Voices. We are surrounded by so many voices. Some encouraging. Some discouraging. Some affirming & truthful. Some self-absorbed & negative. SO. MANY. VOICES.
The oddest reality to me is how it only takes a single negative comment to wreck a sea of affirming ones.
A couple weeks ago I got the privilege to speak at Hope Church Memphis on the subject of finding Christ in Social Media. Don’t get me wrong, I love social media. I love Christ. & I love discussing how we can find Christ in and use social media for good. But this sermon was a s t r u g g l e.
The backstory, that not many of you may know, to this sermon is that I actually spoke on the exact same topic last year to our smaller Sunday night crowd, the Stirring. I was excited about the subject and overly optimistic to try out a different preaching style, and was convinced this was the perfect topic to do it on. Fail. Big time.
I received a few negative comments and “didn’t love the sermon” type remarks. & So naturally when I was asked to speak on social media for a second time (only this time in front of a few thousand more people) I offered an obedient “yes” with my lips while internally screaming “NOOOOOO.” Immediately after leaving this meeting, I went into panic mode. For me the looming question was WHY ON EARTH would God want me to discuss this topic again?! & WHY ON EARTH would anyone else want me to after last time?!
I let my past failures cloud my vision for what God could do in the future.
I worried about the negative comments, the people who felt social media was irrelevant, the comments that may…no WOULD… come. It only took a tiny seed of insecurity to breed a mountain’s worth of doubt, fear, self-pity, and distrust in God.
But what I love (& am often frustrated with) about God is how he uses our weaknesses to reflect the perfection of his power.
See, during this time God revealed to me some significant lessons in my personal life as well as my life as a pastor.
I was reminded of the importance of community. People who push us along, who remind us of the GOOD as well as the need for different perspectives. My insecurity forced me to engage with others on the subject, to gain their thoughts, help, & wisdom. And ultimately because of it, God reached far more people than just my little perspective could.
I was encouraged to be… ME. There is this temptation to be like others, especially in ministry. We see others thrive in preaching, ministering, caring for others and doing REALLY well at it. & So the temptation is to be like them. To do it like them. Talk like them. Be like them. & I fell into this trap. I was tempted (in my original sermon) to preach in a way that isn’t my gifting. Yes, attempting it was needed and because of it I was reminded to walk in MY gifting, not other’s. To be ME in the way I preach, minster, & LIVE. To be the ME, God created.
& Possibly the most convicting question God raised was whose VOICE would be the loudest in my life… people or God? Would I let fear, insecurity, doubt cloud my faith & hope & trust in God’s strength? OR– would I seek God, strive after God, listen to God as he led the way? Through lots of prayer & shaping & nudging, I sought the latter. & It was in this very verse (at the end of the passage I preached on) that God most deeply convicted me…
When they heard Paul speak about the resurrection of the dead, some laughed in contempt, but others said, “We want to hear more about this later.” 33 That ended Paul’s discussion with them, 34 but some joined him and became believers. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the council, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
S O M E. That’s all we are left with at the end of chapter 17. Paul steps into Athens; he engages, he proclaims truth, he seeks the good to a community that had misunderstood God and religion and JUST SOME– join him and believe. While also SOME– laugh and mock him. He has two, very contradicting, reactions from the people he poured into. And the beauty of this passage for me is that Acts 17 isn’t where it ends for Paul. The negative, mocking “some,” don’t derail Paul in his calling. They aren’t the SOME he was focused on. The SOME he listened to and let shape him. See, Paul was fixated on the GOOD. On his calling. On the strength he had in Christ (Phil. 4:11-13).
There are a lot of voices & “some’s’” that can wear us down, distract our souls, & discourage our hearts and minds from pursuing what or where God is leading. I get that. But Paul’s life is such a beautiful reminder to press on; to keep our minds on that which is…
“…True, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. (Phil 4:8)”
I focused on the wrong “some.” The negative, “the worst, the ugly, things to curse“… the what if’s and worst case scenario set of circumstances. & In doing so, I lost my vision. I couldn’t see the work God was doing in the process. I couldn’t see that it was in my very weakness & doubt & insecurity that God did his greatest work.
Once I lifted my gaze, once I changed my perspective, & looked past my inability– did I see God’s capability.
Weakness frighten us. We don’t like the vulnerability or exposure of realizing we really can’t do it or aren’t good enough or don’t have it all together. There is great irony in the truth that the more we are comfortable with weakness, the stronger we actually become. Pursue weakness dear friend and remember some of Paul’s most challenging words to embrace…