The Power of the Word of God in a Young Pastor’s Life

J.I. Packer, as a young pastor, found himself “marginalized, isolated and required to work on unfulfilling and flawed agendas, in a manner that made him think of the Israelites having to make bricks for Pharaoh.” He claims to have lived “like Moses in Midian, with frustration in [his] heart, wondering what God could possibly be up to.” During those years his spiritual education was proceeding. Below are some of the main lessons that God through his Word hammered into his heart.

I personally benefited from these few lessons and I hope you will too.

He summarizes:

1. Goodwill — I should not get bitter or lapse into self-pity or spend time complaining or angling for sympathy. God was using my ministry, and I was forbidden to get fixated on my frustrations.

2. Hope — I must not become cynical or apathetic about the vision I had been given or to abandon it because there was no immediate way of advancing it. God is never in a hurry, and waiting in hope is a Christian discipline.

3. Faithfulness — As husband, father, teacher, honorary assistant pastor and occasional author, I had plenty each day to get on with, and I could not honor God by slackness and negligence, whatever discontents I was carrying around inside me.

4. Compassion — Clearly I was being taught to empathize more deeply with the many Christians, lay and ordained, male and female, who live with various kinds of disappointments and thus were in the same boat as myself.

5. Humility — I must never forget that God is supreme and important, and I am neither, and he can manage very well without me whenever he chooses to do so.

When Life Overwhelms – A Simple Prayer for Pentecost Sunday

Western depiction of the Pentecost, painted by Jean Restout, 1732

This coming Sunday we celebrate an important event in redemptive history… the time when Jesus sent the “other helper” who would live within us and empower us for service.

  • Almighty Father we come to you in the blessed name of our Savior Jesus Christ. You have been sending your Spirit for a long time. You sent your Spirit upon Jesus at his baptism in the Jordan River. You sent your Spirit upon the disciples in the upper room. We ask you now to fill us with your Spirit,
  • We thank you for the power of your Holy Spirit and ask that we may be strengthened to serve you in a manner worthy of you. We acknowledge to you our weakness and weariness.
  • We thank you for the wisdom of your Holy Spirit. May He fill us with a greater knowledge of Your will with insight and wisdom.
  • We thank you for the peace of your Holy Spirit and ask that He might cause us to flourish in every dimension of our lives. Especially keep us confident of your love wherever you call us.
  • We thank you for the healing of your Holy Spirit and ask you to bring reconciliation and wholeness where there is division, discord, sickness, and sorrow.
  • We thank you for the gifts of your Holy Spirit and we ask you to equip us for the tasks that you have assigned us.
  • We thank you for the fruit of your Holy Spirit and ask you to ensure that the love of Jesus governs all of our relationships.
  • We thank you for the Holy Spirit given on Pentecost. We ask you to breathe upon your church the joy of eternal life. Blow out the dust of sin in our lives and, in your mercy, fill us anew with Yourself. Make us one in heart and mind to serve you for Jesus’ sake, Amen.

– A prayer adapted from The Worship Sourcebook, p. 706.

Great Sin…Deep Despair…The Power of Jesus

The greatest sin and the deepest despair together cannot baffle the power of Jesus.” These words were spoken by a woman who for a season of her life lived in a suburb of hell… a place of spiritual darkness, rife with all manner of disease, horrendous oppression and death, and all instigated by the one who came and continues to come to kill, steal and destroy.

Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch Christian who, along with her family, saved the lives of over 800 Jews by hiding them from the Nazi occupiers in Holland during World War II.  She endured her imprisonment at the Ravensbruck concentration camp of the Nazis. Her father, brother, sister, and nephew didn’t survive.

Personal Worship Guide: The Transforming Power of God’s Book

Teach: The Transforming Power of God’s Book (click on the link here for guide)

I.  God’s Book grants us discernment into how He works (Isaiah 29:1-8)

The Holy Spirit uses His Word to show us how God has worked in the past. The first eight verses of this passage show us two things: God humbles his proud people (vv.1-4). Secondly, He powerfully and suddenly delivers the humbled (vv.5-8).

How should knowing this change us? God’s Spirit uses His Word to transform proud hearts into humble hearts.

II.  God’s Book summons us to accept and not deny His diagnosis of us (vv.9-16).

He knows our hypocrisy (vv.9-13) and sees our rebellious ways that we try to hide (vv.14-16).

How should knowing this change us? God’s Spirit uses His Word to transform hypocritical hearts into hungry hearts.

III.  God’s Book instills hope as we anticipate the coming transformation (vv.17-24).

God promises to renew the entire world (vv.17-21). He also promises that His city will be holy (vv. 22-24).

How should knowing this about the future change us now? God’s Spirit uses His Word to transform complaining, despairing hearts into hopeful, steady hearts. See especially verse 24.

When God Pursues the Frustrated – A Sermon from Luke 5:1-11

Listen to a MP3 of this sermon

According to Luke 5:1-11, when God pursues the frustrated, four things occur…
Intro: Have you ever been hopelessly unproductive and unsuccessful at something? How frustrated did you get when all of your resources failed?
US: Some of you have gotten extremely frustrated playing the dating game or maybe not playing the dating game.
For others of you attempting to have children has proven stressful. For others having children has proven challenging.
Career/lost of a job… Some of you have had to stand up for your convictions and it has cost you.

The Story: Simon is frustrated, tired, and weary. A night of fishing has proven very unfruitful. He’s caught absolutely nothing. In the morning, Jesus finds Peter washing his nets. He tells him to launch the boat and let down the nets. Oh great… a rabbi telling a professional fisherman how to fish. Peter initially objects, but finally concedes. Let’s look at what happens when God pursues a frustrated fisherman…
I.  When God pursues the frustrated, He convinces us of His power. He is able to do in seconds what Peter was not able to accomplish all night!
The miraculous catch of fish produces in Peter a contrite spirit as he marvels at the power of Jesus. The catch is so amazing that the nets are breaking and the boats are sinking. In other words, the point is: this is an utterly unprecedented catch of fish in a location that seemed hopelessly unproductive the night before. And it was caught at the powerful and authoritative word of Jesus.
Isaiah vision of God’s glory and greatness (Isaiah 6:1-8). Endure…
Paul’s vision of the risen, glorified Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-11).
John’s vision of the exalted, risen Christ (Revelation 1:9-20).
These men received glimpses of the power of Jesus Christ.
This power is in the Word of Christ (drawing people to faith… drawing fish into a net). Romans 10:17 – Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. At your word I will let down the nets (v.5). The call of Jesus for these men to follow him.
(This leads us to a profound awareness of our own sinfulness).

II.    He convicts us of our sin and unworthiness.

How does Peter respond to the miraculous catch of fish?
“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” Peter sinks to his knees in awe before this mysterious figure: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” In other words: “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinner. If you only knew to whom you were speaking! My spirit is dull and my heart is weary. Depart from me!”

Ask the Lord to give you a growing awareness of His presence as well as keener sense of the depth of your need of His pardon.
I departed and turned my face away from my own begotten son so that I would never depart from you. What does Jesus say to Peter and to all his disciples at the end: “Surely, I am with you always even to the end of the age.”

How is it that Jesus would not depart from Peter? One day Jesus would die for Peter’s sins of betrayal, pride, ambition, and idolatry (Mark 10:45).
(Thankfully, our sin does not disqualify us for service. The same power that prompts Peter to fall at Jesus’ knees in contrition and humble worship now lifts him into God’s service. It is interesting in this story that Jesus gets into the boat to call Peter out of the boat!)

III. He commissions us to serve Him and participate fully in Jesus’ ministry.
What does Jesus ask Peter to do? What is He asking us to do? Catch men, women and boys and girls for Him.

In verse 10b “Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.’” Fishing for men…Gathering from among the nations a people for His name. Gathering those who are trusting in Christ alone for salvation.
Fishing and shepherding are two enduring metaphors and images of Christian ministry. Catching men who will be empowered to catch others (Acts 11:19-26).

Catching men for Christ is an endeavor that the church has struggled with in the past. In the early church, God used persecution to disperse the Christians throughout the Middle East for gospel expansion. Sometimes God brings adversity into the lives of his people so that they might live to prove that Jesus is more precious to them than even their physical lives.

Acts 1:8 – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Ask the Lord to show you one person that you can pray for and befriend in order to share Christ with them. Charles Spurgeon: “Let all who trust in the merit of Messiah’s death be joyful at every remembrance of him, and let their holy gratitude lead them to the fullest consecration to his cause.”
IV.  He causes us to value Him above all else.
Peter and James and John respond with hearts overflowing with the value of knowing Jesus: “When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.” The text notes that Peter and his companions “forsook all and followed Him” (5:11).

This is what it means to follow Jesus: he is more valuable to us than everything. I count everything as loss compared to knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (Philippians 3:8).

Ask the Lord to show you what it is that you value more than Jesus. Is He more valuable to you than your money? Your spouse? Your children? Your career? Prestige? Pleasure? For sure there is something that we must bring and lay down at the feet of Jesus.

What do you need to leave behind to follow the Lord more fully? The woman at the well. Broken cisterns that can hold no water… fountain of living water.

Conclusion
For one year I rode the ministry pine. I was sitting on the bench begging the Lord to put me back into the game. Our fourth child had just been born. One opportunity after another passed without an open door.  Out of this wilderness God brought me to a position that was perfectly tailored for me. It was three fruitful years of service at Intown Community Church.
The Lord doesn’t always bring our frustration to an end after one year, but if you have something in your life that you wish weren’t there that has caused you a measure of frustration, I can guarantee you this: The Lord is pursuing you in order to show you four things: How great is his power, how great is your need of His pardon, how vital it is to adopt His purpose, and how vital it is to value him above all else.