This is our church last Sunday morning, so encouraging. I have repeatedly felt I should share something God has been teaching me here today, so here it is:
Recently, over the past 1-2 years, God has really been doing unique things in our church. When I say unique I mean special in a truly good way. But I want to tell you that this "uniqueness" came right after I left church one night, came home, and cried like a baby telling my wife I was finished pastoring. Yes, I truly gave up, and I mean I gave up; something I KNEW I would never do when I first started pastoring in 2002. Repeated discouragement, personal struggles we all have, betrayals, misunderstandings, and to top it all off, it seemed our church was growing very slowly, if at all. I was truly trying to be honorable to God in every way, but it seemed all I was receiving for years was primarily negative results. I was determined that if I could not pastor the correct way, I would not pastor at all. Many, many, many times I would ask myself (and God), "Am I being cursed? What am I doing wrong?" As it was at that time, it seemed that the "right/biblical way" was just not going to work in this culture. Trying to teach what I felt led to, trying to do church discipline when needed, and trying to focus on Jesus, not catering to people's "wants." Thank God I have a truly godly wife that gave me the right counsel when I was in utter despair. She basically told me, "Honey, God is mostly weeding out hypocrites and fakes, and He has blessed us with real, solid believers. We are blessed to have our church." I was like, "Yep, she's right, and I will fight to the death...no matter what it looks like to me." I decided, that if our church should dwindle etc, and I had to be the last one standing, I would. I basically told myself, "I don't care if everyone thinks I am a failure, I don't care if everyone leaves our church, I don't care what happens, I WILL HONOR GOD NO MATTER WHAT THE CONSEQUENCES...even to death." Well, I think that was something God wanted etched deep in my soul...even though I thought it had been before. The reason I say that is because of what has happened since. From that day, our church has seen many new conversions, a new nationwide radio ministry start, and we are growing. Most importantly, I don't know how God did this, but He has engraved in my heart the main thing He's looking for in our lives and churches. It's not doctrinal correctness (although we must be, especially in the major areas), it's not adhering to a denominational loyalty, it's not promoting "our church", it's not our "distinctives", it's not our traditions, and it's not our mole hills that we make into mountains. What God really wants from us is true godliness from true love. What is true godliness/holiness? To love God more than anything, and your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:29-31). As I have received more light on this truth, I have come to feel greater compassion for backsliders and hypocrites. So what is the moral of this? Love. Love is the most important thing. To love God is to serve and honor Him...to have His love is to love people...and until we truly have the fullness of His love, we cannot truly see people with real compassion. Yes, people are going to go to an eternal hell for hypocrisies etc, if they do not repent, but we must pray for them because they usually do not truly know what they are doing. The more I have come to realize this, the more I feel God's love when I preach and pray. I don't see people as being so much of a source of pain as I used to. I now see them more as sheep needing a shepherd...many of which cannot see nor do they know their right hand from their left. I believe God was waiting for me to truly learn this...even though I thought I knew it. The result? He now is bringing people to our church that want to help, and give, and love God. They truly love one another...and I think God was waiting to work something into me all the while...more of HIS GREAT LOVE. I have not arrived, and won't until heaven, but I am so thankful that God has consistently lifted me up when I was discouraged. That's the message to you, KEEP PERSEVERING...ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD TO THOSE WHO LOVE GOD (Romans 8:28). No matter if you are a pastor or what you do, go to Jesus for strength and trust Him to work what is perfect for you.