Where Faith Rests
"And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”
1 Corinthians 2:1-5.
Lately I’ve been asking myself what ministry actually, practically, looks like here. What does it look like to really show the love of Jesus to everyone we work with in the midst of programs that inherently have the ability to function without the presence of God? You could probably give me a hundred answers, strategies, theologies, verses. And they would probably be very good. But there is something about this passage and attitude of Paul here that is so simple and counter-intuitive to the way we approach ministry.
The idea of sharing the gospel incites fear because we don’t feel like we have the wisdom, education, or correct argument to feel like we can convince or properly counter whatever belief system someone prescribes to. Strategies and programs are easier to create and talk about. They give us something tangible. Something to hold and show to the world as evidence of our impact.
The disciples did this too. They gave food to the needy as a part of their ministry. But the disciples aren’t remembered as people who helped a lot of poor people.
What should Story be remembered for? We work with the vulnerable not primarily to put them in better economical situations or even in families. We do it as an avenue to introduce them to Jesus. Would you rather see a child who never finds a family but has fallen deeply in love with Jesus, or a beautiful story of an abandoned orphan who is adopted into a family but loses his faith and pursues the riches of the world for his whole life?
If we really believe the abundance of life found in Jesus is infinitely greater than what life in the world can give us then Jesus comfort, not world comfort, is our goal. It’s easy to write, but we must take on the attitude of Paul to really believe and put it into practice.
The question I keep asking is “Do we really believe Jesus is enough?”
Do we believe he is enough for the orphan? Do we believe Jesus is enough for the broken family? Can we release our own strategy and responsibility and rely on him? Or do we see it as strategy + Jesus? Good ideas + Jesus? Programming + Jesus?
All these things are good. But we often feel like we have to create these boxes for Jesus to move within or he won’t move at all. Paul wasn’t worried about whether Jesus would be enough. He was worried that he might be too much.
Paul was really smart. He knew he could go into a room and convince people to believe in Jesus. He spent most of his life convincing people to not believe in Jesus. But he realized that the wisdom and strategy of man had the tendency to produce faith in the wisdom and strategy of man. Those who’s lives have been changed by human strength will continue to pursue human strength and work to increase their own human strength to bring others into their belief system.
So where does our faith rest? On human wisdom, or on the power of God? It is imperative that our ministries create strategies birthed by God, and then continue to rely on Jesus to refine and execute and sometimes eliminate those strategies. I don’t want to be able to point to any part of Story’s ministry and say “I thought of that.” I want to be able to point to every part, however, and say, “God birthed that in us, God showed us that in a dream, God spoke that in a time of prayer.” And it’s true that God doesn’t always speak to people in dreams or visions or dramatic entrances. But my question would be, have we even given him the space to do that if he wanted to (he wants to)?
Many of us are gifted with the wisdom of Paul and never have the opportunity to experience the power of God. It was the power of God sovereignly breaking through to Paul that shattered the wisdom he had. But perhaps it was the decision Paul made to leave that wisdom behind that allowed the power of God to move through him. Earthly wisdom implies a holding on to that which we’ve been taught. Heavenly wisdom is a letting go of the culture and methods we’ve been steeped in and yielding to the ways of heaven stirring in us.
Let our faith not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. Let our confidence in his promise and our experience of his power be the rock that we stand on as we contend for the orphan. He can do anything. Sometimes all we have to do is get out of the way.