Jump Start # 2325
2 Corinthians 10:10 “For they say, ‘His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive, and his speech contemptible.”
I’ve been on the road a lot lately preaching. I’ve met all kinds of wonderful people and many I have never known before. Some are our Jump Start readers. They were delighted to put a face to the one who writes these every day. They were so kind and many shared with me that they have saved so many of the Jump Starts and refer back to them over and over. The words I hear all the time are, “You can never stop writing.” There are days, several days, when I think we’ve just about reached the bottom of the barrel. But for now, onward we go.
It is interesting putting a face to a voice or to writing. I’ve heard guys on the radio, and when you see them in person, it’s not the image that you had in your mind. The same goes for those who write. For me, I preach a lot and I write a lot. Folks tell me that I write like I preach and I preach like I write. I guess I don’t know any other way of doing it, than this way.
Now, in our verse today, the Corinthians put a face and a voice with the letters that Paul had sent to them.
Our verse is the raw truth of how some felt about Paul. Those that said it meant for those words to sting. His letters, especially 1 Corinthians, packed a punch. He warned about those who denied the resurrection. He told the church to remove the immoral man from among them. He blistered them about abusing spiritual gifts. He was firm about the Lord’s supper. Paul had thumbed them pretty hard about their divisions and lack of unity. In their words, “his letters are weighty and strong.” However, when Paul came to Corinth, his image didn’t fit what they had imagined from the letters. They claimed he was “unimpressive” and his speech “contemptible.” His presence, they thought, wasn’t like he wrote.
- The ESV says his speech was “no account.”
- The NIV is even more blunt. It states his speech “amounts to nothing.”
In the world of preaching, there are many things that are said to a preacher. Some may not like the tie. Some may point out that his shirt needs ironing. Sound may say he talks too loud, or too fast. Those things generally do not stick with a preacher very much. But to say that his sermon “amounts to nothing,” now, that cuts to the core. That’s what this is all about. If the preaching was weak, shallow, empty, it reflects beyond the preacher’s ability, but to his work ethic, his study habits and even to his faith. These wicked Corinthians had been stung by Paul’s letter. Now they were throwing jabs back. Attack the messenger is much easier than it is to change your ways.
Now some lessons:
First, because folks say that his message is nothing, doesn’t mean that they were right. They had an agenda. They were trying to turn things on Paul. It was their hopes to deflect what he had said about them by questioning his ability. Sometimes a guy will give a Wednesday night invitation once every three months. And he begins to think that he knows all there is to know about preaching. Be careful.
Second, the truth is, some of us are better at writing than preaching a sermon and others are better at teaching a class than these other things. We like to compare. We rank the best teams, the best vacation spots, the best places to eat and our favorite preachers. The presentation of a sermon may be flawless, but if the sermon didn’t move me, change me, teach me, what value was it? God has given all of us our own unique voices. Personally, I don’t like mine. I don’t like listening to myself on the internet. I hear too many mistakes and I wish I used different words and I find myself being a speech teacher and not a listener to God’s word. We can do that. We can catch all the mistakes and miss the sermon. We can be so critical that the sermon doesn’t help us. I know some preachers that just do not like to write. That doesn’t make them a bad preacher. It’s not their gift. Others can talk to someone so easily and get that person into a Bible study. We remember that Apollos came to Corinth. We remember that Apollos is defined as one who was mighty in the Scriptures and an eloquent man. I expect side by side, many would rather hear Apollos than Paul. We need to stop comparing. Each preacher is uniquely gifted and we need to honor him for that.
Third, some things should never be said. Paul in our verse today, is quoting what he heard. Those things should never have been said. They do not do any good and they only hurt. This was the intention of the Corinthians. They wanted to slam Paul. Today, we ought to just keep our mouths quite. Like Thumper’s mother, in the Disney cartoon Bambi, “if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.” I’ve had people say to me, “You’re not my favorite preacher.” I’m speechless. What am I supposed to say? Should I say, “Well, you’re not my favorite Christian.” Our jobs is not to be everyone’s favorite. Ours is to preach the word of God. Sometimes that means stepping on toes. Sometimes that means putting the message right on your front porch.
Fourth, preaching is about persuading. It’s using God’s word to convince you that you need to change, do better, step it up, become more committed and more engaged in the kingdom work. A good sermon is one that helped me get closer to the Lord. A good sermon may have tanned my hide and made me feel guilty, but if that leads me to walking closer to the Lord, then it was good. A good sermon ought to drive out the selfishness and the excuses out of me. A good sermon makes a better me. Some preachers are slow and very calculated. They, like an attorney in a courtroom, build up evidence and reason and in the conclusion they leave no doubt about what we ought to be doing. Others shoot straight for the heart. Plain, clear and bold. Some preachers simply talk. Others shout. Some tell a story that weaves through the Scriptures. Some connect dots from the O.T. to the N.T. Some are very practical, leaving no doubt as to what we ought to do. And, in all of this, we ought to see that just as people are different, so are preachers. There isn’t one style or one way. You may like one style more than another. One method may connect with you more than another. But that doesn’t mean someone who is preaching God’s word in a different style is wrong. Not at all.
Finally, had these sour Corinthians had their way, Paul would leave them alone. Yet, if that happened, they would not be walking with the Lord very much longer. Sin in their hearts and in their minds was ripping them apart. They needed Paul. What he wrote and what he preached was the very medicine that would keep them from falling apart. His words would keep them close to the Lord. Without Paul, they would have been lost. Sometimes what we need to hear isn’t fun and games. There is a time to be serious. There is a time to be silent and listen. There is a time for correction, improving and changing. God’s word would do that, if they would only allow Paul to preach it.
His preaching amounts to nothing. That typically is something said by someone whose life is amounting to nothing. They’d rather have Satan than Jesus. They would rather follow their way than God’s way. They aren’t about to change and their pride leads them to attacking God’s messenger. They had no problem attacking God’s chosen apostle. Shame on them and shame on us when we stand in their shadows and do not support those who give their hearts and their lives to trying to save us eternally.
Keep it up preacher. Some days your sermons fly out of the ball park. Other days you may feel like you struck out. Keep at it. Keep at it. And, keep at it. I love those who preach. They are my heroes.