Below are excerpts from C.H. Spurgeon’s “A Sermon Upon One Nothing by Another Nothing,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 25 (London: Passmore and Alabaster), 85-96. The entire sermon is great gospel encouragement for all believers but these excerpts show Spurgeon’s heart and burden for fellow ministers of the gospel. I pray you find it as encouraging as I did.
Every one did not value the great apostle [Paul] as we do, but many spoke ill of him. Perhaps he meant, though I be nothing in the opinion of my detractors. I hardly think he so intended it, but still he may have included that in its meaning. “I am not,” saith he, “a whit behind the chiefest of the apostles, though in the judgment of others I be nothing.” I mention this point, first, because it may comfort any earnest servant of God who is faithfully serving his Master, but finds himself undervalued and despised by those from whom he expected sympathy and help.
You may be starting in the Christian life as a young man full of zeal and fervour; but you dwell among a people who count you hot-headed and self-conceited, and do their best to thwart you. You are like Joseph among his brethren, and the archers sorely shoot at you; you are looked upon as a dreamer, and a pretentious fool. Your companions are as rough to you as were David’s brethren when he came down to the host: they charge you with pride and wilfulness. Be comforted about this trial if you are indeed a true-hearted soldier of Jesus Christ, for if Paul heard that, in the judgment of many, his personal presence was weak and his speech was contemptible, and if many other eminent men have been frowned upon and misjudged, you need not wonder if the like thing happens to you. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth; bear it and profit by it.
The case is harder with older servants of God. After a long life of usefulness the churches often forget all that a man was and did in his vigorous times, and now that the elasticity of his mind has abated, they treat him with indifference. His ministry is now more solid and full of experimental teaching; an ungenerous race of hearers do not say that his preaching has become weighty, but they complain that the old gentleman is “very heavy,” and they cannot endure his prosiness. The good old man, who deserves to be honored by his congregation, runs the risk of being elbowed out, and reckoned as a worn-out nobody. You must not marvel, my dear brother, if foolish lovers of novelty should so treat you; it is inexcusable, and yet it is too common. It wounds your heart and makes you wish to be gone to the better land; but do not let it too sorely vex you, for the same thing happened to him at whose feet you would be glad to sit—I mean the apostle of the Gentiles—who, when he was “such a one as Paul the aged,” knew that to many he was nothing.
May the Lord grant to all of us who preach the gospel a willingness to be lightly esteemed. The Lord give us all grace to be fools in the estimation of modern wise men. May we have enough backbone of holy firmness to be conservative of the old truth, and to be careless of the ridicule of the worldly wise. May we have enough loyalty to Christ to be willing to be despised for his sake, manliness enough not to care one atom whether we are in honor or dishonor so long as our conscience is clear that we have faithfully preached Jesus Christ and him crucified.
The day shall come when he who has borne the most obloquy for Christ will be esteemed the happiest and most honored man alive; and when he who was counted the greatest fool for Christ shall be acknowledged to be among the wisest of men, and shall shine as the stars forever and ever. Will we not cheerfully consent to be nothing for his sake who made himself of no reputation for our sakes? Will we not with John rejoice that he must increase and that we must decrease? It is our joy to see him all in all, and if any shame or contempt borne by us could uplift his name but one hair’s breadth, we would rejoice therein with joy unspeakable. What is man’s opinion after all? The balances are not those of the sanctuary, and the weights are not those of justice. The verdict of earth will be reversed by the judgment of heaven, for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. When any measure of injustice grieves us, we should console ourselves with the remembrance that so persecuted they the prophets that were before us, and yet the prophets have lost no real honor, so also despised they the Master, and yet his throne has lost none of its glory.