|One of my favorite postcards|
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
It's easy to think that if God wants to do something great, he needs great people. But great people are not needed to accomplish great things for God. Paul flips the status-hierarchy thing on its head (just as Jesus did).
God uses weak vessels to display his surpassing glory. This is why Paul is not freaking out about his own personal weaknesses. He knew his shortcomings. He's not physically impressive. He's not a great speaker. He's got a unibrow. People fall asleep while he preaches. Some even die.
New Testament scholar David Garland writes:
"Paul has become the suffering apostle of the suffering Messiah. We can learn from his example that ministers [pastors] do not have to be wonderful, just faithful. Many labor under the enormous burden of trying to be wonderful in the eyes of others rather than simply trying to minister to them. Many a minister suffers burnout from trying to run a sparkling program, keeping up attendance while keeping down conflict, and preaching catchy sermons instead of preaching Christ." (David Garland, 2 Corinthians, 230)
What our people need is not another performance, but God's empowering, majestic presence. Pastors are but jars of clay who bear within themselves the light of the gospel.
Painfully ordinary. But with the power of God inside.
What did the apostle Paul look like?