1 Corinthians 2:1-5: When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
The apostle Paul is someone that I greatly admire as a minister for Christ. Saul (his name before he became Paul), was a persecutor of the believers in the early church. He did everything in his power to destroy the gospel message of our Lord Jesus Christ. I imagine that Saul never envisioned that God would one day use him to spread the gospel message to the Gentiles. Saul became Paul and even though God used him in a powerful way, he was faced with many trials and hardships during his ministry.
Paul discovered early in his ministry that it was not about his own will or any special abilities that he possessed as a teacher and minister. Paul knew that he would only be successful by the power of God and not by his own human power or intelligence. Paul, in writing about the hardships that he suffered in the province of Asia said, “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9b). He knew that his ministry would only be successful if he followed the path that God had put him on. And while on that pathway, Paul knew that if he relied solely upon himself, he would fail in his ministry. Through his many hardships and trials, Paul learned to trust God.
This past Mother’s Day, I was asked to preach at a church that was going through some difficulty. The pastor had left the church and it was apparent that this church was struggling with their future direction. My family and I went to the church and we noticed that everyone was not quite as friendly as they were in the other churches where I have preached recently. I gave the sermon (maybe not my best, but certainly not my worst) and a church member closed the service in prayer. And then I knew that something was amiss in this church.
As I came down out of the pulpit, I believe that only two or three people actually spoke to me. I could sense something that I had not noticed in the other churches where I have had the opportunity to preach. I don’t know if it was the message of my sermon or the way that I presented it – I believe that it had less to do with me and more with the internal struggle that they were going through. I tried to tell myself that the “cold response” had nothing to do with me but I’m not sure that I have convinced myself of that almost four months later. That was the last sermon that I have preached and it has left a bad taste in my mouth.
Recently, several other “doors” have closed for me and it’s something that I am not sure I have yet to come to terms with. I have asked myself why certain opportunities seem to pass me by and I do not have an answer to that question. I struggle with what God is calling me to do but I do not for one second doubt my calling. I believe that God is closing doors to established churches for me in order to call me into a completely different direction in ministry. And I am praying that I will be willing to endure and trust in God to use me in the way He has planned.
This morning I read a passage from 2 Corinthians where Paul writes about his ministry to the Gentiles. “Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said good-by to them and went on to Macedonia. But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him” (2 Corinthians 2: 12-14).
Hopefully one day that “door” will open for me and I will find the place that God has planned for me in ministry. Until then I will not give up and I will use each experience to help me to grow in the knowledge and grace of God so that I will be ready for whatever opportunity that God has for me. And I will continue to preach and teach the gospel message of Christ, my Lord and Savior, who defeated sin and death so that we may have life eternal if only we will believe in Him.