Refuse to Believe

I’m scanning through John Piper’s Brothers We Are Not Professionals.  I resonate deeply with some of what he writes, then disagree with other elements – I suppose that makes for an engaging read.  Anyway, here’s an “I resonate” for us all to ponder in relation to preaching ministry:

“Prayer is the translation into a thousand different words of a single sentence: “Apart from me [Christ] you can do nothing” (John 15:5)

Oh, how we need to wake up to how much “nothing” we spend our time doing.  Apart from prayer, all our scurrying about, all our talking, all our study amounts to “nothing.”  For most of us the voice of self-reliance is ten times louder than the bell that tolls for the hours of prayer.  The voice cries out: “You must open the mail, you must make that call, you must write this sermon, you must prepare for the board meeting, you must go to the hospital.”  But the bell tolls softly: “Without Me you can do nothing.”

Both our flesh and our culture scream against spending an hour on our knees beside a desk piled with papers.” – Page 55

I don’t think I need to add much to this.  Amen, perhaps?  It is easy to respond to the conviction felt within by agreeing that we need to pray more.  It is easy to look ahead and imagine a change of circumstance in which we would pray more.  It is easy to spot a time later in the week when prayer may fit more easily than the current pressing situation.  Why not stop everything now and pray for an hour or two?  What’s more important?  What would the negative consequences be, really?  Ok, one more sentence to finish the post:

“Refuse to believe that the daily hours Luther and Wesley and Brainerd and Judson spent in prayer are idealistic dreams of another era.” – Page 57.

Patient Expectation

Preaching ministry requires patience, not just passion.  It requires prayer, not just power.  It is about long-term faithfulness, not just fireworks.  As we head into another Sunday, let’s keep our thinking straight.  God is at work in the lives of His people, Christ is building His church, the Spirit is working all week in all manner of ways.  We stand to preach and we do so as part of God’s greater work in and through the church.

We should preach with prayer-fueled passion and faith-filled expectation.  Yet we must also preach with patient trust in God’s timing.  We preach for the small step forward unheralded during the handshakes and not just the dramatic outbreak of revival heralded in the Christian press.  We preach for small pieces of an invisible puzzle to move into place, for links to be added to a private chain, for unannounced questions to be answered in the quiet of a struggling heart.  Every Sunday cannot be earth-shaking, but every Sunday can be eternity-shaping.

We preach not for the glory of man, but for the glory of God.  So often His glory is tied to his loving patience and not just to His dramatic outpourings for the content of another bestselling paperback.  As we’ve said before, so we must say again this Sunday – we preach by faith.  By faith trusting that the God who is the same yesterday, today and forever, will as always be working out His purposes in far too many ways for us to realize.  We know the end of the story, so let’s not lose heart during the quieter chapters when so much is achieved behind the scenes, in the hearts, in private struggles, in personal journeys.  Let’s preach today with prayerful, faith-filled, passionate, and indeed, patient expectation.