These are “Comfort(s) by which I have been comforted by God” during the darkest and most difficult days of my life and ministry. I have worked through this many times in the course of decades and found God to be faithful to comfort.
No matter how dark your day… the severity of your struggle… or hopeless you feel, God can and will encourage, strengthen, and establish you (1 Pet 5:6-11). The following reflections are the way He did those things in my life. May He do the same for you to His glory. Included are stories of men who have struggled before you like Evangelist Junior Hill, Alabama Baptist leader Rick Lance, and others. Read their stories and be encouraged!
Work through what you find below slowly, prayerfully, and honestly… trusting God.
An Important Personal Word And Suggestion
On January 15, 2013, from 7:30 AM to 12:45 PM God broke and comforted me as I’d never before experienced. I was hurting, confused, scared, and angry all at the same time. Upon reading the words along with this song from T4G I came closer to God than I’ve ever been. The title is: That I Might Grow written by John Newton who also wrote Amazing Grace.
Start Here: Settle Your Conversion To Christ
I rely on this bedrock affirmation daily. The fact I’m saved informs and drives everything else. Because I’m saved, there are things I believe to the depths of my soul (See below). Settling your conversion is important because…
My dad was an alcoholic pastor, but not a believer. He led people to Christ, preached the Gospel, and taught God’s Word diligently… but was not saved. Six weeks before he died he was hopefully converted.
In 1687 Elias Keach was asked to preach in Philadelphia as his father was a well known Baptist minister in London. He chose to preach one of his dad’s sermons. At one point he stopped and confessed, “I’m not a preacher or a Christian.” He was converted that night and went on to pastor the first Baptist church to survive in America (NOBTS class notes “American Christianity.” Dr. Claude Howe).
Settling your conversion is essential to your spiritual and ministerial health.
Then Consider Settling Your Call To Vocational Ministry
Given the above, not everyone is called by God to ministry. Not every believer is called by God to vocational ministry. If you are not sure of God’s call to vocational ministry, you would do better to be a Godly church member than try to do what you haven’t been called by God to do in His Church. By affirming God’s call on your life you will find strength to persevere.
How? Get alone with God and honestly evaluate a few things (You are the only one who can do this under God’s leadership):
- Reexamine how you knew and believed God first called you to vocational ministry.
- Are you gifted by God to carry out His call to vocational ministry?
- Do you have a passion and love deep in your heart for vocational ministry?
- Do you find great joy in vocational ministry?
- Is your character consistent with 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9?
- Is your attitude toward ministry, congregations, staff, and church one of deep love?
- Do you long for and wish there was something else you could do to pay your bills? Is there anything else you can do and be in God’s will?
How you answer these questions will either affirm your call or reveal you aren’t called. If you are called by God to shepherd His people, persevere! If you aren’t called by God, it is better to find another vocation and live for God’s glory in it (Which is just as high a calling). If God has called you to preach, stay at it. If God has called you to another expression of ministry, follow it.
Now Work On Your Perspective of Suffering
Take time to slowly read and reflect on the Truths that follow (2 Tim 2:7). Drive these deep into your heart through prayer. The Spirit will work in you powerfully to comfort and strengthen you.
Once your conversion and God’s call on your life are confirmed, take time to push God’s truth deep into your soul. Make them who you are as bedrock assertions you embrace no matter what happens… what you feel… regardless of what anyone else says or does. Why? Because what you believe about God is the most important thing about you and informs how you process life events.
TRUTH 1: Everything is for God’s glory
Therefore: Everything God causes or allows is first and ultimately for His glory.
Personal Application: As you strive toward the goal of glorifying God in everything, you are able to rejoice in God being glorified in and through your personal circumstances.
TRUTH 2: God loves you and this truth will never change
Therefore: Everything that happens to you comes from God who loves you.
Personal Application: “Just because you don’t see how something can be good doesn’t mean it isn’t good” (Tim Keller).
TRUTH 3: Everything is for your ultimate eternal good
Therefore: Since God is your ultimate good, everything is working to conform you to the image of Christ, which results in holiness and godliness, which glorifies God.
Personal Application: You are able to rejoice in all things knowing what God will accomplish.
TRUTH 4: God is in control of you, your circumstances, everyone else, and all life events
Therefore: There is no need to worry or be anxious because the one who loves you is in control, is sovereign, and providential in all things. See #3 above.
Personal Application: All you can do is all you can do and all you can do is enough. Therefore rest in Christ (Mt 11:28-30).
TRUTH 5: Trust God unconditionally
Therefore: God knows better than you what is best, proper, right, and needed. Therefore do not worry about God getting “it” right, He always does.
Personal Application: You can live your life in God’s Sabbath rest (Heb 4:9-10).
TRUTH 6: Satan can only do what God allows (See #1-5 above)
Therefore: Do not fear Satan at any time over anything (1 Jn 4:4-B).
Personal Application: God uses Satan to bring about your sanctification and His perfect will.
TRUTH 7: Expect hardship as part of God’s call… to increase your joy and rewards
Therefore: You can rejoice in this life knowing what awaits you (Col 3:1-3).
Personal Application: Live to hear God say, “Well done!” (Mt 25:21).
Finally: Seriously Consider God’s Loving Discipline
Types of Discipline: Formative and Corrective.
Definition: Formative protects. Corrective reproves.
Results: Holiness, Godliness, Christ likeness, Peace, Joy, Rewards (Heb 12:11).
Application: Through prayer discern what God is doing in your life and why He is doing it. Ask for insight and help from people who are more wise and godly than yourself.
Truth: God is NOT angry with you in discipline. ALL of God’s anger and wrath toward you was imputed to Jesus on the cross. Therefore God is not angry with you. Thus what you are going through must be an expression of His love for your good and His glory. God’s Spirit will reveal His purpose to you as you seek God on this point.
The process above requires honest evaluation and spiritual discipline before God. My experience is over time the insights God grants result in tremendous joy, peace, and contentment. I ask that you consider that there are times in our life God sends us to Egypt (Joseph in Genesis), the backside of Midian (Moses), and the desert of Arabia (Paul) in order to get our attention… discipline us for our good… and prepare us for the future He has planned. Our responsibility is to work with God and be clay in His hands.