I came to you in weakness with great fear and 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 human wisdom, but on God’s power.
1 Corinthians 2:3-5
This ought to be one of the most encouraging passages to any of us who have tried to be a witness as a Christian. Speaking of the things of Christ and the things of God is easy in a church like this where you are gathered with Christian friends because nobody objects. However, when you try to talk about these things with unbelievers, people who are committed to the philosophy of taking care of number one first and who are out to seek for fame or fortune or whatever it may be, you find it very difficult. You feel much personal weakness and fear and trembling. That is the way Paul felt, and that ought to be an encouragement to us.
The reason he felt like this is because what he was saying to them was not in line with what the world wants to hear about itself. It did not massage the ego of man; it did not make him sound like he was incredibly important. Paul deliberately rejected that approach which is wrong because it does not help man. Instead, he began to talk about this judgment of God upon the thinking, the attitudes, and the wisdom of man, and it left him feeling rejected. In a sense that is what Paul was suffering in Corinth. He came, but there was no great ego-pleasing reception for him, there were no dinners, there was no Academy Award given to him.
He tells us how he felt. He felt fearful, weak, and ineffective. He felt his words were not outstanding; he felt he did not impress anybody by the way he came at this. Have you ever felt that way? I have, many times. I have sat down with somebody to witness to him and I felt as if I had two tongues and they were stumbling over one another. I did not seem to have the right answers to things. I could only talk about how it affected me; I felt like I was doing nothing effective. Yet Paul was not discouraged. In the book of Acts we are told that after he had been in Corinth for a few months the Lord Jesus appeared to him in a vision and strengthened him and said to him, “Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent, … and no man shall attack you to harm you,” (Acts 18:9-10). Paul was afraid he was going to be beaten up as he had been in other cities. He was afraid of being branded as a religious fanatic. He did not like those feelings, nevertheless he faithfully began to talk about Jesus Christ.
Soon there was a second visible result. Paul calls it the “demonstration of the Spirit’s power.” As Paul in this great sense of weakness told the facts and the story out of the simple earnestness of his heart, God’s spirit began to work and people started coming to Christ. You read the account in Acts. First, the rulers of the synagogue turned to Christ, and then hundreds of the common, ordinary, plain people of Corinth began to become Christians. Soon there was a great spiritual awakening, and before the city of Corinth knew what had happened, a church had been planted in its midst and a ferment was running throughout the city. I believe that this working through our human inadequacy is God’s continuous and perennial way of evangelism.
Does that encourage you? It does me. You may sit down with somebody over a cup or coffee and hardly know how to say it, but you stammer out some word about what Jesus Christ has meant to you, and the earnestness in your face and the love and compassion in your heart comes through in that simple way and somebody is touched who would never have been reached by eloquent oratory or rhetoric. That is what Paul is talking about, the simplicity of the approach. He knew what he was doing because he was simply being honest with them. He was telling them what was true about their life.
Father, thank you that you have come to fill me with the glory of the truth and of life, of hope and of courage, of faith and fulfillment. I pray that, despite fear and trembling, I may be willing to speak for you.
Do we fall apart when our attempted witness is received with rejection and skepticism? Are we learning to speak the Truth with compassion? Do we count on the power of God, rather than our own human resources?