How often do we feel that, as Christian evangelists, we just donít measure up to what is expected of us? The task of presenting and spreading the news of the kingdom of God seems too great, demanding more energy, more commitment than we can give. We see the world beset by problems, disasters, violence and deceit and want to throw up our hands and admit ďWe just canít do it!Ē We canít solve the worldís problems, canít bring about world peace, canít even convince our own acquaintances, work colleagues or friends that to follow the way of Christ would bring a bit of heaven down to earth.
But if we feel inadequate we are at least in good company. Paul even though inspired by a divine revelation of heaven, was plagued by what he calls a thorn in his flesh. He was privileged to be witness to something of the perfection of a vision of paradise, so that he was filled with the burning ambition to single handedly sow, water and propagate the seeds of Godís kingdom, but he was continually reminded of his own mortality, his weakness, his individual powerlessness to succeed because of his human frailty. Yet it was this acceptance of his weakness that spurred him on to rely not on his own strength, but on the power of the Holy Spirit who led him on to nurture and support the early Christian Church and provide us with a great many words of wisdom and encouragement in the faith.
Indeed, if we are still feeling inadequate and powerless, disheartened by our apparent ineffectiveness as evangelists we can find consolation in the knowledge that even Jesusí ministry was sometimes ineffective. In his own home town the people were so blinded by prejudice, judging Jesus by his parentage and class, that they were unable to accept his message to them in spite of the wisdom of his words and the power illustrated in his acts of healing. In commissioning the disciples and sending them out in pairs he warned them to expect that there would be those who wouldnít accept the message they carried.
We are reminded that perhaps one of the most powerful of all the Old Testament kings, King David, who established his capital at Jerusalem, came from humble beginnings. David was proclaimed king for three reasons. Firstly the Israelites recognised him as someone they had something in common with. He was a true Israelite like themselves, a flesh and blood relationship. Secondly they respected his achievements, his leadership in a time of crisis, the legend of his fight against Goliath and the subsequent campaigns against the Philistines. But thirdly they knew at least in these early days that the ambition for power was not founded in a belief in his own superiority, but rather in an acceptance of a task given to him by God himself. David grew in power because the Lord was with him.
If we are called, like the disciples, to carry the message of Godís kingdom to those around us, we should be aware of these conditions in our own relationships. Firstly we are no different to the people around us. We are made in the same way with the same weaknesses and imperfect human nature. Being Christian does not automatically make us better than others. Secondly people look to the example we set by our words and actions. Paul thought it important that he should not boast of his spirituality, but that no one should think better of him than what was seen in him and heard from him. If we say one thing and do another we cannot hope to influence others. And thirdly it should be apparent to others that the source of our strength lies beyond us. We must be seen to be God centred, not self centred. It is Godís purpose that we serve, not our own.
Even if we were able to fulfil these conditions we must accept that at times we may not succeed. We are after all following Godís timetable and not our own. We face prejudice and even hostility in our calling to spread the news of the kingdom, even perhaps amongst those most familiar to us, but to say ďWe just canít do it!Ē betrays a reliance on our own power, working apart from God. If we rely on our own resources we are indeed powerless, but if we allow ourselves to be channels through which Godís power can work in the world then the power we bring, Godís power to do good in the world, is limitless.