This is the second part of the article I sent to our denomination’s website magazine “By Faith Online”. I would like to share with you what I have learned: (Continued from The Story of Grace Presbyterian Church found under the About Us tab)
First of all I learned that God is sovereign. Did I not know that before? Yes, but I really have learned that God is sovereign. If He wants your congregation to grow, it will grow. If He does not want it to grow, it won’t. I am not being fatalistic here but rather realistic learning how to depend upon God for everything, blessings as well as trials. I think I have a new perspective on seeing that the church does not belong to me. She belongs to God.
Second, how do you measure success? If God is sovereign and has placed you in the pastorate, does it matter if you preach to five, fifty, or five thousand? He has commanded us to “preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2) Our calling is to be faithful in any and all situations. We may be opposed by people in the church as well as people outside the church but if we could measure true success, to me, it means to be faithful.
Third, do not complain. Paul wrote to the Philippians when he was in prison in Rome, “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I will say rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4). I may wonder how can I rejoice if my circumstances are not to my liking? Think about Philippians 4:11 in which Paul says: “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am to be content.”
Fourth, be faithful. Do not let discouragement affect you. In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul said: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” You may not have a large congregation, you may not have a secretary, you may not even have the latest in computer software. Does it matter? No, just study the Scriptures, not only for your own edification, but also as one who is charged to shepherd the flock of God entrusted to your care (I Peter 5:2).
Fifth, do not compare. I am often convicted in the passage in John 21:20-22: “Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, ‘Lord, who is the one who betrays You’? Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus: ‘But Lord, what about this man’? Jesus said to him “If I will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.’” When you were in school did you ever compare homework with other students? Did you ask them how long they studied for a test and became all worried if you studied less? Do you remember in seminary asking another student how long his paper was only to learn that your’s was shorter? Why do we live like that? That’s why I will paraphrase the words of Jesus to Peter: “Mind your own business.” What Jesus teaches us from this passage is that if He wants us to have a mega-church, He will give it to us. If He wants us to have multiple staff members, He will give it to us but if we don’t, Jesus basically says I put you right where I want you. Trust Me to provide for you and the congregation you serve. Comparing ourselves to others does not honor God and certainly does not encourage us.
Sixth, be yourself. In I Corinthians 15:10 Paul said: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” Paul could have felt inferior to the other apostles because he did not walk with Christ when He was on earth. This did not bother him. He knew he had been commissioned by Jesus on the Damascus Road and thanked God for the forgiveness that was given to him as one who deserved nothing. When he said that he labored more abundantly than they all, he was not boasting in his own spiritually but in God. Therefore do not feel sorry for yourself that you are not as gifted as another pastor or that you have not written a book or books or that you are not on the preaching circuit being asked to speak at theological conferences. Just be the man God made you and preach faithfully to God who has gifted you and called you to the greatest office any man on this earth can receive, that of the Gospel ministry.
I hope this is encouraging to you in your ministry.
See you Sunday.