I have been blessed with the privilege of serving in public worship for many years. I have been given an ability to sing, to teach a little, to preach (in an emergency) and a desire to use those abilities to encourage the church and bring glory to God. People have been very kind and complimentary over the years. One of my cherished memories is leading the song Heaven Holds All to Me by Tillett S. Tedlie for a large group of Christians who sang very well (I actually wanted to stand back and just listen). Afterward, a gentleman came up and told me he had personally known Brother Tedlie, and that he would have been very pleased with the way I led the song; it was high praise indeed.
While appreciated, this is heady stuff and has the potential for becoming a distraction from the reason I sing and I teach. Satan loves it when we start focusing on ourselves rather than on our message; he will take that and run with it. If we fail to garner the attention and accolades we feel are due us we start to feel underappreciated and resentful. Our message gets lost.
Paul reminds us that the message is the most important thing: it is the only thing. The Corinthian church was a group with a host of problems; foremost among them was their loyalty was to personalities rather than to the gospel. Paul begins by reminding them, “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are mighty, and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. ” (I Cor. 1:26-29)
None of us has any right to brag before God; after all, any ‘talents’ we have were given to us by Him. None of us has ever, or could ever, do anything that would give us the right to stand in His presence. It is only through what He has done through the sacrifice of His son Jesus Christ that we can claim standing before Him. That is the message. Paul goes on to tell the Corinthians, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” (II Cor. 4:7). We are clay pots that hold the most beautiful flower imaginable. When others look at us, they should see the flower, not the pot.
So I appreciate the compliments but they are like arrows in the target that don’t quite hit the bulls-eye. If the thought that comes to you is how well I sing or how well I speak, then I haven’t done what I was meant to do. But if your thought is, “What a wonderful God we serve!”, then I can glory in the knowledge I have fulfilled my task as a messenger, and you have seen the treasure rather than the vessel.