I can’t get the words from the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians off my heart: “And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom … (1 Cor. 2:3-4).”
What? Paul was nervous? It can’t be! It just can’t be!
We’re talking about Paul here, right? Bold Paul with his mighty voice and his powerful speeches? Paul, who influenced the masses, built up churches, convinced the unconvincible Paul?
That Paul? Say it ain’t so.
But it was so, and Paul tells us so. And he tells us that even though he was scared out of his wits and all panicky and shy and afraid of really ticking off some people who could lock him up – or even kill him – he went anyway. He spoke anyway. And that’s his point, right? Even in his petrified state, Paul spoke up.
No way could we be as brave as Paul, right? I mean, this is Paul we’re talking about here. We can’t all be Paul.
Or can we?
If we skip ahead to 2 Corinthians, Paul lets us in on a little secret: in his weakness, Christ made Paul strong.
Oh, oh, oh Paul! Why didn’t you just say so! I am as weak as a mayfly. As vulnerable as an ice cube in Thailand. In the words of the Wicked Witch of the West, sometimes I feel as though “I am melting! I am mellllllltiiiing!”
I was reading recently about Phil Robertson, head of the “Duck Dynasty” empire, who came to know Jesus through a guy who walked into his bar one night and was bold enough to share the gospel.
Talk about melting! Can you imagine the streams of wetness exuding from this guy’s armpits? (You don’t have to really imagine it, but now that I’ve got that picture in your head, just go with it.) I don’t care if you’re the Revs. Jesse Jackson or Billy Graham, anybody who walks into a bar to share the gospel is bound to develop some armpit flooding!
But this guy went anyway. Despite the sweating and the sneers and the foul-mouthed comments he must have received, he went and he spoke, and his heart was probably beating a thousand beats per minute, and he changed a life – Phil Robertson’s life! Who knew, right? Who knew that one moment in time, those few moments of being uncomfortable and sweaty and awkward and petrified would impact thousands of lives more than three decades later?
That was Paul in Corinth. And that’s us now, each one of us every day. And we can’t use sweaty armpits as an excuse anymore.