23 “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. 24 Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.”
Psalm 37:23-24, NLT
We are each on a journey, and when we start to get serious about our following, we feel His pleasure. In the movie, “Chariots of Fire,” a line is spoken by Eric Liddell:“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” The film resonated deep inside the bones of many who saw it.
Part of it I suppose was this runner had something called passion– it is something we hardly hear about these days. (Perhaps we need some of that “fervor.”) There is also a point to made that we can really make God happy. And many of us don’t completely understand this. Or don’t believe it! What they end up living is a substandard life, and that is tragic.
“And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”
The pleasure we bring God is our profound purpose in life.
When we start moving out into that heart-intensity, we will discover that it is what we crave. All the pleasures of sin will never satisfy us. You might as well sort that out as soon as you can. You will only find satisfaction in running the spiritual race. Oh to grab hold of life with two hands and make it your own!
V. 24, paints a picture of a stumbling runner. Perhaps your feet slipped, or you tripped over a root or rock. Nobody goes out to race with the idea of falling on their hinder parts. The key idea though isn’t my falling, but by His proximity. He is holding your hand! To suggest otherwise is foolish and bad theology. He finds us— follows us—and holds us steady.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.”
2 Timothy 4:7
As a mentally ill believer, my race is different than many.
I run with constant pain and clinical depression. I remember in boot camp a recruit had to carry around a thirty pound rock in his ruck sack for 48 hours. He ran with it, ate with it, showered with it. He even had to sleep with it. Perhaps that rock made that recruit a future Command Sargeant Major?!
I still must run, and I’m not disqualified by my ‘rock.’. I still am a disciple and still must run my own particular race. I think deep-down you know this; you see, everyone you meet today is running a challenging race, a profoundly hard race– so be kinder than you have to be. Grit your teeth and be kind.
Especially for the Leaders and Pastors who Guide the Ministry of the Church:
“Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good.”
“O my son, give me your heart. May your eyes take delight in following my ways.”
“The highest expression of the will of God in this age is the church which He purchased with His own blood. To be scripturally valid any religious activity must be part of the church. Let it be clearly stated that there can be no service acceptable to God in this age that does not center in and spring out of the church. Bible schools, tract societies, Christian business men’s committees, seminaries and the many independent groups working at one or another phase of religion need to check themselves reverently and courageously, for they have no true spiritual significance outside of or apart from the church.”
As believers we sometimes lose the sight of what is going on around us. We get attached to a structure or a mechanism and view it as why we are here. Ministries, churches, retreats, conventions, even websites (!): every “structure” and every effort of man— however good and noble is not the Church of Jesus Christ.
The Church is a fluid and dynamic thing. It supersedes anything we can do or plan. Our efforts are always secondary, and even at there best are minuscule. We are gifted so that we might serve others, that is true. But wisdom always realizes the “big picture” even while serving in a “para-church” context.
The Church is the bride of Christ himself. It really is the only authorized work of God in the world today. It is what the Spirit is doing in our midst. Our personal efforts (like this website) are not really the full expression of truth in this world. That privilege belongs to the body.
I’m not trying to demean your ministry or work for the Lord. I won’t advocate that we shut-down our separate efforts. But I do suggest we restore our focus on the Church of Jesus above anything we can do. Paul cared deeply for the churches; he labored, toiled, travelled, was persecuted and despised all for the Church. Paul saw Jesus as its head, and he saw it as “the bride of Christ.” No sacrifice was too high or hard for the Bride.
“Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.”
2 Corinthians 11:28, NASB
We are to be servants of the Church first. We dare not be side-tracked or led in a subtly different direction. Perhaps a good way to think of this subject is that there are:
Sometimes we’re somewhat mechanical and something living. I suggest that we restore to the living Church the honor and glory it deserves. Our individual ministries can be good— fruit may even be seen. But we dare not minimize the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. She is his bride. She will rule and reign with him forever and ever.
“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.”
It will not be brokenbelievers.com that “descends” from heaven, but the Church. As important as I think I am, this website will not be in that place. This privilege belongs to Christ’s own bride– the Church. Perhaps it is this fact that we who are in ministry should consider from time-to-time: Let the church be the Church.
I think that most of us in the Church fail to get a real grip on what pastoring is all about. And that is sad and bad. Not only do we stunt our pastors growth, but we cripple ourselves, and flunk some important spiritual lessons.
Three things (there are more, believe me)–
1) Our pastors are sinners. Surprise! They are just like you and me– definitely not superheroes and certainly not always saintly. They will have their moments, and struggles. We really need to understand this to fully receive from their giftings. Just knowing this about them, prepares us to receive deeply and sincerely from their ministries. It seems that their own battles work a brokenness and humility within.
2) Our pastors need to be prayed for. What they do is probably one of the hardest, most challenging work on planet Earth. The good pastors know this. But they still wade courageously into the thick of things. Our real prayers can buttress and stabilize their lives. They substantially encounter the darkness and do warfare for us. Most have a family to pray for, but they also have a Church they must cover too. A local pastor must have active intercessors, or they will certainly stumble and fall.
3) Our pastors must be empowered by the Holy Spirit. God’s work must be done His way. And He repeatedly insists they be filled with the Spirit. They receive power right from the true source. Again, Jesus the True Shepherd gives power and wisdom and grace for each singular moment. A good pastor over time and much prayer– develops discernment and an awareness for his flock. He learns to love them as he watches over them.
Much, much more could be written. There are so many facets to ponder. I only want to encourage you to love and honor your pastor. When you do this, it will probably activate the gift, and fresh ministry will become available. A real work will be done, inside of you and inside your pastor.
“Then I will appoint responsible shepherds who will care for them, and they will never be afraid again. Not a single one will be lost or missing. I, the Lord, have spoken!”
I have gained much from reading Spurgeon over the years. I read this this morning, and I could hear the Holy Spirit speaking into my soul. I need more of this “peaceful perseverance” working in me.
From Charle Spurgeon’s “Faith’s Checkbook” Wait for the Finals
“Gad, a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last.”
Genesis 49:19, KJV
“Gad will be attacked by marauding bands, but he will attack them when they retreat.”
Some of us have been like the tribe of Gad. Our adversaries for a while were too many for us; they came upon us like a troop. Yes, and for the moment they overcame us; and they exulted greatly because of their temporary victory. Thus they only proved the first part of the family heritage to be really ours, for Christ’s people, like Dan, shall have a troop overcoming them.
This being overcome is very painful, and we should have despaired if we had not by faith believed the second line of our father’s benediction, “He shall overcome at the last.”“All’s well that ends well,” said the world’s poet; and he spoke the truth. A war is to be judged, not by first success or defeats, but by that which happens “at the last.” The Lord will give to truth and righteousness victory “at the last”; and, as Mr. Bunyan says, that means forever, for nothing can come after the last.
What we need is patient perseverance in well-doing, calm confidence in our glorious Captain. Christ, our Lord Jesus, would teach us His holy art of setting the face like a flint to go through with work or suffering till we can say, “It is finished.” Hallelujah. Victory! Victory! We believe the promise.“He shall overcome at the last.”
“So Miriam was kept outside the camp for seven days, and the people waited until she was brought back before they traveled again.”
To be numbered among the chronically ill often can mean a transition into frustration. We can not do what we want, we are ‘trapped’ by a disease we never asked for, and held hostage by our minds and bodies. It seems apart, from the management of our symptoms, we have little time to do anything else. We once had a job– a career… and our time was occupied by that. We were accustomed to something more than this illness.
I once was a pastor of a small church here in Homer, Alaska. I also taught Gospels for many years at the Alaska Bible Institute. I loved both. They defined my identity and gave me purpose. I loved helping people and teaching the Word. I strived to be faithful in the ministry. My wife and two children were also significant and all of these things led me to think they would always be there. I was living my dream (in a good way.)
With the sudden onset of a brain tumor, followed up by a diagnosis of Bipolar disorder (BP), I knew I had to step out of the ministry. I simply could not function. My depression grew more profound with the stillborn death of our third child. Things suddenly ground to a stand-still as we tried to process what has happening to us. I guess I just couldn’t understand and more or less just shut down. I spent months in bed, unable to function.
Some people were jewels. Others were mean and uncaring. (I had to learn to take the good with the bad.) I suppose I should have been more forth-coming, but things were so tangled up inside I couldn’t verbalize a thing. The post-op surgery was an ordeal, as I had to learn many things all over again. Years later I ended up on disability; I was unable to work, and no one would hire me. My symptoms were so unpredictable, and things were too erratic. The BP was giving me it’s customary depression, as well as paranoia and hallucinations.
Sometimes, like Miriam, we are quarantined by the Lord for his purposes. The isolation is worse that the pain it seems. We wonder why this is happening, and fabricate lies about our worthiness or God’s goodness. In our isolation things seem polarized to extremes. Our value seems to be ripped apart by our illness. We can feel cursed, or worse.
I have been slow to learn this: God brings good out of the dark. I’m embarrassed by my lack of acquiring this truth.
“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.”
2 Corinthians 4:7
This light must shine. The treasure is found in clay vessels. Brokenness only means the treasure is now seen clearly. It’s important to note: treasure loses none of its value by being surrounded by broken clay.
“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.”
2 Corinthians 4:8-9
Troubles of various ilk come to us. They are variegated and unplanned. No matter what their nature, God holds his people in place while everything else is falling apart. But there is no magic wand; the pain will probably continue. But for the broken believer, there comes another dimension; a new supernatural layer of grace to bolster our beleaguered faith. We will triumph through this thing, and we will stand– because He makes us stand.
I once admired the earrings my friend, Ann, was wearing – they were square, smooth, flat, and made of gold. When I remarked how beautiful they were, she replied, “They’re yours!” Ann then proceeded to take them off and put them on my ears! Humbled by her gift, the earrings became a treasure. Once while wearing them at work, one slipped off my ear – looked but couldn’t find it, so I wheeled to my office door to ask for help.
That’s when I felt a clunk-clunk-clunk. The earring was impaled on my tire; it was ruined! That weekend I took it to a jeweler and asked, “Sir, can you make this mangled earring look like the smooth one?” He rubbed his chin and said, “I can’t make that one look like this one… But I can make this one look like that one!” He then took a mallet and hammered the smooth, square earring into a mangled mess! At first I was horrified, but now I realize that the misshapen earrings reflect the light more beautifully than when they were ‘normal.’ It’s a lesson reflected in this timeless poem:
When God wants to drill a man, And thrill a man, and skill a man, When God wants to make a man To play the noblest part, When He yearns with all His heart To build so great and bold a man That all the world shall be amazed, Then watch His methods, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects, Whom He royally elects; How He hammers him and hurts him, And with mighty blows converts him Into shapes and forms of clay Which only God can understand While man’s tortured heart is crying And he lifts beseeching hands…
Yet God bends but never breaks When man’s good He undertakes; How He uses whom He chooses, And with mighty power, infuses him, With every act induces him to try His splendor out, God knows what He’s about.
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