The Joy of Preaching the Gospel of God

Desiring God 2005 Conference for Pastors

"This Is My Beloved Son!" Exulting in the Trinitarian Relationships of Jesus Christ

I would like to call your attention to 2 Corinthians 4:1–10:

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

May God richly bless the reading and the hearing of his holy word.

Challenges Facing Contemporary Christianity and Pastoral Ministry

Now, there are two related issues that sort of provide a backdrop for what I would like to address this morning.

Ignorance and Indifference Towards Doctrine

On the one hand, there is an appalling ignorance of an indifference towards the most basic doctrines of the Christian faith among an alarming number of professing Christians. The producer of the radio program that I’m a part of has conducted a number of men on the street type interviews at various Christian events, and at those events, he generally asked a series of questions on basic Christian doctrine, questions such as, “What is the gospel? What is justification? What is imputation? What is sanctification?”

The answers that he has gotten indicates that, in spite of statistics that might suggest otherwise, orthodox Christianity, grounded on theological truth and based on doctrinal convictions, it’s on the decline. Now, I know indications show that we have the growth of more megachurches in the last ten years than we’ve ever seen at any given time, but in spite of the numbers, the swelling buildings, and new ministries and new movements, as we go by the knowledge of people on the basic doctrines of the Christian faith, regardless of what we see, Christianity might not be, orthodox Christianity might not be as strong as we think it is.

Professionalization and Secularization of Ministry

The second issue or concern is something that has been raised by a number of recent writers, specifically as it relates to how pastors perceive the pastoral ministry. John Piper, for one, has captured the essence of this problem with the title of his book, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals. The opening words of chapter 1 in that book are insightful. He says, “We pastors are being killed by the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry. The mentality of the professional is not the mentality of the prophet” (1).

John Armstrong has edited a collaborative work, and in his book, which was entitled Reforming Pastoral Ministry, in his chapter, Armstrong observes,

The way evangelical ministers presently deal with scriptural authority leaves them in a profoundly vulnerable position. While affirming the Bible’s authority, large numbers of pastors now use it ever so lightly (inconsequentially) in preaching popular sermons aimed at restoring the emotional and spiritual health of their flocks. They counsel with profound dependence upon the newest fads and popular psychological books while they lead with the sharpest managerial techniques of the most successful corporations of our age. (25)

Hey says further,

The Bible is still preached, after a certain fashion. But it is preached as a handbook for daily living, an inspiring resource for solving practical problems in life and home, a how-to book for busy modern living. (27)

He goes on to say that what is lacking is a proper Christocentric focus. While Piper warns against the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry and Armstrong seems to be concerned about the secularizing of the ministry, I think both of these have called attention to an identity crisis among pastors. It’s almost as if we have sort of an inferiority complex. It’s almost as if we are embarrassed, and I say “we” because I know that you represent a minority, and in fact, even though it’s 1200 people here, 1200 pastors here, this is really small scale compared to what other conferences with other emphasis will draw.

It seems as if, in our generation, and in our day, there is a loss of confidence in the gospel itself, and there is a loss of commitment to preaching a Christocentric gospel. It’s almost as if we have taken the pejorative notion of preaching characterized by Madonna’s song a number of years ago, “Papa Don’t Preach,” and we have taken it to heart, and we’ve substituted it as “Pastor Don’t Preach.” Preaching is preachy, preaching drives people away, preaching has a tendency to address issues such as sin, and this we seem to be uncomfortable with.

But brothers, the end result of preachers not committed to preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ is a church that might be full of new members and exciting ministries, but a church full of members ignorant of the basic doctrines that define the faith that was once delivered to all the saints. Brothers, we are not only not professionals, but we are also not CEOs, we are not managers, we are also not cheerleaders, and we are not entrepreneurs. What I’d like to do this morning is just take a few moments and look at what Paul has to say about Christian ministry or the ministry of the gospel in this particular passage.

Pastoral Ministry as Stewardship

Now, as we look at the text, I won’t read it over again, but I want to look at four particular things that Paul tells us about pastoral ministry that could help all of us, and hold in mind that I’m not speaking down, I’m speaking up, I’m speaking from one who is in the trenches. I’m not pontificating, I’m not pointing fingers other than towards myself. I asked John what he wanted, how he wanted me to address the theme of the conference, and he says, “Brother, whatever the Lord has placed on your heart, in ministry, and that has helped you over the years.” This is a concern.

The first thing, let us consider how Paul describes the Christian ministry. In verse one, he says, “We have this ministry.” In verse two, he refers to handling the word of God and the manifestation of the truth. In verse four, he speaks of the gospel of the glory of Christ. And in verse seven, he says, “We have this treasure.” Now, if you put all of that together, in essence, what he’s saying is that the Christian ministry is a stewardship of the treasure of God, and in this treasure, it consists of the truth of God’s word about the glory of Christ.

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 4:1–2, he says, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” A steward, as you know, is the manager or overseer of the goods of another. Here’s a critical area that would be helpful for us in how we are to understand our ministries. First off, it’s not your ministry, you have been entrusted with the good news of another. We have been entrusted with heavenly treasures, and we have been given the responsibility of feeding the people of God through the treasures that God himself has provided.

Now, here’s what we need to understand. There is dignity, there is worth, there is significance, there is relevance, and there is value in you being called to the office that you have been called to. It is not the size of the building, it is not the denomination, it is not the DMin, it is not the doctorate. This is not what gives us value, this is not what gives us significance, and this is not what gives us substance. What gives us value, when we stand before the people of God, is that He has called us to be stewards. We are overseers of a heavenly treasure.

Brethren, if we are not cautious and if we are not careful in how we handle that treasure, then remember, all stewards must give an account, and what we have to give an account to. Put it this way: what I always teach our church as it relates to stewardship, it’s stewardship is never about what you don’t have. Stewardship is always about what you do have. So, in the parable that Jesus gives of the three stewards, one had five talents, another had three, and the third one only had one. The one who had the one talent, he wasn’t accountable for what he did with five, he was only accountable for what he did with one.

The Secret Sin of Competition

Now, as a part of our identity crisis, many pastors feel peer pressure, and you do realize that peer pressure didn’t end with high school, right? With this peer pressure, we have a tendency to measure ourselves against the work of others, and so we see a brother who’s been at a church or in a particular ministry for the same amount of time as us, or even sometimes less time, and we see how the Lord has blessed that work in a mighty way, and we start getting antsy, “What am I doing wrong?” This is how subtle the competitive spirit can slip in. In fact, I’ve said in various places that the spirit of competition is the secret sin that most pastors won’t talk about, but we are in competition, and God forbid, we don’t recognize it and repent from it.

In fact, there was a church down in San Diego, towards San Diego, California. Some of the members called me up, and they were having a problem. The pastor had been asked to leave the church by some of the elders. Well, the reason was is because this church had a membership of about 400 people, and they had increased the membership 25 percent over the last four years, and then there was a new church that moved in the community, and in a four-year period of time, they went from 200 to about 1200, and so the elders put the pressure back on the pastor, “What are you doing wrong?”

Now, brethren, I know I’m not the only one that has experienced this or have heard of this or have seen this, but sometimes aren’t we prone to wonder, “Well, man, if the Lord is blessing that, then what can I do? What am I doing wrong?” And then this is what makes us vulnerable to buying magic formulas for church growth. We are stewards. You will not have to give an account before God for the 50,000 people that you never pastored. But, you will have to give an account to God to the 50 people that he called you to look after.

Brethren, we are stewards, and as stewards, God has given us access to heavenly treasures, and he has commanded us to feed, nurture, and care for his sheep out of that treasure. So, Paul describes Christian ministry, not according to human standards, but he describes the ministry or the pastoral ministry as being a stewardship. It’s not a competition with the denomination or the church down the street. It’s not a platform for your particular gifts. The old saying goes, “Those that can, do. And those that can’t, teach. And the rest preach.” Oh, don’t let that be true of us. There is dignity in being an overseer of the King’s treasure.

There is value in being a steward of the Master’s riches. This past summer I was in Nigeria, and while I was there, my mom died. I couldn’t get back home for the funeral service. They had two funeral services for it. I couldn’t get back home for the funeral service, and the day of the service, we had tried to get out of town on Friday night and we couldn’t do it, we were on standby, the flight was already overbooked by 50 people, and we were number 25 and 26, I think, on the waiting list. So, we had to drive 400 miles back to Jos, Nigeria. On the day of the service, as we were headed back to the village where I had conducted a conference, I ran into the people that we were working with, and they were headed to a village where we were to be received by a tribal chief, and it was an awesome experience. I had never experienced anything like that.

In fact, a couple of people that were with us said, “You’re seeing something that most Westerners don’t see.” We were invited to the chief’s house. All of the village elders were in the house, many of the citizens of the village were in the house, and children were lined up outside singing outside of the chief’s house. But, when the chief sat on his throne, his prime minister, one of the elders, came and sat at his feet, and all while the chief was seated.

This elder, who by the way was a college professor, sat in a position of submission. I says, “Oh, what beautiful biblical imagery. Here is a man who’s probably more educated than his chief. Here is a man who has great training, educated man, but he does not consider it an insignificant thing to be seated at the feet of his chief.” Brethren, let us not consider it a small thing to be given the title of a steward of God’s heavenly treasures. That’s how Paul describes pastoral ministry. We’re stewards.

The Incumbent Duty of Preaching Christ

But secondly, Paul not only describes the ministry; in 2 Corinthians 4:5, he tells us the duty that is incumbent upon the ministry. Now, you notice that he begins negatively, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves.”

What You Preach

Now, there are a number of things beside ourselves that you could throw in there. We do not preach self-esteem. We do not preach health and wealth. You can just fill in a lot of things, and here’s the point, as noted in the quote from John Armstrong, there is still plenty of preaching going on, but the question is, “What is being preached?” Now, as a fellow pastor, I challenge you to take regular inventory of what you preach.

Paul says that we are to preach Christ Jesus, the Lord. In 1 Corinthians 2:1–2, he says, “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” In 1 Corinthians 9, he says, “Necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16). There are many subtle substitutes for preaching Christ.

In fact, many brothers think they are preaching Christ simply because they use his name, but if we preach Jesus as a role model, and if we simply preach Jesus as a good teacher, or as I saw in one booklet, if we preach Jesus as being a young adult male single, if we preach Jesus as hero, then we have not preached Christ.

We read elsewhere in the New Testament where Paul exhorts Timothy, he says, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2). You see, our ministry is described as a stewardship, but our duty is described as that of preaching Christ and Christ alone. See, God got some good news for this world, and here’s the thing, God has called you to deliver his good news.

God has told this fallen world that he has sent a Savior, and he’s given you the responsibility of telling them about that Savior. God wants men to know that they cannot outsin his grace, and he wants you to tell them. I don’t know if there’s a correlation for this or not, or between this or not, but I wonder if there’s a connection between all of these private revelations from God on the part of so many evangelicals and so little preaching.

In other words, I wonder if by us not being the voice of God as we ought, if we have caused people to hallucinate thinking that God is speaking to them more directly. You see the voice of God is the voice of the preacher, and even as he impresses his word more intimately on the hearts of individuals, it comes primarily through preaching.

Point to Christ

We live in a day where there is much talk about the work of the Holy Spirit, but I find it difficult to believe that the Holy Spirit can be so strongly at work and so many Christians be so ignorant of Christ. Our duty and our responsibility is to preach Christ and him crucified.

God has enlisted us to announce Christ to the world. Like John the Baptist, we are to point to Christ in Scriptures and declare to this fallen generation, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). In preaching Christ, what we are doing is to preach the law with all its ferocity, with all of its viciousness, with all of its difficulty, with all of its vigor, so that men are not left wondering, “Well, what else must I do? But Lord, I can’t do what you’ve commanded.”

We are to preach the comfort of Christ. He is the one that can heal the wounds of the saints. You see, we know that Christ can comfort, and so rather than trying to find some psychological solution, then our responsibility is to present Christ fully and completely. Jesus is the Light of the World; preach him. Jesus is the balm from Gilead; preach him. Jesus is a waymaker, as they used to say when I was growing up; preach him. Jesus is a burden bearer; preach him. He’s the Bread of Life. He is watered that if you have a drink, you won’t get thirsty again. Don’t be ashamed to preach Christ. That is our duty.

Brethren, when we get to heaven, we won’t have to answer questions as to why we didn’t have this seminar or that seminar, why we didn’t invite this person or that person in. But here’s what we must give an answer to: “Did you preach Christ?” It’s not our responsibility to make people believe and to make people listen, but it is our responsibility to preach Christ.

Preaching Saves

Now, some have preached him offensively, and we need to guard ourselves from that. Paul says in 1 Corinthians that is through the foolishness of preaching that “God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21). But not through foolish preaching.

The foolishness of preaching is that the solutions to our problems are not as complex. Sometimes when we professionalize the ministry, we make the answers more complex than they should be. Listen, there are not 12 steps to a joyful life. There’s not 25 steps toward more godly living. There’s not 10 principles in how to love God as we ought. There’s one way, and that way is Jesus Christ.

It is only in preaching him that our people learn how to turn from their sins to the righteousness that God has required. Paul told Titus that it is the grace of God that teaches us to say no to all unrighteousness (Titus 2:11–12). How do you get to the fulfilled life? By embracing Jesus Christ. When we preach him, we preach the severity of the law, and we preach the exceeding sinfulness of sin. But when we preach Christ, we preach the sweetness of the gospel; we preach the fact that God came to save, not good people, but sinners.

If you want to know if it’s true, here’s exhibit A. Isn’t that what Paul says? He says, “He has come to save sinners of whom I am chief.” Preach Christ. Don’t be afraid of people. I’m concerned about this, and I know, especially dealing with people who are concerned and committed about the doctrines of grace, people think, “Well, if you don’t do this, then they’re going to take grace, they’re going to cheapen grace.” You can’t avoid that, but here’s what you can make sure you do: Preach grace as grace, with no conditions attached, and preach the law as the law, with no step ladders to it.

Ralph Erskine, Puritan poet, sort of quasi-Puritan poet, but he said, “The law is a tough taskmaster who demands of bricks, but it gives no straw.” Don’t give any step ladders to the law because there aren’t any. We want to leave men broken when we preach the law, but we also want to make sure they’re healed by the grace of the gospel. Preach Christ. What are our duties? It is to preach Christ.

The Priority of Preaching

We see in the book of Acts, in the early stages of the development of the church, we see that the membership had grown to swelling proportions, and they needed help in serving the daily administrations, and they came to the apostles and they said, “No, we can’t leave prayer, and the teaching, or the preparation, in the word.”

Brethren, don’t be so quick to leave your study. That’s why we have elders, that’s why we have deacons, and this, listen, the apostles don’t say that the needs of the widows weren’t important, but you have faithful other brothers that can do those things. Your responsibility is not to be a cheerleader; it is not to be a team manager; it is not to be a promoter or a motivator. Your duty is to preach Christ.

If you want to know how to preach Christ, look at how he’s revealed in Scripture. If the only thing that we can come away with is Jesus as role model, then we have not seen him clearly.

The Divine Drama of Preaching

Thirdly, Paul tells us, not only does he describe the gospel ministry as being a stewardship, and not only has he laid upon us the duty that is incumbent upon that ministry, but thirdly, he tells us the divine drama that takes place when we preach.

Notice in 1 Corinthians 4:6 that Paul borrows from the language of Genesis 1, and he talks about creation. We’ll get back to that in a moment, but for the moment, consider what he says in Romans 10. He asked the rhetorical question in Romans 10:14, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him?” And you could really delete the of. Because, in the original, the grammatical structure would have it, “How shall they believe in him whom they have not heard?” Who’s the him that Paul is referring to? He’s referring to God.

Then he completes the thought and says, “And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” You see, in other words, when we stand, and Luther and Calvin were both very clear on this, when we stand to preach, it is as if God himself were condemning sinners with his law, and partnering them with his gospel. We are the mouthpiece of God, not in the sense of the Old Testament prophets, that he doesn’t take us up in visions and show us different things. No, but he speaks peace, and he speaks trouble, through human instruments such as us.

Now, here’s what takes place, and this is what Paul describes in the text: he says that the same God who spoke light into darkness, in the beginning, is also speaking. Here’s the drama, if you can just imagine if you would, the scenes of creation that are laid before us in the book of Genesis. Now, when we preach and the gospel goes forth, man’s soul is like the dark, barren chaos. Man’s soul, the unregenerate soul, is the nothingness that opens up in the book of Genesis.

Just as God spoke and said, “Let there be,” when we preach, God is likewise speaking, and he overcomes and overtakes the darkness left by sin, and he gives light. That’s why Peter could say that he has brought us out of the darkness into his marvelous light, and where there was no life, he brings life.

Ezekiel 36 promises the gift of the Holy Spirit in a particular way, and God says in that passage, he says, “And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). Brethren, the power’s not in our olive oil; the power is not in our deliverance lines. If you want to see the light of the gospel overtake the darkness of sin, then preach Christ. Preach him properly, preach him rightly.

Here’s what Paul says takes place, that “God shines into dark places and he gives the knowledge of Christ.” We are taking place, we are participating, I should say, in a miracle, every time we preach. I remember growing up in church, we used to sing a song, “My Father’s omnipotent.” He goes on to say that it took a miracle when God hung the moon in place, and it took a miracle for him to put the stars into space, but when he saved my soul, cleansed and made me whole, it took a miracle of love and grace. Brethren, we are miracle workers. You may not be able to cure the cancer of your congregants; you may not be able to straighten out crooked limbs; you may not be able to provide a solution for all of their financial difficulties; you may not be able to handle all of their domestic troubles. Oh, but if you preach Christ, you work in a miracle.

The word that he allows us to preach when we preach Christ, it breaks the proud and it raises the humble. When we preach Christ properly, we chasten and chastise without beating up. You don’t have to depart from the script in order to whip God’s people. God has entrusted the rod and the staff in his word, and we bear it. There’s a divine drama at work when the word is rightly preached by those that God has enlisted into his service. Oh, God forbid if we get hooked on TBN sort of miracles.

There’s a wonderful example of this in the Gospel of Mark. In the Gospel of Mark, in Mark 2, we see some friends taking a paralyzed man, and they are so diligent in getting him to Christ that they remove the roof and drop him in through the roof. When Jesus sees the man, he says, “Your sins are forgiven.” And you know what? People were disappointed. They said, “Oh dude, I thought there was going to be a miracle. You healed everyone else.” Jesus, in his deity, turns and says, “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’?” (Mark 2:9).

And to prove that he had all power, he had already forgiven the sins. But then he says, “Now, walk.” Brothers, listen, you don’t need any kind of clues on how to have a miraculous ministry; you don’t need practice on how to have a healing ministry; if you want to heal your people, then preach Christ.

I told you my mom died. She was only 63. He said, “But wait a minute, ‘By his stripes, we are healed.’” She was taken out by blood cancer, but you know what? She’s healed now. I’ll see it when I see her. You see, you have not failed if people remain sick physically, but yet they have laid hold to the cross of Jesus Christ. One preacher said, “John the Baptist preached and got his head cut off.” But he’s got it back now. Our duties, brothers, are to preach Christ, to preach him clearly, to preach him consistently, and to preach him carefully.

Not only does he tell us the drama that is taking place when we preach, and that is God creating life where there was death, God bringing light where there was darkness, God making sons out of enemies, God taking aliens and making them citizens.

The Durability of the Christian Ministry

But fourth and finally, in this passage, we see the durability of the Christian ministry.

Now, in 2 Corinthians 4:1, Paul says, “Having this ministry by the mercy of God.” He says, “We have received mercy as it were for this ministry.” Now, I think the word that’s translated here, mercy, even though it comes to us as mercy, I think it should be understood in the same sense as mercies used in Romans 12:1.

In Romans 12:1, Paul says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice.” It is clear in that context that by mercies, Paul means graces necessary, or graces. In fact, in Romans 12:1, the mercies would allude to all of the dynamics of grace that Paul has described in the first eleven chapters of the book. Therefore, I think that when he speaks of mercy, in this text, I think that what he’s addressing is the equipping of ministers for the work that we’ve been called to do. Everyone to whom God has called into pastoral ministry, he has given the gifts and graces requisite for the duty.

Now, we continue to read, we continue to study, we continue to go to classes and schools, and we take whatever will help us in refining the gifts and graces that God gives. But here’s my point. God is the one who gives the gifts, and he’s the one who gives the graces. Here’s the thing, we often look at what we couldn’t ordinarily do, and we assume we can’t do it. You know what? There’s wisdom in that, there’s humility in that. It’s humility in looking forward at a task and saying, “Boy, I can’t do that. Because, you know what? You’re right.” Personally, I wouldn’t trust a pastor who felt that he had the natural abilities to do God’s work. But, I like the way Paul describes it here.

He says that God essentially has gone against his own council, because Jesus says that we should not put our treasures on earth where thieves can get to it, and moss can get to it, and rust can corrupt it. And so what does God do? He takes heavenly treasures and he places them in earthen vessels. And Paul gives us the logic of this, so that at the end of the day, the excellency will be of the treasure and not of the vessel. John Calvin, before he died, he made it known that he didn’t want a marker on his grave. Why? Because he didn’t want men taking trips to visit his grave.

Durable Ministry and Durable Gospel

Brethren, as I said earlier, we’re not entrepreneurs. I hear the term, and even though it’s a biblical term, and I use it myself, but I’m cautious even as I use it. I’m kind of tired of hearing about “Our ministries.” Because this ministry is God’s from start to finish, and God’s ministry is so durable, that notice what Paul does, he gives us things that can oppose us. He says, “Listen, you’re going to preach and there’re going to be some who will not listen.” He says, “But don’t fret over that because the only reason they don’t hear and receive the gospel is because they’ve been blinded by the God of this age.” But then he gets graphic, and this is where we probably all feel very much related to Paul.

Have any of you ever been perplexed? Have you ever been cast down? Have you ever felt weak, inadequate? Well, listen, you are being cast down, perplexed, torn on every side, doesn’t disqualify you from the ministry, it qualifies you for the grace that God has given, because here’s how awesome God is, he’s able to take eternal truth and put it in finite individuals, and he allows them, who will die one day, to give the gift of eternal life through the words that are preached. You see, in other words, Paul says, “The gospel is durable even when the minister isn’t.”

He goes on to talk about all of the trials and all of the struggles, and this I think is heightened when we have an identity crisis. I was sharing last night at dinner that, when I first came to the church that I’m at, I grew our church from about 225 members to about 25. Then I realize, and I had to ask this question every week as I would see fewer and fewer faces, “Lord, is it something that I said?” And “If it is, is it right?” You see, the offense is in the gospel.

It ought not be in the preacher. We cannot, when people leave and when people are uncomfortable, we need to hear every complaint. We can’t just say, “Well, the Bible says people will come and people will go. The Bible draws and it drives.” No, we need to examine every time so that we make sure that we are not a stone of offense, that the offense is in the gospel.

But here’s what I learned, that this gospel that God has made us overseers of, is durable. It can last. It’s the same gospel they call the Old Testament saints. It’s the same gospel that can endure all of our own shortcomings, and this gospel is so durable, that Paul said he had a thorn in the flesh and prayed three times for it to be removed, and the Lord says, “You don’t need to remove thorn in order for you to do my work, because I can work through it.”

“In your weakness,” he says, “the strength of God is made known.” We are not professionals, we are the stewards of a heavenly treasure. God lavishes the riches of his grace on his children, and the shovel that he uses to pour out those riches are broken preachers like you and I.

Now, brethren, let us not get distracted by what Pat Riley, when he was coaching the Lakers during Showtime, he talked about the peripheral opponents. He says, “There’s the opponents on the floor, and then there are the peripheral opponents.” The peripheral opponents are the press and the stuff that the players do off the court, that can hinder them from doing their job on the court. “Let us not get caught up in the peripheral opponents.”

Woe is me if I preach not the gospel, because I’m to be instant in season when they want to hear it, and out of season when they don’t want to hear it, because brothers, we are the means by which God pours out his treasures on his children, and therefore Paul says, “We have this ministry, and we have the mercy of God, and we do not lose heart.”

There is joy and dignity in preaching the gospel of a sovereign and loving God, which centers on the person and work of his beloved Son, as we are empowered by his Holy Spirit.

is pastor of Glendale Missionary Baptist Church in Miami, Florida, and co-host of The White Horse Inn.