Dear friends, Greetings from Melbourne, where we are still coping with Covid 19 restrictions, and many of us are stressed. What should we do when life and ministry are unpredictable, complicated, stressful, demanding, and exhausting? There are different times in our lives, and this is a time to place less emphasis on great achievements and great plans. It is a time to do our best, to take care of ourselves, and to remain faithful and hopeful.
I still remember a sermon preached by a student at Ridley College over 12 years ago. He pointed out that in the first half of Paul’s ministry he made decisions, travelled widely, planted churches in strategic cities, and led his team in active ministry. After his arrest in Jerusalem, in the second half of his ministry, he was under guard or in prison, had no control over where he was [apart from his appeal to Caesar], was separated from his team and his churches, and limited in his ministry. Yet he remained faithful in life and ministry, and hopeful in his attitude, because of his trust in God, even in testing times.
And, as a matter of fact, his own account of his ministry does not list his great achievements!
You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured[2 Tim 3:10-11]. Cf 2 Corinthians 11:23-33.
To be faithful means that we keep on doing our ministry as best we can. To be hopeful means that we trust that God is in control, that nothing happens outside his will, that he works all things together for good for those who love him, that he will achieve his global gospel plan, and that he understands our situations.
We should trust and praise God, even when we don’t feel like doing so. We should do so because of who God is. Similarly, we should be faithful and hopeful, because of who God is, what he has done for us in Christ, because of his gift of the Holy Spirit, and his global gospel plan for his church.
Here is a ‘lifting up of the downcast’. Read and pray once a day for a week, and feel the results!
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven … At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads …
Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!”
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!”[From Rev 4 and 5, NIV11].
|Lift up your eyes!||[Ps 123:1].|
|Lift up your heads!||[Luke 21:28].|
|Lift up your hands!||[Ps 28:2].|
|Lift up your hearts!||[Lam 3:41].|
|Lift up your souls!||[Ps 25:1].|
|Lift up your affections!||[Col 3:1].|
|Lift up your minds!||[Col 3:2].|
|Lift up your voices!Lift up your prayers||[Ps 142:1]. [Rev 5:8].|
Don’t bow your head and close your eyes to pray silently or mumblingly [©]. Do the opposite. Follow the instructions above: lift up your eyes, lift up your prayers, and lift up your voice! This is what Jesus did: ‘he lifted up his eyes toward heaven and prayed [aloud] …’ [John 17:1].
Here are two of my recent productions:
An article on The Gospel Coalition website on the costs of beginning a ministry and the costs of ending a ministry:
A podcast for the Pastor’s Heart on hospitable preaching:
And, thanks to Mike Flynn, you can find previous editions of Paraklesis on his website:
And here are some recent discoveries:
An excellent, inspiring, and practical lecture by Andrew Malone on Paul’s prayers in 1 and 2 Thessalonians, highly recommended:
And two wonderful quotations:
John Calvin’s commentary on John 11:35.
… the Son of God, having clothed himself with our flesh, of his own accord clothed himself also with human feelings … in order to assure us, that we have a Mediator, who willingly pardons our infirmities, and who is ready to assist those infirmities which he has experienced in himself.
Jeremiah Burroughs on Hosea 1:2
The more inwardly God speaks and converses with the hearts of his ministers, the more inwardly and efficaciously they are able to speak to the people. This is deep preaching, when it is from the heart to the heart.An Exposition of the Prophecy of Hosea, Grand Rapids, Reformation Heritage Books, 2006, 7.
With warmest good wishes. May we all grow daily in faithful and hopeful godliness and good ministry.