“On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God.” II Cor 2:17
I have always been sincere when I preached, but sincerity might not been quite enough. Besides, sincerity is very difficult to define. I may have a sincere desire for people to get saved, but my sincerity may be based on my ability and eloquence.
Such wasn’t the sincerity that Paul was speaking about; he was perhaps implying that we must base our sincerity on God’s sovereignty and his ability to save sinners.
It was a small crowd at the seaside retreat and I definitely spoke with a lot of zeal, but being zealous wasn’t quite enough. Anyone can be zealous when she or he is placed at a podium in front of an audience. Our instinct to perform immediately kicks in when the stage is ours and we tend to shine the brightest when there is an opportunity for us to shine.
Was I preaching or was I merely performing?
I was indeed quite animated, more so than I usually am, and I spoke for an hour and fifteen minutes nonstop. What was I thinking about when it was all done?
“How did I do?” I asked my poor wife, who had to sit through my sermon, without understanding exactly what I was trying to say.
‘You did a good job,” she replied. What else could she have done except to give me a little affirmation and stroke my ego?
“What did the Lord do through the Holy Spirit?” This should have been the question that I asked; yet I was only thinking about myself.
“It’s not about you, stupid,” one coach said to his star player. ‘It’s about the team,” he added.
“It’s about the Lord, not about me,” I said to myself. If I were to take the credit for people getting saved, which is a rare occurrence under my preaching, I would also have to take the blame for people not getting saved as well, which seems to occur on a regular basis.
I was sent by God to speak to the small group of people gathered there. If my Master truly sent me, then I should have delivered his message. To be sincere is to be truthful, but in the context of our discussion, to be sincere is to be truthful and faithful to our Master. There is no sincerity but the sincerity of Christ himself when we preach.
I am indeed a poor actor, but it’s my sincere desire to give my Lord, the director of my play, all the praise and applause when the curtain finally falls. I was dumbfounded when people clapped at the end of my sermon during the retreat, for the applause should have been directed to Christ alone.
I will continue to preach, but will do so with more fear and trembling, knowing how difficult it is for me to be truly sincere before the Lord during the solemn occasions when I act as the spokesman of the almighty God.