Sunday cometh…. and I am thinking of pastors again. There are precious few pursuing that calling who have not been told once or more, “You are the worst minister this congregation has ever had!” Of course we can bring wrath upon ourselves needlessly, but often that comment is directed towards ministers who are faithfully proclaiming the Word of Life, working more hours than the normal working week, pastoring with great sensitivity. Most congregations have at least some who have opposed the gospel throughout several ministries before you came, have opposed it through you and will, bar the grace of God, oppose the next minister that will come after you!
Just remember as you stand today with no other bread to offer other than what God has said in His Word, there are actually a great many on your side. I don’t mean simply within the pews as you look out, though that is more than likely true. That however is not what I am thinking about. I am thinking of that great cloud of witnesses many of whom have experienced hostility even to the point of shedding their blood for Christ down through the centuries that is referred to in Hebrews Chapter 11 and 12.
Again, a Hugh Black story comes to mind. He was in a meeting where as a Pentecostal he was defending the gift of speaking in tongues at a time when that gift was less common in the Scottish scene than it is now. On the other side of the debate was a Professor, a couple of learned Phd types etc etc. Hugh Black felt vastly outnumbered, but then he started to think , “If the first Apostles were with me they would be on my side of the floor! If the whole New Testament Church were here today, they would be with me!” He got to the stage where he felt sorry for Professor So and So and the various Doctors, because they were so vastly outnumbered.
Well, some of you, I know, may be uncertain about tongues. You are outnumbered by the way… but that is not my point today, it is just Charismatic bravado that I could not resist! My point rather is that if you are in a situation of facing hostility for the gospel’s sake, there are indeed more on your side now and throughout time than you perhaps have realised.
I am not sure what the great cloud of witnesses who surround us do in relation to us. If they and we are to be like Jesus, whatever else they do they probably pray for you as He does that for us.
In the past I have known what it is to have butterflies in my stomach on the way to church on Sunday or to a Session Meeting I knew was going to be difficult though not necessarily knowing who would make and who would fire the bullets. I have got the T Shirt, as the popular phrase goes. Actually, that is to make light of it: I have got the scars but can say I have experienced healing too through God’s people.
So if this is a day of butterflies in the stomach for you Man of God, Woman of God, may you be aware of the vast army of which you are part. Welcome to the company of Hebrews 11! May you not feel so alone by the end of Sunday as perhaps you may feel at its start. To borrow the title of a book by Max Lucado, may you hear, “The Applause of Heaven!”
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