First, I’d probably want to ask a small question. Does it feel as though people are dead around you? Or are there adversaries in your midst? They’re two different kinds of fruitlessness and pain, but that would be a question that I would ask. What I’ll respond to is it seems as though there’s nothing lively around you. Well, a couple thoughts. The first one will certainly not be helpful. The apostle Paul, of course, as you know, he leads us to anticipate such things because as you read, especially through 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians, there is almost this background question: “Will this enterprise fail?” Because the things he would see in the church when he spent time with these people, and he loved these people, to see that it looked like paganism more than people who were followers of Christ.
Where was life? And when Christ returned, would he find life in this church? So anyway, I guess I’m saying it’s not a new question. The apostle Paul suggests to us that you will encounter this question, but it doesn’t help when there’s other people who experience the same misery, but it’s worthwhile for us to remember. Other than that, let’s take the apostle Paul again. He begins his letter to Corinth and he says, “This is what I’ve seen in you.” Even though there’s a lot of deadness in you, he doesn’t say that, he’ll say that a little bit later. I see a lot of life in you. You have been given all kinds of gifts, and I have witnessed them and the world is witnessing them.
So what does it mean? You peel your eyes for those good things. Paul was able to see them, even in the Corinthian congregations. And we anticipate if you peel your eyes and you look for… But by the way, it’s the Spirit of the resurrection who is with us, and you anticipate, you will see the Spirit of the resurrection in you and around you. So like the apostle Paul, you look. You look, and then in your preaching, there’s just one thing. Perhaps before you preach, you can ask somebody from your congregation to pray for you, to simply pray for you, where you’re saying, “I recognize my inadequacies more than my strengths. And what we’re talking about today is a beautiful thing, and would there be somebody who would pray for me that it would be beautiful to my soul? It would be beautiful for all of us.”