Charles Spurgeon, the great British preacher, once talked about how, when a jeweler is going to show diamonds, he puts the diamonds on black velvet. The contrast of the diamonds with the black velvet brings out the luster of the jewels. Whenever God is going to do something, he picks the most impossible, improbable situations because then, when he’s done, everyone says, “Oh, how great is our God!”

As Spurgeon wrote in his sermon A Wafer of Honey, “Our infirmities become the black velvet on which the diamond of God’s love glitters all the more brightly.”

For us to be effective, especially in our times of trial, God has to use us. We need the Holy Spirit; we’re helpless without him. Jesus said, “Without me, you can do nothing” (see John 15:5). That’s a hard verse to believe; but without God, we can do nothing. This means that you can be sincere, you can study a lot, you can be zealous, you can have a high IQ and you can still be ineffective for the kingdom of God.

Paul says in his letter to the Corinthian church, “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6, NIV). What does that assume, though? That we can be incompetent. When Paul says, “Be strong in the Lord,” (see Ephesians 6:10) what does that assume? You could be weak, otherwise he wouldn’t have given the command in the first place.

You can’t use mental positivism and yell Christian slogans at things and think that it’s all going to work out.

Obviously, we want to be competent ministers of the new covenant. Right now, biblically defined, 7.2 – 9 percent of the population is Christian. If everyone were a competent minister of the good news, we wouldn’t be in this condition. Now we can talk spiritual smack, what our opinions are, about what books we’ve read or what other people are doing wrong.

In the end, Jesus said, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8, ESV). Without any fruit, stop the talk. At least have the humility to recognize, “I’ve got to go back to the school of Christ and learn how to be fruitful.”

We must call on the Spirit in order to bear fruit and shine against the darkness.