Pastor, Your Church Is Your Trial

A few years ago when I was struggling through some church issues and people problems, I questioned why God would allow me, as one of His undershepherds, to experience so much pain from the church.  The church itself had become a source of great personal pain for me, and it didn’t seem right.  [Note to my church people:  I didn’t say you are a pain. 🙂  But when other people’s problems become my problems, it’s painful!]  The church is supposed to be a source of joy and blessing, especially to a pastor, isn’t it?  During that same time I was reading through Paul’s Epistles.  It struck me one day that there were many circumstances and people in Paul’s life that were a source of pain for him.  He refers to many individuals in his letters, some by name, who opposed him, maligned him, and made life very hard for him.  In fact, I realized, pretty much the whole book of 2 Corinthians is about Paul’s suffering in ministry.  And he wrote things like this:  For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia:  that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.  Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us… (2 Corinthians 1:8-10 NKJV).  A good read, pastor friend, is 2 Corinthians chapters 1-5, keeping in mind that the anguish, trouble, affliction, distress, etc. that Paul wrote about was his, and he grew through it.  He wasn’t just preaching a sermon, he was giving his testimony!

Every Christian has trials that God uses to mature us.  For a pastor, as strange as it might seem, the church is one of his trials.  The problems, burdens, opposition, and pain that come with ministering in a local church are trials that God uses to mature us.  One of the greatest lessons we can learn is to “not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.”  I have to remind myself of this when the problems surface, the pain returns, and the discouragement comes.  God is trying me, growing me, pushing me to stop trusting in myself and to renew my trust in Him.

Tomorrow evening I will be preaching from Psalm 55, calling my message From Despair to Hope.  Psalm 55:22 contains one of the most beautiful invitations, yea, instructions, in the Bible:  Cast your burden on the Lord,and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.  Paul spoke of being “burdened beyond measure, above strength.”  I have been there, and you probably have too. You may be there right now. Pastor, you and I can bring that burden to the Lord, and turn it over to Him.  I can open my heart and pour out my complaint, my discouragement, my despair.  Know what Peter said about this? He gave it his own twist when he said, Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).  It’s very encouraging to think that God cares about us pastors, yes?

Still My Soul Be Still

Still my soul be still
And do not fear
Though winds of change may rage tomorrow
God is at your side
No longer dread
The fires of unexpected sorrow

God You are my God
And I will trust in You and not be shaken
Lord of peace renew
A steadfast spirit within me
To rest in You alone

Still my soul be still
Do not be moved
By lesser lights and fleeting shadows
Hold onto His ways
With shield of faith
Against temptations flaming arrows

Still my soul be still
Do not forsake
The Truth you learned in the beginning
Wait upon the Lord
And hope will rise As stars appear when day is dimming

God You are my God
And I will trust in You and not be shaken
Lord of peace renew
A steadfast spirit within me
To rest in You alone

by Keith and Kristyn Getty

Update: You can now listen to the message on Psalm 55 here.

Hold That Thought

A member of Calvary invited me to speak at his civic club lunch meeting today.  He asked me to base my talk on messages I preached at Calvary from Titus 2:1-3. One of the points is from the exhortation to refrain from slander – Avoid Malicious Conversations.  This instruction in verse 3 is directed to women, but applies to all.  Our sinful tendency is to feel good when we say something critical and demeaning about another person, hinting at scandal, repeating damaging information, raising suspicions, passing on rumors, etc.  The text says, “not slanderers.”  It is the natural thing to do, but we shouldn’t.  If you find yourself about to, STOP.  While your mouth is open, ask yourself:

  • Does what I’m about to say build up or tear down the person I’m talking about?
  • Would I say it if he/she were present?
  • Am I saying it because I like the attention or because I love the person?
  • Should I be talking to the person instead of about him or her?

It takes self-discipline to refrain from sharing that juicy gossip.  It takes courage to redirect the conversation your coffee group is having, or to walk away from a boss-bashing session.  It’s all part of Healthy Living.

The story makes the song better!

In tomorrow morning’s Lord’s Day Gathering at Calvary, our worship in music will focus on Christ our Redeemer. One hymn we will sing is Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing, by Robert Robinson (1735-1790).  Do you want to know a little about this man and why he wrote “Praise the mount! [speaking of Mount Calvary, where our Savior died in our place] I’m fixed upon it, Mount of Thy redeeming love?”

Read this synopsis of his life here.

Then watch this video, a modern depiction of Robinson’s story here.