Gospeling in Corinth 3: God-Empowered

1-2You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God’s master stroke, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified.

3-5I was unsure of how to go about this, and felt totally inadequate—I was scared to death, if you want the truth of it—and so nothing I said could have impressed you or anyone else. But the Message came through anyway. God’s Spirit and God’s power did it, which made it clear that your life of faith is a response to God’s power, not to some fancy mental or emotional footwork by me or anyone else. (1 Cor 2:1-5)

The Bible is filled with freaked out, tongue-tied messengers commissioned with bringing God’s Word into risky situations.  Moses stammers when he speaks but is told to go to pharaoh. Jeremiah thinks he’s too young and inexperienced but that doesn’t get him off the hook. Paul had a reputation for being impressive in writing but awkward in person. (I can relate!)

Those of us pastors and speakers who have the privilege to share God’s Message with others regularly can gain reassurance from passages like this that remind us that even the great apostle had many moments of uncertainty and doubt. Do you find it encouraging to know that even Paul “felt totally inadequate” and “scared to death” at times?  I do.

Do you speak, preach or teach regularly to groups?  Do you go through deep valleys of uncontrollable self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy in ministry?  This can be a weight that sinks your ministry under the waters of despair, or it can be the thing that drives you to become more dependent on God’s power in your ministry. Paul’s greatest legacy was his utter dependence on God to be his “strength in weakness.”  He believed with every bone in his body that the effectiveness of his ministry — his preaching of the Message — depended on God’s power.

But sharing the message of the gospel is not a task reserved for pastors and preachers.  We are all called to “give a reason for the hope that lies within us” and share this with others “with gentleness and respect.”  So, what pointers can we glean from Paul above as we strive to become God-empowered messengers of the Kingdom?

  • Don’t try to impress your hearers (v. 1). You’re not an entertainer, you’re a messenger entrusted with a life-changing Word to share.
  • Keep it simple (v. 2). Dressing up the truth to make it more appealing, funny or cute can lead people to grab onto the wrong thing. Keep it simple.
  • Keep Jesus at the center (v. 2). Make sure everything comes back to Jesus insofar as possible: “First Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did.”
  • Be real, be vulnerable (v. 3). Paul is not afraid to tell his flock of his personal doubts, fears and struggles. We shouldn’t either. Sincerity earns you credibility with your audience.
  • Depend on God (vv. 4-5). Always. Your message is only effective if the Holy Spirit works through it. “Let go and let God.”

This is hitting home for me right now as I labor to be a faithful and effective messenger of God’s Word. I thank God for choosing people like Paul, and inspiring his writings like this and placing them in the holy Scriptures to encourage ordinary people like me who are also “unsure of how to go about this, and feel totally inadequate.”

It’s a good thing it’s not really about us.  The ministry of the gospel is God-empowered ministry.

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