadelphia Hospital by an ambulance. A chicken bone was caught in his throat, and even the slightest delay could mean the difference between life or death. The driver, therefore, did not take it easy, but sped along as fast as he could. He hit a hole that bounced Kevin and made him cough up the bone. Ordinarily a bump is totally negative and good for nothing, but sometimes it is just the thing that is needed.
Just as bumps are not always blessings, however, so also it is not recommended that rebuke be our usual approach to be a positive influence. We must need to be aware that it is a legitimate means to the end of success. To do it well we must examine more clearly the words of Paul who was a master at the use of this approach. We need to see that always at the heart of his negative approach was-
II. A POSITIVE ATTITUDE.
When you see a sign that screams at your mind-"WRONG WAY"- you are not angered by it but thankful for the warning. You know the motive behind the sign is your own protection and safety. Many times we search for a sign to tell us if we are on the right road, and the quicker we find one that tells us we are going the wrong way the better we feel. This is what a truly Christian rebuke should do for us, and this is what Paul had the ability to do. The positive attitude of love and concern runs all through this Epistle of rebuke. Those who knew Paul knew his rebuke was motivated by love, and that it was for their own protection and good. The negative approach without the positive attitude is the approach of an enemy and not that of a friend. Paul was a friend, and it comes through clearly. He calls them brothers. They are immature, but they are still brothers and sisters in the family of God.
They are just as saved, and just as bought by the blood of Christ as he is. He makes it clear that it is their very dignity as God's children, and his respect for their potential that motivates him to rebuke them. WRONG WAY, Paul is screaming, and not to hinder them, but to help them get going the right way. One of my professors, Dr. Bob Smith, used to say, "I can disagree with you violently on principle, but still love you as a person." Not all Christians are capable of doing this, and, therefor, not all Christians can be effective in using the negative approach as a positive influence. If Dr. Bob rebuked you, you knew it was out of love and respect for you, and that is the way it was with Paul. He ends this Epistle with the positive note of love, "my love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen." If that is not the final impression you leave with people, you have no right to practice the negative approach. It will only lead to failure rather than success.
An optimism must characterize us as it did Paul to be effective in rebuke. Paul knew they were living defeated lives, but he also believed they could grow up and succeed. That hope was the basis for his writing in the first place. Paul was not like an angry father shouting, "You are a stupid hunk of hide, and you will never amount to anything." Paul was saying, "You are a stupid hunk of hide, but you are meant by God to be so much more, and I am determined to help you be that so much more." Pat Boone said an optimist is a hope addict, and that is what Paul was. He always had hope and tried to instill it in others. He expected others to see they could be what God expected them to be.
You will fail as a motivator is you condemn failure without conveying expectation of growth. Paul expected great things form these dormant seeds. He expected what he planted to grow and produce what is beautiful and useful. The positive attitude of expectation is what make one a successful motivator.
Mickey Mantle became one of the greatest batters in the history of baseball, but not without winning battles over failure first, and not without the motivation of external influence. As a boy he played a lot with his father pitching to him. His father would one day play the major role in his career by means of a negative approach with a positive attitude. When Mickey finally made it to the major leagues, and joined the New York Yankees, he started as a flop. In a double header with Boston he struck out five times in a row. He cried like a baby, and Casey Stengel put him back in the minor leagues. He was on the bottom, and was ready to give up when his father came to visit him, and listen to his sob story of failure. His dad's reply was, "Mickey, things get tough at times and you must learn to take it. If that is all the guts you've got, you don't belong in baseball." Mickey knew that that rebuke meant, "But I think you have what it takes to make it." That negative rebuke from a positive attitude motivated him to go on to win the battle within and become a champion.
It is almost impossible to become a champion without the aid of external motivation. The Corinthian Christians would have settled down to a near pagan level without Paul's influence. All of us need the blessings of bumps, and the values that come from being reminded of our weaknesses and failures. Creative anxiety is what this is called by success writers. Most all successful people in any realm have it. It is that uncomfortable feeling that they were meant for more than what they now are. Walt Whitman in his autobiography wrote, "I was simmering, simmering. Emerson brought me to a boil." All of us need that external stimulus that will bring us to a boil where we act and begin to do something to grow and become the more we were meant to be.
Billy B. Sharp in his book Choose Success has a chapter entitled "Are you uncomfortable? That's Good!" In it he shows how successful people all through history have been motivated by dissatisfaction. He writes, "Unless you experience creative anxiety in your environment, you will not grow, for you are not being motivated to move from where you are to where you would like to be."
The Holy Spirit creates this uncomfortable feeling in the lives of those He draws into the Kingdom. Only that sinner who longs to be different responds to the Gospel of Christ, and finds life's greatest success in being saved by faith. Only those saints who are dissatisfied respond to rebuke and move on from the milk to acquire the taste for the meat of the Word. The Word has plenty of rebuke, but they know it is because God has a high view of their potential and wants them to grow. They use the Word, in both its negative and positive approach, as the key tool for the motivation to succeed.