We rarely get a response to our assemblies being broadcast on television, but when we do, it’s often memorable. Such was the case this week, when a lady left a long, rambling voicemail message about her dislike for the sermon.
Now I’m not exactly sure which sermon she was reacting to, but if I had to guess, I would guess that it was the sermon I preached based on Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 11 and 12. Among the points of her critique: it didn’t excite her, it sounded like you had to go to heaven to be blessed, and “I want my blessings right here and now.”
And that’s precisely the problem with 2 Corinthians. As I mentioned a number of times as I preached and taught this letter, much of what 2 Corinthians has to say, preachers don’t want to preach and churches don’t want to hear. And what’s more, the message of 2 Corinthians directly contradicts much of the preaching that is popular today.
- We want our Paul to be on a perpetual spiritual high. He’s not; instead, he’s is despair.
- We want our Paul to calm the storm so the ship can safely sail. He doesn’t; instead, he’s shipwrecked, three times.
- We want our Paul to strike blind bandits and render speechless the critics. He doesn’t; instead, he faces the danger.
- We want our Paul to “have a hedge of protection around him.” I have no doubt God protected him, yet he had been sleepless, hungry, thirsty, and cold.
- We want our Paul to have his thorn removed the moment he prays. But instead, he prays and the thorn remains. He prays again and again. The thorn remains. And as a result, Paul experiences God’s sufficient grace.
- What we want is our Paul to be a super-apostle; but instead, he’s a clay pot.
God our Father,
Help us hear Your voice above all the noise.
Help us trust You.
Help us rely on You rather than ourselves.
May we experience Your sufficient grace.
May we learn the power of weakness.
May our self-awareness include being a clay pot.
May we learn to love You more than the stuff You give us.
In Jesus’ name,