Friday, May 19, 2017

Lessons Learned from a Long Line of Godly Men- Embrace Suffering!

As you make your way through my series of articles on church revitalization articles please consider the Scripture passages and other ministry resources that I have linked in every journal entry.  Suffice it to say, the trials that God took us through during my first four years of ministry in Freeport are really not that unique.   Which Christian parishioner or faithful pastor ever lived a care free life?  Job himself noted that "Man is born into trouble as the sparks fly upward."

As you listen to the following leadership interviews you will hear some faithful Christian leaders share a collection of honest reflections about some of the trials and tribulations of gospel ministry.  The snippet of John MacArthur (1 minute-8 1/2 minutes) and Paige Patterson (46 minutes-52 minutes) are the clips most applicable to this series of articles on reformation ministry.  I continue to learn so much from the testimony and example of godly men such as those interviewed in this audio recording (see below).

Here is one very powerful quote from the 9 Marks interview sampler.  "I have learned to embrace the suffering and to embrace the criticism and the failure and the pain as probably the most productive work of God in my life.... Their is a sense in which the best things that have ever happened to me are the mutinies that have occurred in my church, the disappointments, the criticisms, and the misrepresentations."

Like the apostle Paul, John MacArthur believes, "That in the deepest pains God teaches us the greatest lessons.  And the deepest pains in life are normally inflicted by those you are closest with. Now this, I believe, was Paul's deepest pain because I believe the deepest pain we ever feel is inflicted on us by other people. You can talk about physical problems. You can talk about economic problems. You can talk about the problems of life that come and go in just the normal circumstantial difficulties and they bring us a certain measure of trouble, a certain measure of pain, a certain measure of suffering and anxiety and things like that, but nothing is as painful as the suffering that we endure at the hands of people. And the closer we are to them, the more intimately involved with them, the more we arm them with an arsenal to inflict deep pain on us." 

MacArthur goes on to describe a devastating staff mutiny that occurred against him early in his ministry (Black Tuesday). In this candid interview John explains what God has taught him during some of the more difficult seasons of life.  Namely, we must learn to embrace our ministry valleys as blessings in disguise (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28-30; 1 Peter 4:12-19).

God uses trials, setbacks, and heartbreak to help us depend more wholly on Him.  To purify our hearts.  To refine us.  To establish us in the faith. To help us long ever more for heaven.  To show us we are not in ultimate control of our lives and ministries.  To crush our pride.  To make us more sensitive to the aches and pains of those around us.  To eliminate distractions.  To manifest His attributes. To remind us their is no friend like Jesus.  To move us or keep us in the ministry of His choosing. To glorify His name and the list could go on and on.  Learning to embrace our suffering is an essential part of becoming the man or woman God wants us to be.  I humbly admit that this is all much easier to say than it is to flesh out in my daily life.  (This article was first published in 2010).