Recovery of Lost Testimony
For that is how ministry is made. The man or the woman who is ambitious to be "in the ministry" - to be speaking and preaching, going about taking meetings and all that sort of thing - but who has not gone through deep places, and found the Lord there, and brought up some treasure from the depths, some 'pearl of great price:' that one's ministry is not real; it is artificial, it is merely professional. The true minister of Jesus Christ will be taken down to the depths, to discover there, right down thee, and to bring up thence, these pearls, these precious things, for the sake of the Church. Did you notice that phrase in Isaiah - "the abundance of the sea shall be turned unto thee?" (Isaiah 60:5). Yes, but the sea can be a very deep place, a very dark place, a very terrible place: and yet there are treasures there. That is the way of testimony.
Notice what Paul writes at the beginning of his letter. "For we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning our affliction which befell us in Asia, that we were weighed down exceedingly, beyond our power, insomuch that we despaired even of life: yea, we ourselves have had the answer of death within ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God Who raiseth the dead" (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). This is how ministry is made - when you have a real experience of and testimony to the power of His resurrection. When everything seemed hopeless in your own personal situation; when everything seemed hopeless in your company of believers; and the providence of God led you to make a discovery of the power of His resurrection, 'that you should not trust in yourself but in God Who raises the dead: this is a constituting of ministry. If you have gone that way, you are a true 'minister;' you need not take the name; you need not be set apart or anything. If you have a knowledge of the mighty power of His resurrection, you are a minister; you have something which is most greatly needed.
The Value of Brokenness
The third thing in effective testimony is the value of brokenness and weakness.
"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves; we are pressed on every side, yet not straightened; perplexed, yet not unto despair; pursed, yet not forsaken; smitten down, yet not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the putting to death of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you" (2 Corinthians 4:7-12).
We should continue reading down to verse 18. You will notice that this section has as its real message the tremendous value of the quality of brokenness and weakness. That is a vital thing in effective testimony. We, perhaps, do not naturally put much value on brokenness and weakness; but here, very much value is put upon it. "We have this treasure in vessels of fragile clay." What the Apostle is saying, in effect, is this: 'We are broken men; we are weak vessels. The one thing about us, more than anything else, is our capacity for being broken - it seems that we have just been made to be broken.' And then he is saying that there is an infinite value attached to that.
In the First Letter to the Corinthians, the church was not broken. It was hard; it was trying to hold itself intact; it was proud; it was judging; it was cruel; it was unkind; it was anything but broken. But now, as we read this Second Letter , we find there is about the church a softness. It is soft - it is melted - it is broken! You can talk about 'ministry' now; you can talk about 'testimony' now; you could not do so before. No: until the vessel is broken, nothing can flow out; if anything is to flow out, it will only do so when the vessel is broken. The Apostle is saying that that was how it was with him personally (and of course he is, by inference, passing it on to the church in Corinth). Our weakness, our brokenness, is of the greatest importance and value, for it is only then that the real treasure can be manifested.
(continued with # 2)