Earlier today I posted a recap of the message I delivered Sunday morning at Calvary Assembly of God addressing the question on why we have to go through suffering. Here are a few quotes I found during my study time last week.
“By nature, we evaluate nearly every situation according to its immediate impact on our desires, and we make our choices accordingly. Consequently, we often sacrifice that which would bring infinite eternal benefit in exchange for temporary gratification.” —Stephen K. Scott
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” —Jesus Christ
“Wherever souls are being tried and ripened, in whatever commonplace and homely way, there God is hewing out the pillars for His temple.” —Phillips Brooks
“Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal.” —Thomas Moore
“Sorrows remembered sweeten present joy.” —Robert Pollok
“Joys are our wings, sorrows our spurs.” —Jean Paul Richter
“Sorrow is divine. Sorrow is reigning on all the thrones of the universe, and the crown of all crowns has been one of thorns. There have been many books that treat of the sympathy of sorrow, but only one that bids us glory in tribulations, and count it all joy when we fall into divers afflictions, that so we may be associated with that great fellowship of suffering of which the incarnate Son of God is the head, and through which He is carrying a redemptive conflict to the glorious victory over evil. If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him.” —Harriet Beecher Stowe
“I think, again, that it is essential to the preacher’s success that he should thoroughly enjoy his work. I mean in the actual doing of it, and not only in its idea. No man to whom the details of his task are repulsive can do his task well constantly, however full he may be of its spirit. He may make one bold dash at it and carry it over all his disgusts, but he cannot work on at it year after year, day after day. Therefore, count it not merely a perfectly legitimate pleasure, count it an essential element of your power, if you can feel a simple delight in what you have to do as a minister, in the fervor of writing, in the glow of speaking, in standing before men and moving them, in contact with the young. The more thoroughly you enjoy it, the better you will do it all.
“This is all true of preaching. Its highest joy is in the great ambition that is set before it, the glorifying of the Lord and the saving of the souls of men. No other joy on earth compares with that. The ministry that does not feel that joy is dead. But in behind that highest joy, beating in humble unison with it, as the healthy body thrills in sympathy with the deep thoughts and pure desires of the mind and soul, the best ministers have always been conscious of another pleasure which belonged to the very doing of the work itself. As we read the lives of all the most effective preachers of the past, or as we meet the men who are powerful preachers of the Word today, we feel how certainly and how deeply the very exercise of their ministry delights them.” (emphasis mine)
Pastor, what unspeakable joy should thrill us to know that God Himself called us to do what we do!!
I know that being in full-time ministry is tough. I know the demands on our time. I know that we are often targets for criticism. But still, this should never diminish our joy in being God’s ministers!
Heavenly Father, I thank You for the calling to be a pastor! Today I pray for pastors who don’t feel the joy they once felt. Holy God, will You reconfirm Your call on their lives. Reassure them that they are doing what they are doing because You called them to do it. And I ask that Your Holy Spirit would reinvigorate them with holy joy. Let the hands that hang low be lifted up in praise! Let mouths that have been tightly shut open wide in holy laughter! Let Your joy be their strength and encouragement. May You be glorified in joy-filled pastors!
Sometimes I like to think about counterfactual history. That means thinking about the “What ifs” of historical events. What if George Washington had been killed in battle? What if a congressman had voted a different way? And so on.
Here’s one I was thinking about as I read the Book of Acts: What if Paul had prayed, “God, keep me safe”?
Over the last few chapters of Acts, Paul has the opportunity to share the gospel with…
That’s quite an impressive list! But here’s the deal: Paul only got to speak to these high-ranking and influential people because he was a prisoner.
Paul could have prayed for a “safe life.” He could have run away. He could have disobeyed. Instead, he was willing to let God use him anytime, anyplace, anyway.
Isn’t that really the opening line of the Lord’s Prayer? Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.
Is that what I really want?
Or do I want to play it safe?
Phillips Brooks had another thought about how we should pray:
“Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle; but you shall be a miracle.”
I don’t want to play it safe. I want to be strong enough, obedient enough, and willing enough to let God use me anytime, anyplace, anyway. I hope you will join me in that prayer.
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Yesterday I posted the following on Facebook, which generated quite a few positive responses—
“God may not recall the soldier from the battle, but if He gives him a greater stomach for the fight, and increased strength for its toils, it may be better still for him” (Spurgeon). Think about it: If God has left you in the battle, He will give you the strength to be victorious. Either way, you come out stronger AND God is glorified!
Since several commented on Facebook or emailed or texted me with words like, “That’s just what I needed to hear right now,” I thought I would add a couple additional thoughts for you.
“Let’s be honest, 90% of our prayers revolve around personal comfort, not God’s glory. Too often we try to pray away every problem. But what if that is the very thing that God wants to leverage for His glory? Let’s not be too quick to pray away the pain, the suffering, the situation, the problem. Let’s not just pray ‘get me out’ prayers. We sometimes need to pray ‘get me through’ prayers.
“We need a paradigm-shift in our prayer lives. It’s not about us. It’s all about God. And when you begin to pray for God’s glory above and beyond everything else it’s a game changer! You no longer pray away every problem. You pray through the problem. You know that God might do a miracle, but that isn’t the goal. The goal is God’s glory. And if suffering with grace yields more glory to God then so be it.” —Mark Batterson, in The Circle Maker
And finally, this prayer thought—
“Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle; but you shall be a miracle.” —Phillips Brooks
If you need someone to stand with you as you “pray through” your battle, let me know. I would be honored to join my prayers with yours.