With Fear and Trembling

Paul leaves Athens and makes his way to Corinth, about 50 miles away (Acts 18:1). He describes his arrival in 1 Corinthians 2, without eloquence or superior wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:1), resolved to know nothing except Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2) and that he came to them in fear and trembling (1 Corinthians 2:3). Interestingly enough, Acts 18:9-10, reveal a vision given to Paul for him not to fear. While Paul had been in danger in many places, there is no biblical evidence that he ever before was warned in a vision not to be afraid.

It is likely that what happened in Athens affected him more than we expect:

  1. Few converts.
  2. Overwhelmed by pagan and polytheistic beliefs.
  3. They wanted to argue philosophy when Paul wanted to discuss the truth.
  4. These few converts failed to produce any fruit, no church was established.
  5. He spent his time in Athens alone.

While Timothy and Silas may have come as he asked, perhaps they were quickly sent elsewhere (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2). Perhaps Paul just moved on in frustration. It is likely that Paul was focusing on the negative and lost sight of the positive. Have you ever done that?

Have you ever noticed how solitude can affect your state of mind? Perspective changes, we see that everything is bad and cannot see the silver lining. Insecurity can lead to immobilization; sadness turns into depression; intimidation turns into terror.

First Corinthians 2:1 indicates that Paul left Athens feeling intimidated. The child prodigy and former Pharisee must have felt humiliated by their harsh words, calling him a babbler (Acts 17:18). He resolved to know nothing except Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2), not relying on his persuasive abilities or theological speeches.

God taught Paul a lesson that day, that without the Spirit, no one can accept or understand the things of God, because to him they are foolishness to him (1 Corinthians 1:23, 2:14). As we speak up for Christ, we cannot believe that we are foolish just because we were not persuasive enough. Paul was weak (1 Corinthians 2:3) which might be interpreted that he was so scared that he became ill. The man had lost his confidence. Perhaps he wondered if the fruit in other cities was the result of God blessing Silas or Barnabas rather than him.

The enemy would love to see God’s servants in self doubt, but Paul writes about a great demonstration of the Spirit’s power (1 Corinthians 2:4), which means proof. The abundant fruit produced through his preaching was proof of the Spirit’s power. God often proves Himself when we have the least to offer (1 Corinthians 1:26, 27).

Application: Perhaps God has opened a door for you and you lack confidence. Insecurity can hold people back from the ministry that God has planned for them. There are many wonderful promises in the Bible when we are weak: the Lord is our confidence (Proverbs 3:26), your strength will equal your days (Deuteronomy 33:25), My grace is sufficient for you, My power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Stand strong in the fact that God is the One at work in you, and the ministry He has for us will be accomplish through Him and not our own abilities, creativity, goals, action plans or strength. God has called us to be faithful and not necessarily successful, according to the world’s standards.

Leaders in a Dark Valley

I read just yesterday about several pastors who resigned their churches and “are available for interim or other full time work.” It broke my heart because I interpreted this to mean they had no other choices but to leave their position due to some sort of issue(s). I talked to a former pastor friend of mine the other evening and he left his pastorate for personal reasons but we talked about a lot of the dysfunction that is in the DNA of the congregation.

I read this leadership devotion just this morning and wanted to pass it on to you. Taking courage because His presence will not leave you:

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

Life in general is filled with highs and lows, but it can especially be apparent for those in Christian ministry leadership positions. Just look at how many pastors, youth ministers, and worship directors eventually leave ministry. The work wears on a person. The constant complaints of doing too little of this or too much of that can drain anyone. As a leader, you are expected to be there for everyone at every moment of the day. No one is able to be there at all times. Still, guilt fills the mind and causes you to doubt your ministry and your effectiveness.

Yet, we are not left alone in this world. Through the darkest valleys of life, through the most difficult times of ministry, God is with us. As we lead his people, we can rest knowing that God leads us. When things get tight, the problems don’t seem to go away, and we struggle with guilt–the false guilt of not being able to be there for everyone–God will comfort us. He shields us even during the assaults of bitter people and harsh words. He will always lead us in a path meant to protect us and keep us strong.

When the road is dark and tough, God will guide and protect you. When you feel overwhelmed with loneliness, the Lord is close beside you. When your heart is asking hard questions and you feel beaten down, God will sustain you. We don’t need to live in fear, for God is always with you. He is willing to comfort and protect you. He guides you through every mountain and valley of life. He is your true Leader/Shepherd. And the more you trust him as Lord, the more you will experience the wonder of having a Shepherd.

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