For it is by grace you have been saved...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Foolishness of Preaching and Preachers

You know, it’s tough to get too egotistical about what you do for a living when God Himself calls it foolishness. Paul writes to the church at Corinth about how the message of the Gospel flies in the face of what the world calls wise. 1 Corinthians 1:21 says: “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (ESV). King James says: “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”

So whether we’re talking about the message or the messenger, from the world’s standpoint, it’s all foolishness. And to be honest, there are many days when I feel pretty foolish doing it.

Not that I have any doubt about the message. It’s foolish to the world, but “it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” according to Romans 1:16. The Word is strong and true. The Word is powerful and effective. The Word is alive; it’s just that the preacher is sometimes, well, not.

I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. My preaching hero, Charles Spurgeon, once preached from this same Corinthian letter, focusing about 10 verses later than the above where Paul reminds us that the one who boasts, should boast in the Lord. In the midst of that sermon, he spoke of his own weakness in preaching by saying: “I felt when I was coming up to preach tonight as if I had been down like a little child to the sea, and I had stooped to the wave and filled my palms as well as I could with the sparkling water, but as I have been coming to bring it to you, it has nearly all trickled away, for I am not able to hold it by reason of my leaking hands.” (C. H. Spurgeon, Glorying In The Lord). (BTW - Thanks to Eddie Eddings over at Calvinistic Cartoons for reminding me of this wonderful quote).

What a beautiful picture of the whole preaching process. Weak and “leaking” men trying to share with people the crystal clear truth of the Word of God in all it’s depth. What a challenge. And how foolish it seems that God would allow men to even attempt it.

I admit to feeling weak and worthless often. And reading such thoughts from men like Spurgeon who have been used by God to do such amazing things for the Kingdom, makes me feel even more foolish; my efforts even more futile.

In fact, as the folks at the Metropolitan Tabernacle gathered to celebrate their famed pastor’s 50th birthday, Spurgeon had this to say about his own preaching ability: “I confess I would not go across the street to hear myself preach.” Now if that be true of a man thousands of others crossed more than a street to come hear preach, where does that leave pitiful pretenders like me?

Actually, it leaves me in a pretty good place: in the hands of God. And that was really Spurgeon’s point, as well as Paul’s. The world may see us as foolish. We may even feel foolish most of the time. But it’s not about us. As Paul goes on to say: “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).

Foolish, weak, low and despised. Yep, that pretty much sums up my life and ministry. Not that I’m having a pity party. Just that it reminds me that it’s not about me at all. As I tell our folks around here, over and over, “It’s All About God.” It’s all about Christ, all for His glory, all for His purposes.

I need that reminder. I need to remember that it’s about His glory, His Word, His purpose and His power at work in His church. I’m just a weak fool with leaky hands who isn’t worth crossing the street to hear. So I ask that you pray for me; pray for your pastor; pray for all those who enter pulpits week by week with knocking knees, being fools for God. Pray, as Paul says in Ephesians 6:19 “that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel.” And pray that in so doing, God will see fit to visit us with His power, to save those who believe through the folly of our preaching. Soli Deo Gloria.


Gregg Metcalf said...

Great post brother and a great reminder, we are but men, vessels, leaky vessels at best serving and preaching for his glory! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

AMEN! I love it! Looks like you and I both had preaching on the brain as I just finished a post this morning here on preaching.

Absoultey fantastic thoughts. I was struck at the concept of sufficiency and looked up 2 Corinthians 3:4-6. This passage has always encouraged me:
"4Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. 5Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 6He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."

Hey-I love your blog by the way. Where did you get the Paul Washer/Heartcry sermon widget?! I hope that will work on my site. I love Paul and have met him a few times. Great and godly man.

Scott said...

Thanks, guys. Appreciate the thoughts.

And, Paul, the Sermon widget came right from the HeartCry site:

Don't remember exactly where on the site, but it came from them.

Thanks again for the thoughts and encouragement.

Eddie Eddings said...

The Spurgeon quote is one of my favorites. I have it written in the front cover of one of my Bibles. Having preached many times myself, I always felt like this but, was never able to express my feelings as poetically as Spurgeon. I cannot understand preachers who are proud of their accomplishments or who try and top another preacher's sermon. Spurgeon had an amazing balance in his heart for God's work and his "contribution".