1Co 15:10-11 “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.”
Paul readily admitted that he was not worthy to be called an apostle (see verse 9). This is a common theme of those who are truly called by God into His service. They do not consider themselves to be fit or able to serve Him, and truly, in our own strength, we are not. David recognized that every man in his best state is altogether vanity (Psa 39:5).
There is only one thing that can change the situation for us. It is not our will or our works. We were what we were (as was Paul) according to our sinful nature, but by the grace of God we are made a new creature. By His grace alone, we are quickened from death unto life, and by His grace alone, we are called and blessed to become the servants (apostles, preachers, teachers, prophets, witnesses, etc.) of the living God.
God grace was not bestowed upon Paul in vain (for nothing). Neither does God bestow His grace on us today for nothing. God bestowed His grace on Paul that he should be able to endure hardship and affliction resulting in the spreading of the gospel of Christ. All that he endured he counted as meaningless for the joy of serving our Lord and Master.
In the same fashion today, we find that having the grace of God bestowed upon us that we might serve Him is not a guarantee of a bed of roses. We are guaranteed that His grace is not bestowed in vain and that His word will not return unto Him void. Paul applied that grace to the extent that though he considered himself personally to be the least of the apostles (v. 9), he labored more abundantly than any of the others.
Notice that Paul did not say he labored more effectively, but more abundantly. Paul wrote more letters to the churches than the other apostles. It appears he traveled more than any of the others. It could be argued that he impacted more individuals than any of the others. What we cannot lose sight of is what made this possible.
Paul still did not take any credit of all of this abundance. He tells us that it was not him, but the grace of God that was with him. The abundance came from God and not from Paul (or you and me).
Whether we have been called to serve in the same county of the same state for fifty years or have traveled all over the world preaching the gospel is not the thing to be focused on. Whichever the case may be, it is still today the grace of God that is with us. It is God that gets the praise, honor, and glory. It is not about comparing who has the more abundant labor.
If one man has preached a thousand sermons and another a hundred, the quantity is not what matters. Who it was that did the preaching of these sermons does not matter. That the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are preached is what matters (v.3-4). It matters that we confess that it is not we ourselves, but the grace of God that is with us that makes our labor possible.
May we live so that others see that it is by the grace of God that we are His servants and not of anything we can boast of in ourselves!