More than anything else I could ever do, the gospel enables me to embrace my tribulations and thereby position myself to gain full benefit from them. For the gospel is the one great permanent circumstance in which I live and move; and every hardship in my life is allowed by God only because it serves His gospel purposes in me. When I view my circumstances in this light, I realize that the gospel is not just one piece of good news that fits into my life somewhere among all the bad. I realize that the gospel makes genuinely good news out of every other aspect of my life, including my severest trials. The good news about my trials is that God is forcing them to bow to His gospel purposes and do good unto me by improving my character and making me more conformed to the image of Christ.
Preaching the gospel to myself each day provides a lens through which I can view my trials in this way and see the true cause for rejoicing that exists in them. I can then embrace trials as friends and allow them to do God's good work in me.
That is, until he sees me or hears my voice. Then the grunting and squealing starts, followed by crying. I know not to take him from the nursery worker because that will only make it worse when I have to give him back and return to the sanctuary. So, I just keep walking and hearing him cry. Now, I don't ever really like to hear my children crying. But I must say that there is something welcomed in Asher's cry for his Daddy. That cry is an instinctive reaction of his that expresses that he wants his Daddy. It is his way of communicating that he desires to be with his Daddy in that moment. It is a cry of affection and dependency. And that is welcomed as his father. I want him to love me enough to cry to express his affection for me and desire to have me hold him. It is welcomed that he is dependent on me and that in some sense he sees great value in me.
In thinking about that scene of Asher crying for his Daddy, my mind and heart could not but help to think about the relationship we have with our Heavenly Father in and because of Christ. I am certain that in some sense it pains the heart of God to hear His children crying because of pain and suffering or just the regular struggles of life as imperfect sinners living in an imperfect world. However, there must also be something that is very welcomed in our cries to the Father. In our cries to the Father are we not, likewise, expressing our desire to be with Him? In our cries to the Father are we not, likewise, expressing our affection for him and dependency on Him? And in those cries are we not clearly showing that He is very valuable, even priceless? Does He not welcome our tearful cries?
And then I am reminded of the reality that I have no right to be called His son and to relate to Him as my Father. It is only through Christ's death and resurrection that I am made a son of God, a join heir with Christ Himself. It is only because of Christ that I can cry out the cry that He welcomes, "Abba, Father!"
The argument goes like this: The hymns are outdated. Nobody talks like that any more, nobody knows what these archaic words refer to, nobody sings melodies like that any more; therefore, the solution is to ditch the hymns and sing only contemporary songs.
But I don't think the reason hymns fell out of favor is because they became old. I think it's because our preaching got new.
The great hymn writers could tell the gospel story with gospel words in very solid ways. But preaching over time became moralistic stories with pop psychology words in wispy ways. We stopped giving the hymns context. We would sing "Oh how marvelous, Oh how wonderful is my Savior's love for me!" but our preacher had long stopped marveling and wondering about the cross, so the song didn't make emotional sense. And then it stopped resonating with us on a Spiritual level.
All good hymns declare the gospel and assume gospel context. I suspect the main reason hymns don't resonate with people much any more is because we don't preach the gospel.
My definition of a hero is someone who does the right thing in the right way for a long time whether people notice or not. Thousands of unheralded, unknown pastors personify this definition. They marry and bury, preach and teach, hold hands and pat backs, attend open houses and attend meetings, pray like they believe it and sing like they mean it. Even if the coffee is bad, the pay low, and the church music so-so, these brothers keep loving and keep on proclaiming the same gospel. Some say insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. But that goes out the window when what you’re doing is the very thing God has called you do.
Faithful, humble, diligent, reliable, gentle, courageous, compassionate, teachable, imperfect ordinary pastors—of them the world is not worthy.
Got a good pastor? Then tell him you think so.
Eventually, such a pastor discovers that he’s become a better man because of his work as a pastor. The pressure of the job has made him a man who more deeply believes and experiences the biblical truths he’s constantly talking about. He realizes that his own sanctification might be one of the main reasons God called him to be a pastor. He realizes that he would’ve turned out a worse man had he chosen a different career path. The unique pressure of the pastorate has made him a far better man than he would’ve been otherwise.
Pastors, join me in seeing our vocation as God’s perfectly pressured path for making us better men.