Construction-buildMy alarm rang at 3:30 a.m. I’m not a morning person. My wife, Deborah, is.

Most mornings I stagger around like a cranky zombie. She bounces out of bed ready to attack a new day. Opposites attract.

We are on the 6:25 a.m. Manila to Tokyo to Detroit to Nashville. I’m thinking about starting a global campaign to ban all pre-noon international flights. Believe it or not, we encountered bumper-to-bumper traffic at 4:30 a.m. on the way to the airport—only in Manila. I am also campaigning for an early morning traffic ban.

Since I can’t sleep on planes, no matter how sleep deprived I may be, I turned on my iPad Bible and started reading 1 Corinthians 3:10-12:

“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw ... ” (NIV, emphasis added).

The apostle Paul referred to himself as an “expert builder.” Apostles are supposed to build. It is common today for preachers to print business cards with the "A-word" whether or not they have actually built anything. These modern apostles preach sermons and write books and do conferences, but do they build anything that lasts?

One cannot become an expert builder by reading and listening to podcasts. Reading is good, but expertise is developed only when we actually attempt to build something.

If you want to be an expert builder in the church world, notice three key concepts in verse 10 above:

1. Grace, not gifts. Expert builders work hard, but know that God’s grace is the key to real success. Paul said he built according to “the grace God has given [him].” Expert builders recognize the specific grace God has given them. Insecure builders try to copy the grace God has given to others.

2. Foundations, not flash. Rather than trying to do everything by themselves, expert builders focus on establishing strong foundations. Verse 11 tells us that the foundation is Jesus Christ. Paul was not threatened when others built on the foundation he established. Expert builders build foundations so that others could build on it. Insecure builders don’t allow anyone else to build on their foundation.

 3. Others, not self. Paul was pleased that “someone else” was building on his foundation. Verse 12 tells us that “any man” might build on the foundation. As soon as the foundation is strong, “someone else” and “any man” can start building, as long as they use quality material—gold, silver, costly stones. Expert builders equip and empower “someone else” and “any man” to build on the foundation. Insecure builders feel threatened when “someone else” or “any man” builds on their foundation.

Do you want to be an expert builder? Three words: grace, foundations and others.

Steve and Deborah Murrell went to the Philippines in 1984 for a one-month summer mission trip that never ended. They are the founding pastors of Victory Manila, one church that meets in 14 locations in Metro Manila and has planted churches in 60 Philippine cities and 20 nations. Currently, Victory has more than 6,000 discipleship groups that meet in coffee shops, offices, dormitories and homes in Metro Manila. Steve is co-founder and president of Every Nation Churches and Ministries, a family of churches focused on church planting, campus ministry and world missions.

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