The Christian pastor holds the greatest office of human responsibility in all creation. He is called to preach the Word, to teach the truth to God’s people, to lead God’s people in worship, to tend the flock as a caring shepherd, and to mobilize the church for Christian witness and service. The pastor’s role also includes an entire complex of administrative and leadership tasks. Souls are entrusted to his care, the trust is entrusted to his stewardship, and eternal realities hand in the balance. Who can fulfill this job description?
Of course, the answer is that no man can fulfill this calling. The Christian pastor much continue acknowledge his absolute dependence upon the grace and mercy of God. As the apostle Paul instructs us, we are but earthen vessels employed for God’s glory. On his own, no man is up to this task. (Albert Mohler in On Being A Pastor)
In the woods of New Hampshire, near the beautiful Kancamagus River, I once had a picnic with some friends. We were talking about the transforming power of the word of God on the mind. I dug out a small rock from the forest floor and took it to the river, where I fished out another rock of similar size. I asked them to look at the two rocks and compare them. Someone said, “One of the rocks is covered with dirt, but the other one is clean.” So I crouched down and swished the dirty rock in the river for ten seconds of so. It came out wet and clean of all dirt. Again, I asked them to compare the two rocks. They took them and looked at them carefully. Another of the guys said, “The river rock is smooth and shiny, but the forest rock has all kinds of sharp edges.” New Hampshire is the Granite State, and this rock had crystalline peaks all over, hard as granite. I asked, “How do we transform the forest rock into a river rock?” The answer was simple: put it in the river. But for how long? Well, perhaps a century or so! A hundred years of river water gently flowing over the surface of the forest rock, carrying small granules of sand as a mild abrasive, would transform that jagged rock, and make it as smooth and shiny as the other. The patient activity of the Kancamagus River would do the work.
So it is with the transformation of a Christian from immaturity to maturity. Some dirt particles (sin habits) get washed off immediately after conversion, but the rest of the change is more difficult. Transformation only comes by immersing the mind in the word of God, allowing it to wash over our thoughts, until gradually we have learned to think as Christ does. And this is precisely what Paul is commanding us to do in Romans 12:1-2. (Andy Davis in An Infinite Journey)
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to see an amazing move of God in your life, the life of your church and in your city? I have been thinking about this very thing lately. After all, his Word says that he is “able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). I will be honest; I can imagine some pretty amazing things that God could do. So why doesn’t he move in such a powerful way?
I think part of the answer can be found in looking at a scene that plays out in Jesus’ ministry. He is in his hometown ready to teach and heal but Mark records these words, “And he could do not mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief” (Mark 6:5-6). Jesus’ ministry was hindered because of the people’s lack of faith.
Now don’t misunderstand what the text is communicating. Jesus was not powerless in this moment (after all he did heal some people) but he did not unleash his miraculous power because he knew they did not believe he was the Messiah. He knew that no amount of miracles would rouse them from their spiritual apathy.
I readily confess that sometimes we don’t see a mighty move of God because it is not in his timing. But, I am also convinced that there are times we don’t see a mighty move of God because of our lack of faith. We have become so complacent in our Christian lives and in our churches that we are comfortable with the status quo. We don’t see God do great things because we don’t expect him to do great things. We don’t believe.
Will you join me in believing that God can move in a mighty way in your life, your church and your city? Will you ask God to do what only he can do, believing that he can? If it doesn’t happen I want it to be because it is not in God’s timing not because of our lack of faith!
One of our favorite things to do, as a family, is fill up our bird feeder each spring. It hangs off of our back deck right outside our kitchen window. We love to watch various types of birds drop by for a little snack. They eat until their little hearts are content and then they fly away. In the not too distant future they return again. Our little bird feeder gives them exactly what they need.
As I watched the birds the other day I thought about how God’s Word plays this same role in our lives. Without spiritual food we die spiritually. But God’s Word offers us a place to eat…an opportunity to gain spiritual sustenance.
Jesus told Satan, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). We need physical food but, more importantly, we need spiritual food for our souls. The Psalmist says that God’s Word is more to be desired that gold and sweeter than honey from the comb (Psalm 19:10). Have you experienced the sweetness of God’s Word like that?
Will you commit to spend daily time in God’s Word, feeding your soul? Will you allow his Spirit to speak to you and apply his Word to your heart as you read? Will you live in obedience to what you read?
My prayer for you and me is that we will experience the goodness and sweetness of God’s Word in our lives. May it guide and direct our steps. May it satisfy the spiritual hunger of our souls. May it deepen our walk with Christ!
“One of the greatest tragedies in the church today is the depreciation of the pastoral office. From seminaries to denominational headquarters, the prevalent mood and theme is managerial, organizational, and psychological. And we think thereby to heighten our professional self-esteem! Hundreds of teachers and leaders put the mastery of the Word first with their lips but by their curriculums, conferences, seminars, and personal example, show that it is not foremost.” (John Piper in Brothers, We Are Not Professionals)
This morning I read through Luke 5 and was immediately struck by verses 12-16, describing Jesus’ ministry:
While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.
Did you see that? Jesus’ fame had spread to the point that great crowds gathered to hear him and be healed by him…BUT he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.
I dare say that the majority of pastors would love to have the “problem” of great crowds gathering at their church. In fact, most of us spend our entire ministries trying to get great crowds to come and hear us preach. After all, that is the American version of “success” in church life. We celebrate and come dangerously close to worshipping pastors of large churches with large buildings and large budgets. And in the deep dark corners of our souls we desperately want to be that pastor that is celebrated/worshipped.
But, Jesus left the crowds, retreated to a desolate place and prayed. In the very moments when Jesus could have capitalized on his “success” he walked away from it often to spend time with his heavenly Father. The reason is clear…intimacy with our heavenly Father is success. There is absolutely nothing more important, in the life of a pastor, than stepping away from the busyness of ministry so that we can spend intimate time with our heavenly Father.
This was a great reminder for me on this Monday morning: An empty well is of no value to people longing for a drink. We are emptied in the busyness of ministry but filled in times of intimacy with our heavenly Father. Our people need us to step away so that ministry does not kill our intimacy!
John Piper offers this helpful advice to pastors about reading:
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean we should limit our reading to quick shots one or two time a day. But if you will use severe discipline to make regular short appointments with a given book, you can live in another great mind more than you thought you could – beyond the more extended times you set aside for study and sermon preparation.
Nor do I want to give the impression that I think there is virtue in reading many books. In fact one of my greatest complaints in seminary was that professors trained students in bad habits of superficial reading because they assigned too many books. I agree with Spurgeon: “A student will find that his mental constitution is more affected by one book thoroughly mastered than by twenty books which he has merely skimmed, lapping at them.” God save us from the allurement of “keeping up with Pastor Jones” by superficial skimming. Forget about “keeping up.” It only feeds pride and breeds spiritual barrenness. Instead devote yourself to boring in and going deep. There is so much soul-refreshing, heart-deepening, mind-enlarging truth to be had from great books! Your people will know if you are walking with the giants (as Warren Wiersbe says) or watching television. (John Piper in Brothers, We Are Not Professionals)