This article is part of Rooted’s 2019 student series, where young Christians share their experiences of faith in high school and college. Will Leitner is a rising junior at Auburn University.
My excitement for writing an article was quickly “titanicked” by the never-ending content of Christian material out there. Praise God for the advancement of technology which has brought about a fountain of knowledge. Commentaries galore, Greek and Hebrew translations, sermons, podcasts, early manuscripts, Christian classics, theological debates, all available at the click of a button. Although I am extremely grateful for how today’s technology has helped me grow, I cannot help but feel burdened by how much I do not know and how I even fit into the whole Christian cosmos.
While thinking about my article, I would come up with ideas and realize many of them had already been written about and much better or funnier than I would have said it. It was as if there was nothing I could contribute or add. This then led me to an unsuccessful journey of trying to discover the next theological discovery or profound interpretation of Scripture. All that was left were questions in my mind like, “What do I even have to offer?”
These questions are becoming more and more prevalent in my generation, a world marked by cut-throat competition. In order to become successful, you must find your unique specialization or advancement. The world is not your oyster, unless you can bring distinctive value.
The necessity for individualization can make us so restless. As I have tried to discern a call to full-time vocational ministry, it can be hard to feel like an instrument for the Lord. Praise God that many people are receiving the true Gospel taught by biblically faithful men. But how do I fit in? What’s my niche? I’ll never have the theological introspection of Tim Keller or the passion of John Piper. When I look at the world and its expectations, I am flattened by the pursuit of greatness and the wickedness of comparison. I am not that intelligent. I am not as holy. I am not as bold. I am not as oratorical. I am not as gifted. I am not as culturally sensitive. I am common, plain.
But I want to see Christ and the Gospel exalted, not me. The Lord does not exalt the messenger over the message, the container over the treasure inside. The Lord’s power is in His Word and Gospel, not the uniqueness of man. As Christians, we are weak, feeble servants overshadowed by the glorious shining light of the glory of God.
We must remember the comforting words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:5-7:
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.”
Paul was not always as impressive as we like to imagine he was.
And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:3-4)
Paul was an weak man who was a bad communicator! He did not have the perfect, well-crafted sermons filled with the trendiest one-liners. His sermons weren’t posted all over Instagram and Twitter. He was a bad preacher.
Paul was used not because of his qualities as a messenger but because of the power of his message. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay.” He was a jar of clay, dirt baked really hard. He was like a clay pot: common, plain, breakable, weak. And the reason why was to show the surpassing power belonged to God and not to him. It was never about Paul; he lived to exalt Christ, the treasure.
This has been an extreme comfort for me since I am the chaplain of my fraternity. Every Wednesday at chapter, I am pouring my heart out begging, imploring, and urging for my brothers to repent and trust in Christ. I look out on the crowd and many are sitting on their phones or laughing with the others beside them. When I am done, the rest of chapter proceeds without hesitation into the normalities of fraternity culture; it certainly feels like no one ever listens. Chapter ends, and I rarely hear any bit of praise or encouragement outside of my close friends. Impact is a burden.
But what I have realized is that impact is not up to me. I am not in charge of the harvest, just the tossing of the seed. A dear mentor always tells me, “Will, you are in labor not management.” I don’t manage the crops and their growth; my job is to labor for the news of Christ displayed in the Word of God.
And God has always used common people to advance His kingdom. When Christ called His first disciples, He called smelly, uneducated fishermen. Peter, the rock of the Church, was an ill-tempered man who denied Jesus three times! God chose Jacob, who was less impressive than Esau, and David, a young shepherd boy, over his impressive eight older brothers.
We may not be great messengers, but we truly have a treasure of a message. We have all fallen short of God’s commands and holiness, but He is rich in mercy. He sent His one and only Son who took the form of flesh and lived the perfect life for us. He came and died on the cross absorbing the wrath and anger of God we deserved. He took on our sin, and He transferred to us His perfect righteousness. Then after three days, He rose again in accordance with the Scriptures, proving His deity and defeating the power of death.
The Gospel is our treasure, not our ability. It is not boring, or repetitive, but the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. The Gospel is sufficient. The story of our Master alone crushes the serpent’s head.
And my ability, gift, and niche are not a pre-requisite to that Hell-thundering, death-defeating, slave- liberating, covenant-keeping power. I am simple and plain but the Gospel is and will always be powerful. We are farmers tasked with tossing the seed unknowing of the results to come, and we must not try to come up with a distinctive “seed-tossing” technique or a new and fancy seed-bag to hold our seeds. We must toss the seed. That’s it.
My pastor once told me, “I want people leaving my services saying God is so good, not the pastor is so good.” Therefore, ministers must exalt Christ only and as receivers of the Word, we must never idolize the pastor over the message he brings.
We have this treasure in jars of clay; these words are not an excuse to be irresponsible, lazy, and undisciplined because we must be faithful to the Word. But they are a comfort; we do not need to be anything more than dirt baked really hard. Our niche is our message.
I am grateful for the wise council of a dear college mentor, Wright Draper, for guidance in writing this article.