I was thinking this morning about some of my friends in church leadership who have been critiqued recently for not leading well and strongly enough. Others have been accused of being too autocratic and not collegial enough in their leadership style.
Below is a short portion of a sermon from John Charles Ryle, an evangelical, Bible-believing Anglican from the late 1800s from Liverpool, England, who speaks on why we are not to lose heart at our troubles and trials. May it bring encouragement to your hearts as it has to mine.
J. C. Ryle:
Can I say a fresh word about heaven? Spirit of God help me! This – that we are going to see the Lord Jesus Christ. The one the fishermen saw when they looked up from their nets and he was there standing before them saying, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men!” They looked at him, and dropped their tools and followed him. We shall see him as clearly as they did, his face, his smiling eyes, his love for us, his awesome divinity which yet will not terrorize us. “In my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me” (Job 19:26-27).
But I tell you something more wonderful than that. When we see him we shall be like him. You can scarcely believe it. The words are so common and monosyllabic: ‘like him.’ Everyone can understand what those words mean – we shall be like Jesus. But can we begin to comprehend them? As holy as he is. As loving as Jesus of Nazareth. As full of patience, and kindness, and gentleness, and self-control. We shall love God as he does, and love one another too from our hearts fervently and purely. Our bodies will be like his. All that God can do to make his Son glorious will now be directed towards us. The loving omnipotence and creativity of God will be focused on us to preserve our own unique personalities and yet infinitely elevate and ennoble them. There will be my transfiguration when with my eyes I see the one who loved me and gave himself for me. That is our eternal glory.
I will tell you something more wonderful than that. This will be true for every single one of God’s children. Now we are at different levels of understanding and maturity. We have personalities that irritate and grate on other Christians. There are those who say, “I could never go to that deacon for advice.” There are those who say, “That elder is too severe.” There are those who mutter, “I don’t get anything from his ministry.” That will never be the case in the eternal glory. The whole constituency of the redeemed will be as blameless as Christ himself, deeply in love with one another, and appreciative of everyone there from the least to the greatest. The grass will be greener nowhere else, nor the company sweeter. We will be utterly satisfied with the family of faith and the environment, so that every day will be as fresh as the first. We will never grow weary of our companions nor of the place. Can you think of that? Is not that the very sum of heaven, the praises sung on the holy mountain top in that land of song – that all who stand there will be as perfect as Christ himself? No temptation to reach one of you from eye, or ear, or hand. No temptation can hurt you because there will be nothing in you to foster sin. So regrets and memories cannot hurt you there at all. They would be like sparks falling into Cardigan Bay, quenched in a moment.
Loved by God, washed in the blood of Jesus, freshly baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit, we shall soon all meet at God’s feet white-robed and white-hearted, as perfect as our Saviour and Maker. That is our eternal glory. Can’t you understand why Paul says here that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (v.17). ‘Far’ outweighs them – all put together they are still outweighed, he says, because they were just momentary, here today, but gone tomorrow, whilst this weight of glory endures forever. So that is the second reason why we do not lose heart at our troubles. They are purposive; we know that they are achieving this end.