Lord forbid that I should lose the wonder of the Gospel To see a sinner so wretched forgiven and loved so dearly A self righteous man made aware of his filthy rags Teach me this Gospel everyday for I forget it daily
When the Word falls from my heart The comfort of this globe sets in so quickly When my eyes forget to look to you daily My ears are drawn to the noise around me easily
When daily devotion is not my normal habit The old man of sin sanitized in Christian activity takes control I become a very sick sinner who looks okay I say the right words but murmur inside
Forbid that in the frontline of ministry I should forget what I need That I should teach others the Gospel but forget my need of it Help me to kill the man of sin, the proud man within Give me the humility to see my great need of you daily
Teach me the wretchedness of sin even of my little sins Give me the gratitude of the Gospel to stand amazed daily Forbid that I should make my good works my hope Give me the assurance of the blood that paid fully my debt
Take back this life you gave and conform it to my saviour Though my will and desire fight you yet I know your will is best Teach me to kill sin daily and to abound in your good works Forbid that the comfort of this life would rob me the joy of service
Teach me the Gospel everyday for I need it like the first day Remind me daily of my great sin even as I grow older in salvation Forbid that a day will come to think I’ve graduated from this need Peg my heart to your Word to see my great Saviour everyday
The greatest and most well known companies of the world still spend so much on advertising and they do that in the most prime hour. You won’t watch the news to the end before seeing an Ad from Coca-Cola even though when we say soft drink in any event that’s all anyone thinks. Why? Because even if the whole world knows they exist, even if you’ll find their bottles across the globe from Kalahari to Kazakhstan, they believe still more people would do with an extra soda. It’s not a question of how well known but how much more they can sell and remain relevant. They understand something that we don’t seem to get clearly within the church business. That what gets you in is what keeps you on and you don’t need to change the product only the marketing strategy. Believe in your product and speak of it like your believe it at every opportunity is the old skill in the book.
More than Coca-cola though Christianity has indeed gone out to the whole world with an even longer history. But our problem is we get easily comfortable whenever our small local community seems to believe in our product. For the most part we think all they need is some sense of association like going to church and we can take a back seat in the marketing business. So for the prime hour we let others have a say or get ourselves something new, something seemingly appealing, something we think the people need. But we all know if Coca-Cola did that they’d be dead within a generation.
But Coca-cola doesn’t let the change in the market deter them from their business and belief that more people should purchase their product. Instead they approach that culture, the new trends and preferences and show them why Coca-cola is the answer. They know something else we don’t seem to get, that though brands change and culture moves the needs are fundamentally the same. You’ve just got to reach the people where they are at and show them why they need your product. Same old Coca-cola, might take a new bottle and a more niche marketing strategy but the product remains the same.
Why is it that we let competitors convince us that our product is old news and irrelevant? Why would we give up our prime hour for something else other than the Gospel? We’ve got a product far better and more promising than Coca-Cola. For nothing changes people and offers what we truly crave than the Gospel. We’ve got a free audience every Sunday infront of our pulpits. A people hungry for the hope of the Gospel. If Coca-Cola ran a weekly church you can bet what their weekly message would be. Why do we deviate from ours?
I know there’s a lot more that fights the spread of the Gospel and things are not as easy as advertising. I know more forces visible and invisible are at play here. And there’s an offence the Gospel draws unlike Coca-cola. But still there are three things we can drawn from the world of advertising. One, we’ve got to believe in our product and say it like we believe it. Second, however relevant and widely accepted it is still we must keep sharing about our product to those who know and the many who don’t. Third, change in the market doesn’t mean we have to dump or change our product, we just need to reach the market where they are at. Coca-cola reaps as much as it gives to the marketing industry. Christianity would reap a great more if we invested everything we’ve got to the tested and proven product that is the Gospel. And especially if we valued the prime Sunday hour and reserved it for nothing else but the Gospel by teaching though the Bible story and pointing people to Jesus.
Now, in Gospel sharing there’s weakness with every illustration we pick and this is no exception. But I do honestly believe we do a great deservice to ourselves, our generation and our future when we hold loosely to the teaching and practice of the Gospel within our churches and Christian communities. If we believed half as much as Coca-Cola believes in their product and what they think of the market, we would never depart from the teaching of the Gospel even for a single Sunday. We would test and ascertain everything we preach and commit to by the Gospel litmus test.
You know what blows my mind away is that the Gospel product is not only what every man needs to hear. We are told it’s the very manifold wisdom of God that even the angels tap into to know our God. Imagine that! For you guys that love mysteries and big revelations the Gospel should be what you are all about.
12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. 1 Peter.
See also Ephesians 3:10.
In other words the Gospel of Jesus is so powerful, so relevant, so central that the universe revolves around it. If angels were on earth they’d be all about the Gospel. They would sit as many times to learn from the Gospel as told in the story of the Bible. Why do we substitute it for something else? The world of yesterday, today and tomorrow is united by this central message. That man is desperately sinful and hopelessly guilty and ripe for God’s wrath. But that by the Gospel of Jesus wretched man has a place in the holy kingdom of God. By faith in Jesus man who is born dead in sin is rescued to be a saint and a son in God’s kingdom. The enemy of God is brought home and made a son of the family of God by faith in Jesus. That’s the product the world needs. There’s the hope for humanity. And it never gets old or irrelevant.
That message is what we need here and now. It’s what gets us in through the door of faith and what we need for the journey. Yes we can’t teach through Gospel tracts every Sunday that would be boring. Yes we must think about what our congregation face everyday and rightly apply this Gospel, faithful preaching demands this. Yes we cannot ignore the needs and the culture around us, we are here for a reason. But like Coca-cola and better we’ve got one product that has proved to work, the Gospel, and it’s what people need more than anything.
We have one arrow in our quiver but the only one we need for all the wars of this life. For all arrays of our needs, wants and preferences only the Gospel has the cure. Everything else only calms the symptoms but the Gospel truly heals. We must believe this like Coca-cola believes in their product. We must say this like we believe it. We must share it regardless of how many associate with it. And even within our camps we must still teach and hold to it by teaching the Bible that teaches the Gospel as oftenly as is possible. Forget all those new trendy topics, if you want lasting relevance land with the Gospel. Give me the old Gospel message as taught in the Bible applied to life here and now.
There can never be enough talk of the Gospel within our churches and Christian communities. We may not call every sermon, every fellowship and mission trip a Gospel crusade but that’s what they should be. We should be known if ever for anything that we were a people drunk of the Gospel. We fail many times but we should rejoice whenever rebuked by the Gospel. Yes we enjoy all kinds of talks and humor goes a long way but without the Gospel we always leave empty. May the Lord help me never to tire, never to get familiar or presume I need anything more than the unadulterated preaching of the Gospel. The Gospel according to Coca-Cola is here’s more Coke for you. And our Gospel is that we need more Gospel teaching.
People get into their line of work for all kinds of reasons. For some it’s their talent, passion and gifting, others saw a need they wanted met while for others, well, that was all that was on offer. The dream is when they love their job and find fulfilment in it. They have a reason to wake up everyday and take risks because they believe in what they do. That’s what anyone wants for their pastor. That they love the Lord and his people which makes them ready and happy to go the extra mile.
But quite often people lose the passion that got them through the door. It happens to everyone for all kinds of reasons and it applies even to ministers of the Word. These streets are full of people who rise up early and come home late because they have to. What else would they do? They have bills to pay, children to school and families that depend on them. But we don’t stop to imagine our pastor maybe on the same category. I mean he works for God, he changes people’s lives, he offers hope and has a whole community cheering him on. Surely he must love his job and can’t wait for Sunday.
In truth, and contrary to what a lot of people think, your pastor is a normal human being. He has the same struggle sometimes to get out of bed and preach that powerful sermon. Home visits might not be what he looks forward to. But more to our topic of interest he may not be finding as much fulfilment from the job as you may think. Now we want to start with the assumption that he first got in for the right reasons, that he saw a Gospel need and realised God had given him the gifts and training fit for it. That he couldn’t wait to reach the lost and disciple others for the rest of his life.
But then a few years in things haven’t gone exactly how he thought, there’s the burden he carries for the flock, his own family in addition to the struggle with his own sin. On the other hand, perhaps things are great, the church is growing and his life is stable but he has lost that first fire to wake up everyday, take every opportunity to do his share of Kingdom business.
Worst case scenario he’s been in this rut for quite some time now and he can’t see a way out. Now some of you out there would think well maybe he should quit. But it’s more complicated than that, first what else would he do? What about his bills, family and his own reputation? You see his predicament? Now add that like the many people who don’t like their jobs he has to keep doing it for the foreseeable future. Then you’d have a lot to worry about if you are part of his congregation for his sake and the church.
Now, I know I’m painting a rather extreme picture and one that negates God’s ever present grace, encouragement from the Word, fellow ministers and the congregation. But I’m doing this because when it comes to ministry I find sometimes people don’t see things realistically. They never imagine what happens to so many people in our midst might happen or is happening to their minister as well. We think because God called him he’ll always be firely for the Gospel and passionate about pastoral work. Yet we know even the most fulfilling of jobs have bad weeks and passion can fade with time.
Supposing I’ve convinced you of the possibility of this happening then we ask what should be done. What kind of measures and strategies should we lay down in place to spring the man of God back to the horse. Perhaps a better ministry language is how can we pray, help and encourage our minister to fan the flame, see 2 Tim 1:6? We are in the right territory here and my answer is one the Gospel, second Gospel love and third prayer not in any order. You could easily say the Gospel is the answer.
When calling fails, and I don’t want to debate how extreme that sounds, what will keep one going is a constant reminder why they got in the first place. They got in because God drew them in by his Gospel, he transformed them by the power of the Gospel and gave them his passion for the lost by the calling of the Gospel. The beauty of Gospel ministry is what gets us through the door is what will keep us on the family business. The fire might dwindle and the enemy might get us doubting and despairing but when we come back to the Gospel in the scriptures the power, the strength, the energy, and the motivation is always there.
Paul writes something that I think every minister needs to keep going back to. In Romans he argues out his passion and mission statement and I think the reason he writes this powerful letter:
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1.
In the Gospel we find God’s saving power and that’s what everyone including your minister needs every day. This is also the motivation he needs, to know that through his mundane work of preaching and teaching, God is working to save and sustain his people for eternity. He needs to preach to himself this Gospel everyday and we need to do the same for his sake and ours too. When is the last time you encouraged your minister by something you are reading from the Bible? He needs it and the encouragement is twofold, one for his soul and second for his ongoing ministry.
In addition, the Gospel is founded on God’s love for his people, see the popular John 3:16. The son of God invites us to love instead of judgement and the minister’s work extends that love to others. But the minister needs to know and cherish that Gospel love. To swim and bathe daily in the amazing love of God that brought an enemy to his dinner table. To remember that one died that many may live and he needs to die daily following his master’s footsteps. That’s the job, that’s the calling.
And when hardship comes whether from the congregation, his own life, his sin or from the world, that’s not a barrier it’s the price. But as those who share and benefit from this love we need to extend it to him as well. We need to bear a part of this burden ourselves. We can’t be all receiving and never giving. We need to think seriously about the welfare of our ministers both spiritually and physically.
But none of these works unless God works. The greatest motivation comes from God himself. It’s God working through his Spirit by his Word that keeps his man on the job. So above everything else we need to pray and pray some more for ministers of the Gospel. Pray that the same word they preach bears fruit in their hearts. Pray for protection from sin and scandal. Pray for his contentment and joy in the Gospel. Pray for his family that they’ll be full partners in this work. Pray for his children to believe and be proud of their dad’s work. When Calling fails, the Gospel and our prayers will keep the man of God in office.
It’s that moment, you’ve just finished preaching. Normally you dread this moment because you aren’t sure if that sermon was any good. You struggled to show the big idea of the passage. You are not sure if the connection from the Old Testament to the Cross made any sense. You had a few jokes that didn’t necessarily get the congregation moving but you did your best. And finally you made something of the application.
But today wasn’t like that. No, you were flowing with the passage and the Spirit was speaking. You prepared well and actually enjoyed the whole process. You could feel Paul speaking through your material. You nailed the talk, you got the message and emotion of the text right. The congregation was feeding from your sermon jubilantly and you could hear it cut through their hearts. A job well done.
But the service ends, you go home and you wonder what difference did it make? Yes it did seem to stir people’s heart and demand a response. And for a moment you saw a small spark of what some call a revival coming. But days go by and you don’t necessarily see any change. Actually people very quickly forget and your effort and good work go to waste. You wonder was it worth it? Is this job worth all the headache and sleep deprivation it causes you. After all, it will all be forgotten and barely appreciated. Such is the tragedy of good sermons. Good work gone down the drain.
But maybe the reason it feels that way sometimes is because sermons are not meant to work the way we want. Because we are not meant to work the way we think. You see like those sermons we are instruments in the hands of another. It’s not how well prepared and specific we are for the job that matters. Although that is very important. But it’s what he’s doing in us and through his Word that day that matters. Who knows what his aim for the day is? Who is he after today? Perhaps our humility is what he’s after. To help us understand it’s him who works and that without him we can do nothing, see John 15:
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
But better still this understanding helps to remove the weight of transforming wicked sinners from our hands. To remind us we are but undershepherds in the service of the great shepherd and master of our souls. And what a tragedy would it be if those souls were at your mercies and the work you do? Can you even imagine the responsibility that would demand of you? The heartache and the restlessness? Thank God he’s in charge not me. Praise God he’s at work even when we don’t see!
The thing that blows my mind away is that he chooses to use those sermons. Not only the well polished but even the ones you doubt would make a difference. And sometimes long after your sermons you see a fruit here and another there. What a joy that he chooses to use you and the gift he gave you to conform his people to the likeness of his Son. That he draws men from the world to himself through your work of preaching his Gospel. How amazing and humbling that is!
I know it’s disappointing to labour hard and not see results. God knows how much I crave visible results. But perhaps our heartache results from focusing on the wrong fruit. When we misunderstand what we are called to do and what he says he’ll do.
Ours then is to honour him with everything we have. Labour hard not just for visible results but in honour of him and the gift and opportunities he’s given us. What he does with our labor is upto him because the flock belongs to him not us. And so we must continue doing our very best as preachers to honour our great Lord and Saviour but also learn to say with Luke:
10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty. ‘