“Even though I am untrained in speech …” 2 Corinthians xi, 6.
Have you ever felt you are inadequate or ill-equipped for the task that God has called you to? Did you ever give up a vocation just because you did not have a special talent or intrinsic ability to perform well in that field? Have you ever used excuses such as “I don’t have the skills for public speaking” to escape your duty to proclaim Christ?
The apostle Paul, in his most personal of all epistles, confessed that his critics were right – he was indeed untrained in oratory and he lacked the charismatic personality of leaders such as Apollos. Apollos’ fans in Corinth admired Paul’s letters but they despised his speeches. If Paul had not made such a confession, who in our times would have guessed that Paul lacked such training or inability?
When we read Luke’s account of the early church, we get the impression that Paul was a great preacher. In all his missionary journeys, Paul was eager to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to any crowd, at any hour, at any place. Even though Barnabas was much senior to Paul in terms of his experience in the faith, Paul was regarded as the “chief speaker” in the team.
How did a man who was untrained in oratory skills become a firebrand preacher – at least by Luke’s account? If Corinthian Christians could not respect Paul’s presence or his speeches, what could the residents of various cities in the Roman empire have thought about him? They may not have been very impressed. Paul himself may not have been very impressed by his oratory. Yet, he preached Christ and redeemed every opportunity. What mattered to him was not the art of oration but the urgency of communicating the most important message on earth. He was like a man shouting “Fire!” Who has the time to think of grammar or idiom when he is warning occupants of a building on fire?
The good thing about Paul was that he knew his limitations. Yet, he did not use those as excuses – like Moses tried to – to escape from his God-given responsibility of proclaiming the gospel. When critics in the church despised him on account of his weaknesses, he did not succumb to self-pity. Neither did he yield to depression or isolation, thinking, “I’ll never preach again.” Instead, he took courage at the abilities God had given him. “Even though I am untrained in speech, yet I am not in knowledge.” He wasn’t going to let some Corinthians to walk all over him. He went on to give a list of his God-given abilities and spiritual experiences including visions and transport to the third heaven.
Dear Christian, do not allow negative criticism to overwhelm you. Use your weaknesses as stepping stones to greater achievements in Christ. What He can do through you in spite of your weaknesses is far greater than what you imagine. In the end, when you stand before God, He will honor you. While many trained and talented people do nothing for God, you are letting God do great things through your weak areas.