Thus, from the BHT:
Does anyone ever feel like this? I’m loved by the greatest being in the universe. I’ve been given the most valuable gift imaginable by the greatest being in the universe. I’ve been given the privilege to share this gift with untold millions of believers, past present and future. Given all that:I’m imagining that Bill from BHT is talking about all his relationships and all his ministry/service at church, so to start with charity, Bill, if I read you wrong please correct me.
Why is everything negative in my life church-related? (note that I didn’t say that everything church-related was negative) Seriously, if I were to walk away from church right now (something I have no intention of doing), I would be dispensing with nearly all the stress, sorrow, and fatigue in my life.
I don’t know Bill, OK? I have no idea who he is, and I don’t have the TR secret police following him (they’re on assignment, and my work order got lost in the magisterial bureaucracy), so my suggestion is based on the only shred of evidence I have: this particular post.
My suggestion is this: Bill’s focus is in the wrong field of play. Last night I was listening to Piper’s archive of biographical surveys, and I got through Machen and Bunyan (I’m not listening to them in order). One of the astounding things about both of these guys – as different as they were – is how much both of them were able to persevere through without a lot of kvetching.
It made me take a hard view at me, personally, who can be a little bit of a snit when I don’t get to serve the way I want to serve. You know: I’m loved by the greatest being in the universe. I’ve been given the most valuable gift imaginable by the greatest being in the universe. I’ve been given the privilege to share this gift with untold millions of believers, past present and future.
But oddly, that’s not how Bunyan and Machen saw things. When they spoke of God and God-work, they sounded like this:
For by this scripture, I saw that the man Christ Jesus, as He is distinct from us, as touching His bodily presence, so He is our righteousness and sanctification before God. Here, therefore, I lived for some time, very sweetly at peace with God through Christ; Oh, methought, Christ! Christ! there was nothing but Christ that was before my eyes, I was not only for looking upon this and the other benefits of Christ apart, as of His blood, burial, or resurrection, but considered Him as a whole Christ! As He in whom all these, and all other His virtues, relations, offices, and operations met together, and that as He sat on the right hand of God in heaven.That is: their perspective is Godward and God-from, and God-centered.
It was glorious to me to see His exaltation, and the worth and prevalency of all His benefits, and that because of this: now I could look from myself to Him, and should reckon that all those graces of God that now were green in me, were yet but like those cracked groats and fourpence-halfpennies that rich men carry in their purses, when their gold is in their trunks at home! Oh, I saw my gold was in my trunk at home! In Christ, my Lord and Saviour! Now Christ was all; all my wisdom, all my righteousness, all my sanctification, and all my redemption.
It sounds picky, I know, but it’s not a burden to serve God when we know that the righteousness of our work in in Christ and not in my effort. That is not an encouragement to be slack at the plow, but to see that whether the soil is rocky or sandy or black and rank with fertility, God has given us the work for his sake and his glory.
So in that, Bill, grace and peace to you, man. If church service is wearing you out – and it wears a lot of people out, so don’t take this personally – maybe it is because you have your eyes fixed on the wrong goal. I’m not calling you a sinner or a fool or a dummy: I’m saying we’re men, and as men we tend to lead on “I – I – I” and not “Christ Christ Christ”.
No offense, OK? No blog war. I’m saying that Christian service is a burden when we are doing it for reasons other than the joy of serving God.
Take that for what it’s worth.
UPDATED: iMonk has been gracious enough to saith thus --
How do I keep my eyes on Jesus in a way that takes away the disappointments, weariness, wear-downs, burn-outs of this life?Which, I think, is an excellent question -- because it's one we all face. Seriously now: who hasn't been sick to death of the trouble of one day -- which is always enough, amen? But I had trouble yesterday and the day before which I haven't really worked all the way out yet, so the trouble for today suddenly seems like a bit much, Jesus.
As memory serves me, iMonk is a lifer -- he's been a Christian for almost as long as he can remember, and that's something to give credit for. But let me offer something in that: those of you who are lifers have a hard time discerning the worldliness in ourselves from the holiness.
I'm not better than you: I'm different. I wasn't saved at bible camp; I didn't walk the aisle when I was 7 or 13 or whatever. I was of the world when you were learning (rightly) your books of the Bible and trying to win Bible drill. I was an atheist in deed until I became an atheist in fact, and God fished me out of that cess pool. And in that, may I say that I know the way the old man feels -- and he feels like God owes him an answer.
You know: I just worked 60 hours in the last two weeks on this church blahblahblah, and Jesus -- why didn't we get any people coming forward? Why are my elders such jerks? Lord, I've sacrificed my relationship with my wife to serve your hard-hearted people, and they are still hard of heart -- why don't you just kill me and get it over with? Why did my baby die, Jesus, if you really care about me?
The wrong answer is this: I blindly trust Jesus. The Bible really doesn't say that our faith is blind even though it says we walk by faith and not by sight. It says that because God has always been faithful, and that we are made to glorify Him, we can trust that whatever is happening to us is right and ... now get this:
I'm not Rick Warren, OK? I'm not advocating a PDL here -- because this is not about discovering or knowing what the immediate purpose of one's life is or ought to be. What I am saying is this: God does not only have purpose in short-term, tangible, easily-recognized "wins". God doesn't only love the mega-church pastor, or the praise band that wins a dove award, or (heaven help us) Paul Crouch. God loves us who are ... how did Paul say it? "we (who) have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things."
The idea that God has a purpose in the universe can only be meaningful if it is meaningful when we are prone to doubt it but could reap the greatest gain from it. This greatness of God is only meaningful if it has substance when we are in the valley of the shadow of death.
Let me get back to my point about the old man here: the old man thinks, "God, when I do this for you, I know you will pay me back just like you paid back David and Abraham and, um, Job, right? All of these things will be added unto me, and that'll be great." And in that, the old man strives to do all the work himself.
But the new man thinks first, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner," and "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but if you say the word it shall be done because I understand authority, and yours makes mine look like horsefeathers."
The old man, because of what he wants and how he works it out -- which is really a kind of barter (or worse, an atheism which thinks God only works in natural ways and not by supernatural means) -- will be prone to bitterness, and burn out, and wearing out, and disappointment. The new man is waiting on the Lord. That's both "patient for the Lord's timing" and "giving service to the Lord".
If I can answer Michael's question, it is in this: you must know the difference between God's economy and the world's economy in getting things done. You must not see things as the old man would see them, but with the knowledge that up to now, God hasn't ever failed to work out his plan, and he won't fail ever. Even if today you didn't get a free iPod from that spam you opened.
UPDATE II: And before you say, "ya ya ya, I've heard all that before," read this.