From the beginning, the Lord’s people talk a better game than we live.
So many biblical truths look good on paper and sound great when we’re spouting them. And yet, judging by the way we live, the Lord’s people probably do not believe the following…
One. God sends the pastor to the church.
Churches survey their congregation to find the kind of pastor everyone wants in the next guy. People lobby for a candidate they like and rally against one they don’t. And they vote on the recommendation of their committee. And after he arrives, when some turn against him, they send him on his way.
Do we really believe God sends pastors to churches? They are God’s undershepherds (see I Peter 5:1-4) and appointed by the Holy Spirit as overseers of the church (Acts 20:28).
Two. God hears our prayers, cares for our needs, and answers our prayers.
In the typical congregation, what percentage of the people are serious about their prayer life?
If we believed that God hears, cares, and answers, we would be praying over every detail of our lives. “Pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17) would define our very existence.
A pastor I know has a practice I now find myself adopting.
Dr. David Uth said at Ridgecrest a few years back that at the start of each new year, the Lord gives him a single word as the focus of his ministry that year. One time the word was “One,” as in unity and oneness. Another time, it was “Mission.”
He had an interesting story on that. He was pastoring the dynamic First Baptist Church of West Monroe, LA. It was the first Sunday of the new year, and two men from a church in Florida had come to hear him preach, representing the pastor search team from FBC Orlando.
David had no idea they were in town.
That Saturday night, the two men drove around West Monroe. They were unimpressed. “I don’t think there’s anything for us here,” said one. The other said, “Let’s stay and hear him preach tomorrow. We’re already here.”
Then, one said, “I want to do a little test. If he says the word ‘mission’ in the sermon tomorrow, that’s a sign the Lord wants us to continue with him.”
David smiled in telling this story.
“Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” (I Peter 2:17)
The Lord seems to delight in calling His disciples to do impossible things, actions which the flesh rebels against, the world scoffs at, and we sometimes question.
I expect He’s trying to shock us out of our comfort zone and into the freedom of the Spirit where obedience to Him is as natural as breathing and where we do our best work.
His is a big job. To our detriment, we find ourselves questioning most of our Lord’s commands and dragging our feet about obeying some in particular.
For most, the four brief commands of I Peter 2:17 rank among the least doable and most unpleasant. Nor are we allowed to dismiss them as “not from Jesus but from Peter.” We either believe in the inspiration of Holy Scripture or we do not.
“In order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his devices.” (2 Corinthians 2:11)
First, Satan is a liar and a murderer (John 8:44). He is a fallen angel who was banished to earth (Revelation 12:9). He is one angry being (Revelation 12:12) since he knows that after his days here are ended, he goes straight into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).
Keep that in mind.
You don’t want to trust that fellow. He is without the faintest hope of any future, big-time angry at God, and a liar of the first order. That’s a terrible combination. Don’t ever go into partnership with someone like that.
Trust nothing he says. Accept no promises from this liar.
However, he’s smart. Giving the devil his due, Martin Luther said of him, “On earth is not his equal.” You and I are no match for him by ourselves.
“For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God” (I John 3:20-21).
“But I don’t feel forgiven.”
“I don’t feel saved after some of the things I’ve done.”
“I feel so bad. I know God says He has forgiven me, but my heart says otherwise.”
Every pastor gets this. People who have grown up in sound churches and call themselves Bible-believing Christians fall prey to this malady of judging their standing with the Heavenly Father by their feelings.
Imagine that. As though one’s feelings about anything are accurate, consistent, dependable.
“Wait on the Lord. Be strong. Let your heart take courage. Yes, wait on the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).
Saturday, a pastor texted to ask for prayer. He has been without a church for a year now and has exhausted all his savings. The opportunities to preach have been few and far between, and he has been unsuccessful in finding secular work.
My heart goes out to him and I’m praying diligently for him.
Sunday, a friend asked for prayer for her pastor husband. He’s discouraged and would like the Lord to open up some new place of service.
Most of us have been there at one time or other.