We often experience the ongoing, persistent, perspective all around us that ministry is about competence, ability, leadership, motivation, giftedness, and calling. Seminary teaches us biblical knowledge, theological precision, and speaking acumen (among many, many other things).
The apostle Paul has something much different to say about himself, first — that should give us pause and cause our hearts deep reflection — Corinthians 12:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Ministry is about weakness, not about strength.
Ministry is about leaning into the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ; His grace and His grace alone — is sufficient. Christ desires to give power to the leaders of His church, but He only entrusts power to the weak and broken — to those who have come to the end of self.
We are invited to acknowledge and live out — daily, hourly, minute-by-minute — deep weakness and brokenness; and from there comes our dependence on the sufficiency and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ in every ministry endeavor.
Francis Schaeffer calls us “glorious ruins.” We are humanity imbued with the glory of the Creator, made in His image and in His likeness. But at the same time we have horribly marred, broken places, places broken by sin and the world around us — seemingly beyond recognition and repair.
So the people of God are glorious ruins, being brought, through the transforming power of the gospel, more and more into conformance with the image of the Son. And as ministers or potential ministers, God also chooses “glorious ruins” to love and lead His church on earth. We are also marred by sin. We are also broken in innumerable, horrible ways. We are weak. Paul says this about His heart and life: “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
My first encouragement based on this is to live in constant acknowledgement of our brokenness and sin, knowing and understanding that God uses everything around us — insults hardships, persecutions and calamities — to bring us to the foot of Cross.
Which leads directly to the second encouragement: We should then lean into, throw ourselves on, trust completely in the grace and power of Christ, and in Him alone for repentance, strength, knowledge, understanding and power. It is His work; He is the head of the church and the shepherd of His sheep. He is infinitely able — and capable. We are invited into relationship of trust and love with Him.
And lastly, Paul tells us he is content. He is rested, satisfied, not anxious about his weaknesses, for in weakness, he is strong. Rest knowing that the Sovereign of the universe has us and His church. And He is calling men and women into ministry to be used as we are, where we are — for His glory.