There’s a paradox in ministry and it is this: The glory of God is displayed through our weakness. The apostle Paul says it like this, “But we have his treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Cor 4:7). That’s not to say that our strengths, which are a blessing from, are bad or unimportant. However, it does remind us not to take ourselves too seriously and fret about our weaknesses. Yet I don’t know of many ministers who want to boast about their weakness, including myself.
However, this is where we begin running into problems. The truth is that we can accomplish a lot of good when we utilize our strengths (skill sets, charisma, leadership, etc…) and there’s nothing in the passage cited above that says otherwise. And let’s face it, it pays off in the human economy when we accomplish good. We minister in a Christian culture that so often rewards success and judges failure. If the church is growing, both the church and ourselves receive a lot of recognition. And who doesn’t like to be recognized?
For the Glory of God!
Of course, we want to glorify God. I don’t know of any minister who doesn’t. Yet the desire for recognition and certainly to not be thought of as a failure, as incompetent, can really mess things up. Left unchecked, we become intoxicated with ourselves and like any form of intoxication, it is unhealthy and sinful. Left unchecked, we end up ministering for our own glory rather than the glory of God.
But why is that such a problem? I was thinking about all of this yesterday as I read through chapters thee, four, and five of 2 Corinthians this afternoon. It occurred to me that this is an identity issue. That is, when our sense of satisfaction and happiness depends on the rewards we receive in the form of praise and recognition from others, we are not locating our identity in Christ and the promises of God. In Christ, we are God’s children and God is pleased with us. That is who we are and the reality of our identity.
By understanding our identity in Christ, we can accept that we are jars of clay. Such understanding and acceptances frees us from worrying about failure and fretting about our weakness. Even more so, we are free to glorify God again. Though we will still minister from our strength, we’ll do so for the glory of God rather than for our own recognition.